When trying to clear music in the murky, mysterious world of intellectual property rights, it’s easy to find yourself either scrambling in the dark, or tangled up in a web of rules and restrictions. Worse yet, it can feel like all kinds of legal traps and unexpected complications await you when trying to clear that killer track for your content.
Before you embark on that treacherous music clearance journey, it’s always worth having a licensing professional guide you through the dark and dangerous tunnels, and out towards that epic (and totally legal) marriage of music and visuals.
Let us regale you with a fiendish tale of music clearance pitfalls and panic-inducing surprises – and, crucially, why pros like us are best equipped to handle it.
The legal pitfalls of clearing popular music
It’s rare that a day goes by without news emerging of a company, content creator, artist, or political figure facing legal challenges for using music without proper permissions. In a world growing ever richer in audiovisual content and multimedia platforms, there has never been so much potential for mistakes and misjudgements to be made.
What’s more, it’s all too easy to assume that you’re covered by blanket licenses on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, or by subjective “fair use” policies, without fully understanding the limitations involved. This is especially true of commercial content creators and social media influencers, whom we frequently find on the firing line for copyright infringement – whether or not the mistakes made were honest ones.
Generally speaking, ANY use of music – especially that which is not solely of personal, non-commercial use – MUST be cleared by the appropriate rightsholders.
That being said, the modern environment for licensing music doesn’t make it easy.
Music clearance can be a minefield of rightsholders, negotiations, restrictions and legal jargon (see our last blog which describes many of the technical terms involved). And none of that even begins until you’ve established how many different rightsholders control the song, of which there may be many.
But I have the budget and I already found the rightsholders for this awesome song. What could possibly go wrong??
Let’s answer that question by telling you about one of our experiences.
Our trusty Audiosocket clearance team worked on licensing a track by a well-known heavy metal band for a marketing project. After weeks of negotiations, the piece was due to publish globally in a few days and all had been going smoothly…
…That is, until two fateful days before the content was due for release.
The license agreement drawn up by the label showed that they controlled just 50% of the recording – not the full 100% that they had confirmed in the early stages of the clearance process.
Naturally, our team queried this right away and then learned that, actually, the label in question did not control the rights to territories outside of the US after all. Those had to be cleared by a different major label – a process that can take several weeks – and we now had only two days to do so. (AAAHHHHHHH!)
Yikes!! How did you ever get out of that one?
The simple answer is: Connections. Fortunately, we have very warm contacts at all of the major labels and publishers, so our team jumped straight onto the phone with our contact at the label in question, who was based in Europe.
Using a fine balance of urgency, professionalism, and our trademark Audiosocket charm (the occasional compliment never goes amiss!), we were able to persuade the label to expedite a fresh new license to cover the remaining territories and they got the paperwork processed in a matter of hours – a process that normally takes several weeks.
Had we not discovered and rectified this detail in record time, our client’s global campaign would have been significantly delayed. Or worse still, if the content had been published as planned, the client would have been liable for copyright infringement for not clearing those rights outside of the US.
Either way, it would have been very bad news had we not succeeded in fixing it so fast.
Why you shouldn’t rely on web listings for ownership info
It’s possible to identify the rightsholders of a song by consulting the relevant Performing Rights Organization (PRO) such as ASCAP, BMI or PRS for publishing, or the US Copyright Office or PPL public catalogs for recordings. However, caution should be taken as these records can be incomplete or outdated. With this in mind, it’s important to always contact those rightsholders directly and get written confirmation of ownership.
What’s more, there may be additional writers or companies with a stake in the song that are difficult to track down. Best practice is to always ensure that the ownership totals reported add up to 100% on both the recording side AND the publishing side of a song for all of the territories in which you are publishing – that way, no interested parties get left out of the conversation.
However, despite every precaution, it’s still not uncommon to get unexpected (and often nasty) surprises on your clearance journey. Rightsholders themselves may sometimes provide incorrect information which is only later discovered once their catalog and/or legal teams are involved – which can be very late into the process.
That sounds way too scary… What can I do to avoid this happening?
Thankfully, this is one of the reasons Audiosocket exists: to provide one-stop, 100% cleared music of the highest quality for a fair fee.
However, if your heart is set on that perfect well-known song – or if you’ve fallen in love with your temp track – using a clearance agent such as Audiosocket will ensure that every detail is taken care of with professionalism and confidence. We know it can be difficult enough to manage all the other aspects of your project without worrying about music rights, so why not let the pros take care of it?
The value we bring to your clearance journey
Our clearance team are experienced professionals with extensive contacts and warm relationships across the record and publishing industries. We take a thorough, fine-toothed comb approach to ensure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed, obtaining everything in writing so that all communications are backed by a paper trail.
Our white-glove music clearance service includes:
- Researching and confirming rightsholders.
- Negotiating terms and license fees with all parties.
- Drafting/reviewing license agreements, invoicing and reporting.
- A transparent flat-fee structure with no hidden costs, so we incentivize getting you the best deal we can.
Plus, Audiosocket can offer to license on behalf of your business: an option which includes our Professional Liability and Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance for added peace of mind.
Phew, thank goodness for that! So, how do we get started?
Simply send us an email containing the artist and song you’d like to clear and we’ll take it from there. Our service includes a free 15-minute no-obligation consultation, so we can assess your needs and provide and outline of the costs.
No more horror stories – just professional, thorough, and attentive service from start to finish.
However daunting music clearance may seem, agents such as Audiosocket can help to navigate through the confusion and overcome those challenges. Our knowledge, experience, reputation and contacts all help to ensure the success of your clearance journey, so get in touch with us today to learn more.