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Using "Real" music in your corporate video.

Once in a while it still happens; we're producing promotional video or high energy "sizzle" video to kick off a company meeting, webcast, or other corporate event and the client requests to use a popular music track (aka real music) in the video we’re producing for them. Unfortunately without getting the proper permission, doing this is not legal and can come with stiff penalties—especially when the music is featured in a cable TV, broadcast, or streaming video AD.

Fortunately, today most people are aware of YouTube’s ability to identify and flag copyrighted music in videos uploaded to their site. Gone with VHS are the days of using a popular music track because it’s “just this one time” or “just for this show”. Nope, today everything “video” eventually finds its way online and ultimately onto YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook—the list goes on.

Now, there’s a good reason for wanting to use popular music in a video; it can have a huge impact on your video’s effectiveness that you simply don’t get from a stock music library. A few quick samples where the music makes a difference are:

Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” in the ASPCA’s national PSA

Led Zeppelin’s Rock & Roll in GM’s “Break Through” campaign for Cadillac

Yoplait’s current spot featuring the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night”

Ok, so how do you go about securing the proper rights and using the cool music?

A Google search will yield pages and pages of results explaining in detail the matrix of rules which govern a multitude of usage scenarios and all the legal nuances that must be considered when attempting to license published music.

The good news here for filmmakers and video producers is there are essentially 3 licenses that they would need to secure, in most cases. They are a “Mechanical license”. “synchronization license”, a “and a Master Use License”

A Mechanical license grants permission to perform and record copyrighted music that you don’t own. Then sell the recording as a CD, audio download, or through a streaming service. It does not permit the song to be used in a video of any sort.

A synchronization or “Sync” license allows the copyrighted song, (more specifically the “musical composition” of that song), to be used in your video. It does not, however, allow you to use another artist’s recorded performance of that song. For that, you need a Master Use license.

The Master Use License permits the use of a pre-existing musical recording in a video or film production – this is where it can get very expensive as there are no set rates for master use licenses and must be negotiated on a per-use basis.

So, let’s say you’d like to use the B-52’s classic hit “Roam” in a video to be shown at a conference then posted online to your company’s website as well as social media.

To use the band’s original recording you would need to purchase both the sync and master use rights.

If you don’t have enough room in your budget to pay the B-52s for the master rights you may want to hire a cover band to re-record it and purchase the sync and mechanical license instead.

The process to properly license music so you can use it in a video you are creating can be very time consuming, especially for someone unfamiliar with the music industry. Fortunately, there are agencies that specialize in securing each of these licenses.

Here’s a list of agencies to make it easier:

Synchronization Licensing

Mechanical Licensing

Master Use Licensing

Using popular music in your production is certainly one way to have your video to stand out and connect with its audience. It can be expensive, it’s certainly more costly than going with stock music so the benefit must be weighed from a business perspective.

Another option to all of this could be using an original song from an un-signed indie artist. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Crescent Beach Productions is a video production company based in Long Island, servicing corporate clients, marketing agencies, and non-profits throughout the New York City metropolitan area.

Drop us a line if you need help with music licensing or to discuss a video production need you may have—we're happy to help.

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