If you’re deep in the world of video and movie, you know all about the importance of music. It can make a scene work, not work, make it stronger, weaker, etc. More to the point, the music helps keep the viewers entertained and essentially helps the viewer have a great overall experience, making the film or video memorable. Picking the song is critical, of course, but making sure that you have the required licensing for the song to use it is even more so. What is music clearance and licensing, exactly? We’re so glad you asked!
Simply put, these terms mean that you have the required permissions to use the song in the way that you have presented to the people who own it. You can’t just go and make a movie, pair music with it, and then release it for the world to see. This is how lawsuits happen, and it’s why music clearance and licensing are both important on their own as well as together. Let’s break it down a little bit more to see how it works.
This is the first step in the process of using a song for your film production. You put together a list of songs (and publishers, since there is often more than one per song), and write them something similar to a letter of intent. This letter will be used to determine all of the details about what you want to use and how you are looking to use it, exactly.
You have to give the title of the the song, the artist who sings it, the version of the song, what particular part of the song you want to use it, and (quite often) some sort of script of rough video of the actual part of the film that you are looking to use it in.
This will all go to the publisher(s) of the song and be used to determine whether or not they are going to give you permission to use the song. It’s important to note that if they don’t give you permission, it is illegal to use the song. Keep that in mind.
Another thing that is mentioned in the clearance section of this process if the fee that is going to go into purchasing the license (see below). You’ll have to make sure that you make yourself a good contender by offering a generous and fair amount of money to purchase the license for the song.
This is the more legal side of the process. This is where the actual details of the song and film get laid out for both sides to see. The duration of the film, the genre of the film, the explanation as to why the song is going to be chosen, the duration of the licence (how long the song can be used for in the film after it’s released), etc.
The small details need to be hammered out here, as once this license is put together and signed, it is a legal binding document that needs to be abided by both sides. The good thing is, the more information you give in your original letter asking for permission, the easier the actual licensing agreement is going to be.
Why is this important?
The world is run by all sorts of rules and regulations, some legal and some otherwise. If you are looking to make your movie unforgettable you can have all the special effects you want, but you need to make sure that you have all of the legalities in check, or none of it is going to mean anything when it comes for the public to view it. Not asking for permission is one thing, but getting a license and then breaking it, is another, entirely.
You need to stay within the lines of the license and make sure that you are always following the legal rules when it comes to music clearance and licensing. As you can probably imagine, all it takes is one infraction to alienate yourself both from the community of movies and film, as well as the music industry. News travels fast, and no one will want to work with a music producer who broke the basic rules of rights and music. So, if you want to stay prominant in the world around you, getting this process underway is important.
When it comes to getting the proper permissions and everything, the sooner the process is started, the better. As mentioned, it can take a long time for you to get responses and to get the information that you need for all the publishers to draw up a license for each one. It’s also great to get the legalities of the situation out of the way so that you are free to enjoy the more sentimental part of being a movie producer/music producer. Following the rules gives you the freedom to enjoy the reason why music is so incredible in the first place.
Legalities and licenses are always finicky and awkward and frustrating, no matter how good you are at them. Make it easier on yourself by learning what they are, why they matter, how they work in your favour, and what to do in order to make sure that you aren’t stuck in between a rock and a hard place. This will help you get a step ahead of the competition out there so that you have the best package and deal that you can get.