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Tips for Music Licensing

If you are looking for music to develop your visual projects, you have varies ways. Some filmmakers prefer to hire a composer for the entire project. Some hire a Music Supervisor to take care of the music scenes under the budget. And it is essential if you want to use any songs/music from the US and put them into your film, as the copyright system in US is really strict.

Music licensing is a very efficient way in the industry for songwriters to expose their music, as well as for filmmakers/music supervisors to create magic by combining a fantastic scene with great music, to expand their reach to the mainstream, and to earn increased revenue. However, there are a few tips you need to know if you want to get the music licensed for your film.

Know who has the rights to the music you will use

In the US, if you want to use a song in your motion picture project, you need to find out who the owners of the song are. Because you need to get approval from ALL the owners of the song so that you can use that song in your project. It is usually music supervisor’s job to clear the song. However, it is always good if you find out more about the licensing rules.

You need to find out who owns the masters/sound recording and who owns the underlying composition/publishing. You should always ask those questions and ask for the details. That is they should have a chart with songwriters’ full names. Their split ownership of the song, and their PRO? (the split sheet).

In order to use their music, you will need:

1. A master use license to be able to use the master/sound recording in the visual media. It is often owns by the record label.

2. A synchronization license to have the right to synchronize the underlying composition with the visual media.

If your film is non-profit, you don’t have to worry about the copyright. However, if you are doing a legit film and planning to put into festivals(no matter it is a short film or a feature film), then you will need to clear the music.

What you need to do when licensing music

1. For many sound recordings, you'll probably need to contact record labels or artists/managers. The copyright are often owned or administered by record labels.

2. You usually need to contact the publisher for the underlying composition of the song, music publisher is basically a copyright administrator. They usually have agreement with the songwriters to either administer licensing or take ownership of the songs,

Research Online:

The copyright notice is on a recording or the copy of the sheet music. You can also search for the song title, writer, or publisher on


BMI (,


SongFile (

For further questions, please feel free to contact us:

#musiclicensing #musicsupervisor #film #filmproduction #filmmusic #TV

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