Sync and music licensing in general can be a confusing place full of industry terms and contract lingo. We’ve created an index of the key phrases and terms you need to be aware of:
When you license both the sound recording (master rights) and the song (publishing rights) for one “all in” fee.
Assignment of Copyright
When the ownership of a copyright is transferred from one party to another. Only effective when in writing.
The term for film, television, or any other visual production.
A license which gives a user / organisation the authority to use all of the songs in a Performing Right’s Organization’s repertoire for an annual fee.
A short piece of music that is used to transition between two scenes or segments in radio or TV, e.g. the music you hear before or after commercials.
When you purchase a piece of music once, and never have to pay for it again.
In order to use a piece of music, in most circumstances it needs to be ‘cleared’ by the rights owners.
Term used in cue sheet preparation to describe the end title theme.
When a track is written is it automatically protected by copyright law, even if the author is not represented by a publisher or MCPS. In this case the Musical Work is said to be in Copyright Control.
The context of use is essentially what’s going on in the film / scene / advert that the music is being synchronized with. This is one of the key drivers in determining sync fees.
Another name for a track.
Cue Sheets are documents which let PROs track the use of music in films and TV shows, allowing composers and publishers to be fairly compensated for their work. Each time a film or TV show is completed, a Cue Sheet is prepared listing all the music used in the production with details including composer(s), publisher(s), air date, length and so on. It’s important to file a Cue Sheet with every PRO whose writers and/or publishers appear on it.
This refers to a developer – for example a music software developer, a video game developer, a website developer, etc.
The length of time a track is used.
If you choose to have a third party company represent your music you can either ask them to represent you exclusively, or have numerous companies represent you non-exclusively.
In context use
This means that the music can only be used “in context” – i.e. in the agreed scene for which it has been licensed, and not in any other scene or out of context use.
This means that the licence duration is endless.
Instrumental versions of tracks are often favoured when it comes to licensing, so if you have instrumental versions always send them along with the originals. Remixes are also always welcome.
The person or organisation to which a work is licensed.
The owner of the licensed work
A license is an agreement where the licensor allows the licensee to use their music, usually in return for a fee. If you license your work to someone, you still retain the rights to the music.
The owner of the Master Rights owns the actual sound recording of the song. This person or organization (typically a record label) is in charge of issuing any master use licenses. If the track is being used in a visual works then a sync license is also required.
Metadata is vital information that you add to enrich the tracks in your library or catalogue. Whilst automated metadata tagging is available, there is no substitute for manual data entry. Metadata makes your catalogue searchable and also provides music supervisors and other users of your music with key details such as composer, label, publisher, BPM, genre, etc.
A mechanical right is the right to reproduce and distribute a piece of music onto CDs, DVDs, records, tapes, ringtones, digital downloads, interactive streams, and etc. Every time a song you’ve written is placed on a CD, downloaded as a digital file or streamed through services like Spotify, you are owed mechanical royalties. Organisations such as The Harry Fox Agency in the US issue mechanical rights and then collect mechanical royalties of behalf of their clients.
Most Favoured Nations (MFN)
This term means that every nation will be treated equally and without preference. So with music licensing it means that all songs used in an audiovisual production are awarded the same fee.
You possess a “one stop” if all the rights in a track have been cleared. This means that both the publishing and master rights must be 100% pre-cleared. So in this instance you would either hold both the publishing and master rights to a composition, or guarantee that the rights you represent are fully cleared. This is extremely attractive to music supervisors and licensees as they only need to go to one person to clear the track for usage.
Term used in cue sheet preparation to denote the film / TV show’s opening title theme.
Out of context use
In this case the music can be used out of context as well as in context – for example it can be used in a specific scene (in context), as well as in a film trailer or advert (out of context) whether or not that trailer / advert features the scene that the music was originally licensed for.
A performing right is the right to perform a musical work or sound recording. Any time an organisation (such as a radio station, TV channel, café, hotel, etc.) wants to perform a copyrighted work publicly, they must acquire performance rights from the copyright owner or representative. PROs such as PRS for Music in the UK administer these rights and collect performance royalties on behalf of their members.
If music is pre-cleared then all the rights to the track are cleared in advance. This means that when someone purchases a license they automatically have permission to use the track.
Some copyright owners require prior approval before allowing their music to be used in a project.
Production music is typically music that has been written specifically for licensing through a music library, and can be used for many media outputs.
Performing Rights Organisations (e.g. PRS, ASCAP, SESAC) help songwriters and publishers get paid for the usage of their music by collecting performance royalties on their behalf.
A Musical Work or Sound Recording is in the Public Domain when the copyright has expired. This means that the copyright is no longer controlled or owned by anyone. For example in the UK the songwriter’s copyright lasts for 70 years after their death, after which it is in the public domain.
A music publisher is an organisation that controls and administers the publishing rights of songwriters and composers.
If you own the publishing rights to a song then you own the rights to the composition. The owner is usually the composer of the music.
A record label is an organisation that typically pays for or facilitates the recording and release of a Musical Work.
A body of musical works.
If you take a section of someone else’s song and use it in your own track then you are “sampling” their music and need a license to do so. Before submitting your tracks to anyone you should ensure that samples are cleared.
Score music is original music that is composed specifically to accompany a film or other audio-visual project.
A recording of a musical work that is usually owned by the organisation that paid for and facilitated the recording (the record label).
These are a sub or partial mix of one or some instruments in a track.
A stinger is a short piece of music used for many purposes such as logos, highlights, transitions between scenes, etc.
A synchronization license is required when someone wants to synchronize a piece of music to a specific media output. Whoever owns or represents the publishing rights to a piece of music is responsible for issuing the sync license.
Temp music is music that a director may have temporarily cut into a film or TV show before the actual music is composed and / or selected. This is often a problem for music supervisors as directors may become so hooked on these tracks (which are likely to be difficult or far too costly to license) that nothing else will compare – this is known in the industry as “Temp Love”.
The Territory is a term used in contracts to describe the “where” of a license – i.e. where the license is applicable and which laws the negotiated contract is subject to.
The ‘Term’ of a licensing contract is the amount of time it is valid for. This can be as short as a one-time usage or as long as eternity (see in perpetuity).
Work for hire
This is when a composer is paid an up-front fee for writing music and in return, the composition(s) becomes the property of the employer.
Work on Spec
If you’re writing “work on spec” you’re composing a piece of music without a guarantee that it will be used. If the person who commissions the music likes what you’ve written then you get paid, if not then you don’t.
To download this as a PDF click here.