This is part 3 of a series of posts dealing with music licensing. In my last few posts I’ve covered:

1. Basic Terms & Definitions
2. Publishing – Types of Deals, Part A
3. Publishing – Types of Deals, Part B

In this post, I’ll be covering CLEARANCES,  or in other words: the PERMISSIONS that music users (and by extension music publishers/ rep/sites – any and all those people who can help to get your songs placed) need in order to place your music.

When a music supervisor wants to place your song in a T.V. show, film or ad, they will ask this question:

“Is this song cleared?”

If you hear that question, it means:

1. Do you own the MASTER  (the sound recording)?

If you don’t own the MASTER RECORDING, the music user is going to have to contact and get permission from whomever does. In most cases it will either be the songwriter (or songwriters in the case multiple writers), the artist or a record company.

2. Do you own the COMPOSITION (the underlying composition: words and music)?

If you don’t own all of the publishing rights to the COMPOSITION, the music user is going to have to contact and get permission from ALL the owners of the publishing rights. In most cases it will be the songwriters themselves or the publishing company representing the song (either in part or whole) exclusively or non-exclusively. You can’t CLEAR a song unless all parties agree.

3. Did all of the musicians who performed on the recording give PERMISSION to have your RECORDING placed?

If Union musicians performed on the record, then you are required to get clearance from the Musician’s Union and, generally speaking, they are entitled to a royalty from the broadcast of the recording. This permission can be circumvented by using non-union musicians or  “working off the card” and having signed “work-for-hire” agreements which waive any ownership of the recording in lieu of a pre-paid fee for their performance on the recording.

4. Do you have PERMISSION to use samples? ( “Samples” refers to snippets of music from other recordings which are used in your recording, as is often done in the hip-hop, rap and R&B genres.)

Again, all it means is getting PERMISSIONS from all the people who own the rights to the recording and who own the rights to the composition.

That said, I’m a songwriter/producer, not an attorney. I’m just putting some very complex terms into simple English.

If you are offered a sync deal or a publishing deal and you want more detailed information, I suggest you consult an attorney. Or start reading up on music publishing, specifically with regards to synchronization fees and music licensing. Because what you don’t know could hurt you.

I like this book by Donald Passman called All You Need to Know About the Music Business, because the title is true to its word.  Some creatives might find it a bore. Business people who want to protect their copyrights do not.  (You can get it on Amazon here).

Another book I just finished reading is The Plain & Simple Guide to Music Publishing by Randall D. Wixen. (You can get it on Amazon here).


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Want more tips on songwriting for film and t.v.? Purchase my e-book, How To Explode Your Income By Licensing Your Songs here.



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