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I Want To Have My Music In A Movie (Know the Rights)

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I Want To Have My Music In A Movie (Know the Rights)

(Part Two of Four) 

Submitted by Peter Åstedt

One problem I have is that the artist usually just comes up to me and says that they want me to place their music. It’s not that easy. If I going to approach supervisors, I really need to know all the rights and have those cleared. If I just borrow your song and try to place it, that would be like to borrowing your car. Sure, if I loaned it to a person that you admire like a famous movie star, maybe you wouldn’t mind. Still, I don’t think you would be totally happy that I just borrowed out your car to anyone.

You also want me to borrow out my own car. At the same time, why should I do that? Placing a song into production is a lot of work. Just doing it just to be friendly can be total professional suicide in the business.

It all comes down to rights. There are two rights to a song. The master and the composition. To be able to place a song (more or less ‘borrow’ out the rights to obtain payment) I need to be in full control over these rights. That doesn’t mean that I need to own the rights, just that I have a document that states that I can place this song and keep it going. In most cases why should I do this massive job if I didn’t factor any money myself into the deal?

For the master rights, there is the recording. If you record the same song twice in different studios it’s two masters with two different master rights. Here I need to be sure that the master is yours. Too many times I find out that the song then was given out by a small record label. Yes, then it could be their property. What is common is that the artist has used samples. Have those samples been cleared? Just because you download it from the internet makes it that you can use it. Even if you download it and pay for it, be sure that this sample now belongs to you and you have the right to use it.

Then you have the composition. This is the writing of the song. So even if you have recorded the song twice in different studios both songs have just one composition right. Still, that right can be divided. Let’s say that you wrote the song with your best friend. During the recording, the producer added stuff and you got a professional songwriter to add to the song. If they are all part of the composition (the things you register at your royalty organization in your country) they also have a part in the permission of a placement. That means that even if you are really happy to be placed in the new Scooby-Doo movie it might not mean that the producer finds that appealing and even if the producer just owns 2% of the composition they still have a say and opinion and the song is not cleared. Then the artist make things even harder. The professional songwriter is signed to a publisher. Then the publisher owns that part that they wrote.
So even you think this is your song, it’s not. And to be working with supervisors and placement they want everything cleared beforehand. Everything in placement goes fast (I will get to that in the next blogpost). There is no time to go back and check with people that they are okay with every thing.

What you do then has various ways. I can have a song that is not cleared. Then I more or less sit and wait for someone to call me and tell me of their interest. Then I can tell them that they have to wait for two days while I go around to all  the people involved and ask for their permission. Usually this never works, but if you have a really famous song and people are very keen on it, yes it might work.

Another way is to pre-clear everything; I get documents from everybody that they are ok with that we say yes and to operate things for them. Then I can say yes directly when someone shows interest in the song.

If that happens then I can also send out the song in systems where you pre-clear things ahead of time that is the most efficient way to do things. At the same time, you will lose some control over your work. So you can’t be too fussy about placement in the end.

If you want a professional to place your music you need to be able to hand over some rights. You don’t just go out there and suggest music to supervisors. There is a whole process around rights that need to be researched and cleared. If you don’t have all this cleared don’t go out there and try to borrow or lend something that might not be yours.

Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes scheduled for February 18-20, 2021.