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Using licensed music in film

I’ve been doing a bit of research on this the last couple days, so thought I’d share a couple of things I’ve found out with you all (just in case anyone out there is looking into this kind of thing now).

When you want to use a song in your film/video (even if it’s your own recording), you need special permission, called a Synchronization or Sync License from the owners of the copyright in that song.

In theory, getting this license is pretty simple, but in practice, not so much. Theoretically, you find out who owns the copyright, you submit a request, you wait for an approval (called a ‘quote’) and then you’re given a contract prepared by the copyright owner, in which you agree to pay the license fee.

The reason this gets complicated is that many songs are written by multiple songwriters/collaborators, who may in turn be represented by different publishing companies that you also need permission from. In these circumstances, you’ve got to track down all those publishers (check out the liner notes of the song or search repertoires on ASCAP.com and BMI.com for example), contact each one, request permission, wait for the quote and sign the agreement before you are fully licensed.

This job usually falls to the music supervisor and a lawyer or legal executive and is one of the reasons why, even though you may want to include a hit song in your movie, if you don’t have the budget, it's probably better to go down the royalty-free route, or better still, get some original music for your project.

And on that note – excuse the plug – why not check out my composition portfolio samples on SoundCloud? If you want some original music for your next project, just get in touch ;).

Hope this helps anyone out there!

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Composer
David Simkins
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