The Definitions of Success
Hoping to master sync? You've come to the right place, grasshopper. Learn music licensing kung-fu with our ever-expanding "synctionary" of terms.
Upfront payments made to a party before the work is completed. Advances, most commonly, are expected to be paid back through royalties or other types of compensation through the use of the work.
A bustling hipster burger chain named ODB (Ol' Dirty Burger) totally wants you to create a custom song for their new ad, so much so that they're willing to pay you an advance of $5,000 dollars before you even start. Ka-ching!
- Blanket License
A blanket licenses allows a licensee to use an abundance of music for a set fee without having to worry about obtaining permission for each individual song performed.
Gwefani, an up-and-coming media production company, works on a number of television shows. It would cost a fortune in time and money for them to license songs individually, so they've secured a blanket license with one music licensing company. Now, Gwefani can license as much music as they need from that licensor for a flat fee.Blanket licenses also apply to institutions that play music publicly — i.e., radio stations, TV networks, shopping malls, bars — who must pay a blanket license to Performance Royalty Organizations (PROs) for the legal right to publicly play music by the artists they represent.
- Bumper (Music)
Music used to help transition between segments or scenes.
Your favorite TV show, Legislation & Order, wants to use a few bars from your song as their signature bumper music to roll before and after commercial breaks. Pretty neat, huh?
The practice of purchasing a composition outright and obtaining full ownership.
Ol' Dirty Burger heard your song and it is so perfect for their next ad — almost too perfect. They want to use it and start a whole campaign based around this song! Since the ad is going to be played so often, they're offering to buy you out (buyout agreement) of your song: they give you $50,000 for your song and now own the master and publishing.
The process of obtaining permission to license music from copyright owners.
A music supervisor has finally found the perfect song for their client's brief and now needs to get clearance. They begin the process clearing permission from both "sides" of the copyright: the "composition" and the "master recording." She has to contact every person who owns a piece of the song, including the songwriters, to get explicit permission to license the music.
- Compulsory Mechanical License
A license that anyone can obtain to create a cover of and distribute a song without the explicit permission the copyright holder(s), so long as the song has been released intentionally.
You want to record a super sick cover of a Ciley Myrus song. If it's a song she's already released, all you need to do is obtain a Compulsory Mechanical License. She actually can't say no to you recording the cover and releasing it so long as you have obtained the license and pay resulting mechanical royalties from the production of copies and sale of the song.See "Mechanical License"
- Cover (Master Refresh)
The creation of a new version of an existing song (a new master). In creating a new master recording, clearance is not necessary from the owners of the original master; however, permission must be granted from the owners of the composition since the lyrics and underlying melodies will be recreated on the new master. Covers are an effective strategy for adding a touch of modernity to classic recordings.
A major retailer named K-Dot Super Store wants to use Boris Bay's "Dream a Big Fat Dream" for a new campaign. They think that the original version is A) too dated and B) too expensive. They decided that they want to record a Master Refresh with you instead. After gaining the correct clearance, they'll record a cover version of the song with a K-Dot twist.
- Creative Brief (Music)
A detailed brief, typically 1 to 2 pages long, that describes a project and its music requirements, including the length of the song, the shape of the melody, how it should be edited, as well as any and all lyrical, stylistic, or instrumental requests. Additionally, any reference tracks, copy, media, or footage from the campaign that the brand or agency can provide is included in the brief so the agency/artists are well-equipped in preparing the song.
A director of an indie film hired you to find music for a touching scene. They're going to send you a creative brief detailing everything they are looking for, including genre, example songs, melody, lyrics, length, or anything necessary to help you find the absolute perfect music for the scene.
- Creative Commons License
A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. (via Wikipedia)
You just watched GirlTalk's documentary on copyright and you're feeling all amped up about sharing music. On a whim, you decide to upload your new album through a creative commons license so that anyone can use your music however they want for free. The only catch is that they have to credit you when they use your music.
The practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. (via Miriam-Webster)
You're strategizing a major rebrand for your company and you plan to use music to engage your audience. Only thing is, you're not sure what kind of music you want. You get this brilliant idea to crowdsource the music options. You create a brief, send it to Tune Merchants, a music licensing agency, who in turn push your brief to a network of hundreds of artists and provide you the best submissions to review. The song options are incredible, the rebrand is a success, and they give you the corner office and the parking spot in the front.
- Cue Sheet
A log of the music used in a production typically submitted to a PRO (performance royalty organization) for the purpose of tracking on-air music usage. Cue sheets include information such as song title, use (background instrumental, background vocals), how long it was used for, writers, and PRO affiliation.
"Hey Justin, make sure you send in those cue sheets for Angry Men episode 7. If we don't submit that paperwork, those artists won't get paid!"
- Demonstration Recording "Demo" Agreement (ownership of the demo)
An agreement that outlines the terms of the creation (the production and recording) of a master recording for purposes of review by the client for potential inclusion/use work and any subsequent official recordings.
Ol' Dirty Burger is pretty sure that they want you to write their next anthem; however, they don't want to lock themselves in to your music, in case they don't like it. So, they type up a Demo Agreement detailing that you're going to create some demos of their next anthem that they can choose to use or not.
- Demo Fees
Monies paid to an artist to finance studio time and production costs in the production of a demonstrative music.
Ol' Dirty Burger feels pretty bad that they may not end up selecting your song, but you're going to have to pay to record and produce the music regardless. They included in the agreement that they'll pay any demo fees to cover your costs. Ol' Dirty Burger rocks.
Refers to the control and/or ownership of a song or music. Music that is exclusive to a party or company can only be controlled or sold by that party or company for the duration of the exclusive relationship.
Congrats! Tune Merchants wants you to join their catalog and offers you a non-exclusive agreement! Only problem is, you've already signed an exclusive contract with another company. Whatever music is controlled exclusively by the previous company cannot become part of the Tune Merchants catalog. Sorry dude!The request by a licensee for sole use of a song based on certain parameters (i.e., time, media, industry).
The Little Monster Paint Company has asked to use a song exclusively in the paint industry for a year so that its main competitor, Gaga Paints, cannot use that same song until the year is up. This way, there's no brand confusion while the song is being used.
- Industrial Use
The use of a song for internal use, within a company, rather than for commercial use.
Ol' Dirty Burger wants to use your song for their informational training video that will never be released publicly for profitable reasons.
- The main, physical sound recording file of a song from which all copies are made. Typically owned by record labels, the master represents one half of the owned copyright that requires clearance for music licensing.
- Master Use License
The license that grants the right to use the master of a song with visual work and is used in partnership with a sync license.
Refer to "Sync license"
K-Dot Super Store is still stuck on Boris Bay. They've decided that instead of pursuing a Master Refresh, they want to use the actual song. They're for sure going to need a Master Use License to make sure that they can use the sound recording.
- Mechanical License
The license necessary for the reproduction and distribution of music or song via phono record (see "Compulsory").
K-Dot Super Store decided they are going to sell physical copies of Boris Bay's single in-store. To create the CDs, they'll need a mechanical license from Bay's publishers.
- Mechanical Royalties
Monies paid to songwriters/publishers for the physical production/sale of their work.
K-Dot Super Store decided to go ahead with the master refresh of the song. The cover did so well that they're selling physical copies of the song in stores. Since Boris Bay wrote the song, she and her publishers are going to get the statutory rate for the sale of her song! You go girl.
- Media Type
- A term that refers to where a production utilizing a licensed song will be publicly broadcasted; (e.g., Television commercial, web promo, etc.)
The information pertaining to the track, including track name, descriptions, keywords, writers, genres, and BPM, all of which is used to categorize, identify the owners of, or provide relevant information about a song.
Tune Merchants wants you for their catalog! Once you've been approved, Tune Merchants assigns their team of tagging fools to listen to your music and tag all the metadata they can about your songs. From key signature, BPM, instruments, vocal descriptions, and lyrics, they won't miss a thing!
