From the blog

What Rights and Payments Are Required for Film/TV Placements?


Two different rights must be granted for a song to be included in a television show or movie:

  • synchronization license(typically called a sync license) is issued to grant permission to use the underlying song. This license is issued by the song’s publisher.
    • A master uselicense is issued by the owner of the recording, granting the right to use the specific recording of the song.
    • For example, when songs I co-wrote for Britney Spears were included in television shows, permission to include the songs was granted by my publisher, Zomba Music—but permission to use Britney’s recordings was issued by the owner of the recordings—Jive Records.

The sync license and master use license are often each referred to as a side. In many instances, the sync and the master use licenses are combined into an all-in license. This simplifies the licensing process, and one payment is typically made for both the sync fee and the master use fee. In most instances, the fees for both sides are equal. The licensing fee is determined by factors including the production’s budget; how the song will be used; how much of the song will be played; and how important the song is to the project.

In addition to money earned from sync and master use licensing, after a television shows air, the performing rights organizations pay a performance royalty to the publishers and songwriters. The amount of performance royalties earned when a song airs on TV is determined by factors including: the licensing fees paid by the station (with major networks paying the highest fees); the length of the music cue; how the song is used; whether it is vocal or instrumental; and the time of day that it airs.

Note that when songs included in movies play in theaters, performance royalties are paid only for screenings outside the U.S. However, if the movie subsequently airs on television, the songs and instrumental cues in its soundtrack do earn performance royalties.

Songs and instrumental pieces represented by music supervisors, and those included in music libraries, typically must be pre-cleared—meaning that all copyright owners agree to—and have the right to—issue synchronization and master use licenses. If, for example, there are multiple publishers, and one of the publishers says “no,” the remaining publishers will not be able to issue the sync license. If you—or any of your song’s co-writers—are signed to a publishing agreement, you will not be able to pre-clear your published songs or place them with a music library. Also note that if your recording includes samples from other artists’ recordings it will not be possible to pre-clear them for use in television and films. However, it is not a problem to include pre-recorded loops that come with programs such as Garageband.