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CMU@TGE Top Ten Questions: How do you get paid when your music is synced?

By | Published on Tuesday 9 May 2017

CMU@TGE Top Ten Questions: How do you get paid when your music is synced?

In the run up to this year’s CMU Insights @ The Great Escape conference, we are going through the top ten questions we will be answering during this year’s programme. Today: How do you get paid when your music is synced?

Ah, sync deals, we all want one of them don’t we? But how exactly do artists and songwriters get paid when their music is synchronised into TV shows, movies, video games or ads?

With sync licensing, sometimes it goes through the collective licensing system, sometimes it’s done through direct deals, and sometimes it’s a combination of the two. It depends on who the client is, and whether we are talking about the song or the recording.

With TV, in most countries (though not the US) sync licensing goes through the collective licensing system, so in the UK that’s PPL on the recordings side and PRS and MCPS on the songs side. Producers and broadcasters can usually tap a blanket licence giving them access to any of the recordings or songs represented by the respective societies at a set rate. Labels, publishers, artists and songwriters are then paid their share of the money via their societies.

For movies, video games and advertising, sync deals usually begin with direct deals. The licensee must agree terms with each rights owner who has a stake in the song and recording they wish to use. This will usually mean doing at least two deals: one with a label to secure the recording rights and one with a publisher to secure the song rights. Though many song copyrights are co-owned, and the licensee needs a deal from each co-owner.

Once the deal is done, the producer or advertiser will pay a chunk of cash over to the label and publisher – according to the terms of their bespoke agreement – and the label and publisher will share that money with artist and songwriter, subject to the terms of their record and publishing contacts.

However, on the publishing side, that direct deal will often only cover the actual synchronisation, which exploits the ‘reproduction’ control of the copyright. If and when the resulting audio-visual product is shown in public or broadcast – which will exploit the ‘performance’ or ‘communication’ controls of the copyright – further royalties will have to be paid via the collecting societies, which commonly control the performing rights in their members’ works. So songwriters will also see some income from the syncing of their songs via their societies.

This is all sounding rather complex, isn’t it? That’s one of the reasons why some video makers rely on ‘production’ or ‘library’ music rather than commercially released songs and recordings. Going the production music route is usually simpler and definitely cheaper. Though if you are an artist or songwriter who created some production music, how do you get paid? Well, that depends too.

We’ll be putting the spotlight on all the deal-making and money elements of both sync and production music in The Royalties Conference at the Great Escape next week. Simon Pursehouse from Sentric Music will join us to help explain how things work, plus we’ll chat to The Box Plus Network’s Director Of Commercial & Business Affairs Stacey Mitsopulos, the BBC’s Head of Music Licensing Nicky Bignell, PRS For Music’s Director Of Broadcast & Online Andy Harrower and artist manager Ros Earls from 140db.