- Most Favored Nation
A contract clause that ensures that a licensor has terms equal/identical to that of other parties licensing/selling said material.
Your song has been selected to be synced with an episode of Legislation & Order. But your song isn't going to be the only song licensed on this episode; in fact, you heard they're getting a Green Night track on there, too. A properly worded Most Favored Nations clause will make sure that you are paid the same amount as Green Night.
(While MFN can certainly apply in a situation like this, typically it tends to refer to co-owners of the same material. Click here for more information).
- Music bed
More commonly known as "background music," a music bed is the music played beneath an announcer or spokesperson and is typically featured in an advertisement as an instrumental-only track.
Ol' Dirty Burger just needs a music bed for their announcer to talk over about their chicken nuggets.
Professionals who analyze music for the originality of the work, certify that the music has no bearing to any other copyrighted piece of music, and provide official musicology reports to the agency that the brand can file to protect itself and its new song.
A musicologist listened to your song and offered a seal of approval that your song is totally original. You rock!
- Non-disclosure agreements (NDA)
Legally-binding confidentiality agreements that ensure that any persons involved in a project do not disclose protected information.
Before Ol' Dirty Burger gives you a creative brief so you can bang out that demo, they slide your way an NDA to make sure you keep your lips sealed about their sexy marketing project.
- Performing Rights Organizations (PRO)
- Institutions (i.e., ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) that monitor the public performance of music, including broadcast formats like television and terrestrial radio as well as public locations like bars and malls. PROs collect fees from the companies and institutions that perform music publicly and distribute performance royalties to copyright owners of the music's publishing.
- Performance Royalties
Monies paid to artists for the public performance of their music (e.g. TV placements airing, a cover of your song getting spins on radio.)
Boris Bay is having quite the payday. Not only is she getting royalties for the sale of the cover song, she's also getting performance royalties every time her song airs on TV.
- Production Music
Music created specifically for the purpose of licensing.
"Man, the production music we've been using totally sucks. I've totally got to create an account with that awesome company Tune Merchants."
- Public Domain
Music or content that was once protected by copyright, but the copyright has since expired, making that music or content available for use by the public.
We're talking serious oldies here! A song that in the public domain is going to be a song that has expired copyright. Copyright lasts for a lifetime (PLUS 70 YEARS) so there isn't much recorded music that we're bumping royalty-free yet. Think Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven. Also, as of recently, the "Happy Birthday" song!
- Public Performance
To perform or display a work "publicly" means...
to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or...
to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times. Source - stick to the books on this one!
One of the most difficult concepts of music licensing, there are several ways to interpret the phrase "re-titling," and most interpret it poorly. A more negative process, companies in the sync industry change a song's name entirely and send that same song to multiple licensees. Same songs with different titles creates confusion and havoc with tracking use, creating cue sheets, and managing rights to ownership.
Awesome sync company Tune Merchants approaches retitling in a more benign way. To properly share in the publishing of ONLY Tune Merchants placed records, when registering works with PROs, Tune Merchants retitles registered songs with an identifying tag ("Hot Sawce" becomes "TM-Hot Sawce") to separate the Tune Merchants placed version from the artist's regular version. This ensures that Tune Merchants only collects revenue from the Tune Merchants placed version, not the artist's non-Tune Merchants version. You may have to read that a few times.
A challenging term in the sync industry, "royalty-free" sometimes refers to music that is not registered with a PRO, therefore, no blanket license is required and no public performance fees are paid for use of the song.
Royalty-free also refers to music that will not incur mechanical royalty fees through the reproduction/distribution or sale of media containing said music.
Keep in mind that the way the music is used won't always incur royalties to begin with, so the term may lure you into a purchase without being of need.
In the music world, there are two "sides" to the ownership of a song: the "master" and the "composition." The master refers to the physical sound recording, often owned by the record label, while the composition refers to the the underlying composition (melody and lyrics), often administered by a publisher. To clear the use of a song, one must obtain permission from the owners of both sides.
