Licensing Music for Film

Licensing music for film is a lucrative job since it involves a lot of procuring songs for a motion picture. The songs are usually handled by a music supervisor working in a film production company. The supervisor’s job is to identify the most appropriate songs for film and communicate with the copyright administrators or owner before publishing them.

In the case of unsigned artists, music licensing into film, TV, commercials and video games, serves as their viable source for exposure and income. Depending on the film’s scope, an unsigned artist is entitled to these revenues or benefits:

• Master Use Licensing Fee – This applies for artists who just signed a record deal with any company for the film’s soundtrack. Electronic music duo Daft Punk for example, received their master use licensing fee after signing with Walt Disney Records for the Sci-Fi/Fantasy film, “Tron”. Other unsigned artists who already received this source of revenue are She & Him (for “500 Days of Summer”), Belle & Sebastian (for “Juno”) and A.R Rahman (for “Slumdog Millionaire”).

• Synchronization Licensing Fee – Also referred to as the “Synch Fee”, this is given to signed artists who are entitled to synchronize their music to motion picture. Here, the artist usually receives 50% of the fee collected from the publisher on behalf of the film producers and the distributor.

• Performance Royalty Fee – A “back-end” fee given for every broadcast of the music that is strictly monitored by the artist and copyright owners. The royalty fee is paid immediately to the artist, whether signed or unsigned yet protected by the copyright decree in his/her assigned place.

A lot of artists prefer to waive the master use and synch fees. For them, this is the most crucial way of attracting music supervisors to procure their music for film. In turn, this is also their way of getting more exposure. If the motion picture is a huge blockbuster hit and the songs were successfully used in length, the royalty fee will cost more than $2,000.

According to Donald Passman’s best-selling book, “All You Need To Know About The Music Business”, the synch licensing fees in procuring music for film varies, depending on its significance in the film. In the book, Passman mentioned specific fee ranges in licensing music for film:

• A more popular music for film is worth $25,000 – $30,000.

• A song that is used as theme for a motion picture is worth $50,000 – $80,000.

For a lot of independent artists today, music licensing into film, TV, commercials and video games is their only option to make a name in the industry. Music placement serves as a “career booster” for indie musicians. That is, when it comes to credibility, visibility and getting paid. According to music supervisor Lindsay Fellows of fantasy & adventure movies “Journey to the Center of The Earth” and “Bridge to Terabithia”, and “The Avengers”, the secret of many artists’ foray from indie to contemporary stemmed from getting the right labels and format. Indie musicians use low-resolution MP3s and other minimalist formats in procuring their music for a movie.

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