First of all, let’s explain some of the jargon words that you might find when reading anything about music clearance, so you don’t get tripped up when you see them throughout the rest of this article:
“CLEARANCE” – Clearance refers to getting permission from both the Master Rights holder and Publishing Rights holder of a piece of music, to then use it in a project.
“LICENCE” – To licence a piece of music means to have a written agreement stating a licensee has permission to use that work in a project.
“EASY CLEAR” – If a piece of music is “easy clear”, it means that someone who is trying to licence a track will only have to contact two or less parties to clear the Master and Publishing Rights. (Normally the Record Label for the Master Rights and the Publisher for the Publishing Rights)
“ONE STOP” – If a piece of music is a “one stop” clearance, it means someone who is trying to licence a track only has to contact one party to clear both the Master and Publishing Rights.
You may have heard the terms “one stop” or “easy clear” if you’ve had a piece of your music licensed before, but if you haven’t (or if you have and you aren’t exactly sure what these terms mean), this article should clear up what “easy clearance” is all about and why it could be really important in increasing the amount of syncs you get!
So picture this… a music supervisor is licensing all of the music for an up and coming Hollywood blockbuster. They are on a really tight deadline because the director has given them 2 weeks to find the perfect piece of music for an action-packed scene, with Tom Cruise whisking Cameron Diaz to safety on the back of his motorbike, fleeing from the Italian Mafia shooting at them on the streets of Rome.
As luck would have it, they hear the perfect song on the radio and it has the lot; great build, driving drums, screeching guitars and booming bass, with a vocalist who has the range and dynamism of Steven Tyler.
Our music supervisor heads over the Performing Rights Organisation’s (PRO’s) website to see who holds the publishing rights. (Examples of PRO’s include PRS, ASCAP, BMI, GEMMA etc). The writers of the song have correctly detailed the share of the song that they own (including if they have a music publisher and what share they take), so it’s clear who the supervisor has to contact to clear the publishing rights.
This saves them having to do extra research and if they are on a tight deadline (like the poor soul in our example), there needs to be swift cooperation between themselves and the rights holders, in order for the piece of music to get to the editor in time for it to be edited into the film.
When our supervisor contacts the songwriters or their publisher to clear the publishing rights, either they are able to clear the master rights also (one stop), or they are able to point them in the right direction of their label (or whoever else may own the master rights), in order for them to be cleared also.
Normally it’s a lot easier to clear the master rights, as there is often only one party who controls them, where as there can be many songwriters which can complicate the clearing of the publishing rights.
“For time-poor music supervisors the appeal is consistently being able to provide great, affordable songs without any clearance headaches”
A nightmare for a music supervisor is when they find the perfect track but can’t use it. So what makes a track unfriendly to clear?
– When a track isn’t registered on the PRO database. First and foremost, if your track isn’t registered on a PRO database, you are limiting yourself already. A lot of music supervisors won’t peruse using your music any further if this is the case, because it would simply take up too much of their time.
– When a work is not fully registered on the PRO database. If you don’t have every songwriter referenced on your work, you are again running the risk of scaring away the supervisor. EVERY writer’s share needs to be cleared in order for a piece of music to be licensed and if the supervisor can’t find one of the writers to clear their share, it’s game over.
– When there is conflict between band members if the music should be used or not. Even if your music is properly registered with the PRO and someone approaches you to licence a piece of music, if all of the songwriters don’t agree to that usage, then it cannot be used.
– First of all, it goes without saying… Register your tracks with a PRO! It makes it so much easier for music supervisors to find out who you are a what they need to do to clear a track.
– Make sure your registrations are neat and tidy. Ensure every songwriter and their split is detailed on the PRO database. If everything is there for the music supervisor, they will love you for it!
– Consider music publishing. Music publishers have close personal and professional relationships with music supervisors and other influencers in the sync world. When you sign a publishing deal, you sign an agreement which allows them to control the publishing rights, which means they can typically be signed off without having to go to each individual songwriter for permission.
This saves time for the music supervisors and makes a piece easier to licence, as they are only dealing with one party instead of many. Ultimately then, a publishing deal is likely to increase your procurement of syncs in the future.
Thank you for reading, good luck and happy syncing!
Liam is a guest writer from Wipe Out Music Publishing
If you’re “sync-ready”, why not get your tracks into our Sync Portal and don’t forget, with an Influencer account you’ll get feeback on your submissions giving you even more support for your music career.