Athletic company, Megan's Trainers, wants to use a huge song from British mega band, The Scarab Beetles, in their new brand campaign. The first step? Figure out what it costs to clear each side.
The vocal track and the instrumental track separated from each other.
"Hey Bob, can you send me the song splits so I can bring the vocals in and out of the track in between the voiceover?"A term that describes the portions of ownership by the writer(s) (songwriter/producer) and publisher(s) of a song.
"Johnny, I've got to submit this cue sheet to the PRO, can you get me all the splits for these songs?"
A song's individual instruments and vocals separated into separate tracks. Primarily used for editing.
"Hey Bob, can you also send me over the song stems? I need the guitar, bass, and drums on separate tracks so I can tweak them a little for this edit."
A snippet or piece of a song used to musically support a brief transition or quick visual element; (e.g., underneath logos, in transitions between scenes on a TV show, etc.)
Legislation & Order, back at it again! This time they want you to write a very short (1 to 3 seconds) piece of music to play to transition between scenes. They're thinking something like the "DUN DUN" from that Law & Courts show.
- Sync License
The license granted from a music publisher for use of the composition "side" of a song in synchronization with a specific media.
The music supervisor for Legislation & Order finally found the perfect song for that epic court battle. Next step is to obtain a sync license (and a Master Use License) to use the song in the show.
- Tagging (Tag)
See "Metadata"; The process of classifying a song with relevant metadata
Upon entering an internship at Tune Merchants, new interns are trained in the exquisite art of song tagging to ensure that adequately tagged songs properly appear in search results.
- Term Duration
The amount of time a licensee is requesting to use a song; (e.g., three months, one year, in perpetuity, etc.)
"Joan, don't forget that we adjusted the term. Tell the music house that we'll need that music for a year instead of six months."
The region in which a licensee plans to use a synchronized song (e.g., U.S.-West Coast, Latin America, Asia, the known universe, etc.)
A K-Dot Super Store ad is going to use Boris Bay in their commercial globally. K-Dot could claim in their contract that the territory is the universe.
- Usage Type
Refers to how and what part of a song will be used when synced (e.g. instrumental (I), vocals (V), background vocals (BV), theme (T) etc.). Usage Type is typically reported on a cue sheet along with song title, length synced, and composer/publisher/affiliation data. Earned royalty rates will typically vary depending on the usage type (BV - $ vs. T - $$$$).
Legislation & Order's savvy supervisor decided to change the usage type - what she needs to really match the emotions after that epic court battle scene is a vocal version instead of instrumental.
A visual or aural indicator or inhibitor placed within media to prevent the illegal use of the work.
"We were going to go with that one hip hop track, but the producer watermarked the track by screaming ‘Hot Sauce Beats' every ten seconds and we didn't have time to get a clean version."
- Work for Hire
Used to describe a work that is created by an employee or contractor within the scope of their employment.
"A term used to describe a work that is created within the scope of an arrangement and therefore relinquishes rights, royalties and claims to ownership of the created work to another entity. This designation can be established through a stand-alone agreement (i.e a work-for-hire agreement) or through a provision/clause within an existing agreement (e.g. contractor agreements, employment agreements, etc.), and it is generally used in context of an employer/employee relationship or a contractor/company relationship."
A major clothing label, Two Directions, hires you to write an anthem. They want you to write the song under a Work for Hire agreement so that they can have full ownership of the song and, should they want to use the song in a different way in the future, not have to license the song from you again or pay you any royalties.
- Work on Spec
To work or create without guarantee of use or payment.
A local filmmaker asked you to write music for a scene. He asked a few people so he has some options. You know the movie is going to be a hit, but the filmmaker says he doesn't have money to give you yet. You submit your music on spec, so that if you are chosen and the movie does well, you'll get paid off of that rather than upfront.
**Any similarities with any other companies or people are purely coincidental.