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Music rights help and guidance

Music rights help - the world of music licensing made simple

If you're adding music to a promo it's important to understand what rights, or permissions, you need to clear before making it publicly available. Different types of music require different rights, and a summary of these can be found below, along with contact numbers to assist with clearance.

Usually the broadcaster or production company commissioning the promo will have licences to use particular types of music, and can guide you in what you can and can't use, but sometimes they'll give you a budget and ask you to clear the rights yourself. To put music with a promo you need to clear two sets of rights; a synchronisation, or 'synch' licence from the publisher of the music, representing the composer (i.e. the melody and words, regardless of who performs them) and a dubbing licence from the sound recording owner (usually the record company).

What different types of music are available to license?

A) Specially composed music: You can commission music for your promo, you can write and record it yourself or if you know someone who writes you can ask them. Commissioning music can be expensive and there are no fixed rates so it's a question of agreeing a fee. If you commission music you usually won't need to clear any rights to use music in your film as this will be part of the agreement with the composer.

B) Commercial music: This term covers all kinds of commercially available music, from Abba to ZZ Top, Pavarotti to Prokofiev. Generally speaking the better-known the performer and track, the more it will cost. There are no set fees for commercial music, and all rates are negotiable. To use commercial music you'll usually need a synch licence from the composer's publisher and a dubbing licence from the artist's record company. If the composer(s) died more than 70 years ago, then the musical work is no longer in copyright in Australia, and you don't need a synch licence. In Australia, sound recording copyright last for 70 years after first release, so if it's an old original recording you won't need a dubbing licence.

C) AMCOS Library music: Unlike commercial music, library music generally won't be well-known music, but is composed with film and television in mind. There are numerous library/production music companies in Australia and you can license their music through AMCOS in units of 30 seconds. Rates vary according to use and a rate card with full details and a list of companies are available from AMCOS. The advantage of library music over commercial music is that one licence covers all synch and dubbing rights.

D) Independent Library Music: A very small number of music libraries exist independently of AMCOS, with the advantage that they are able to set their own tariffs and offer blanket licences covering all music in their library for world-wide multi-platform use in perpetuity. Audio Network is an independent music library in Australia.

To conclude: Copyright in music is protected by law, and it's important to ensure that you don't infringe anybody's copyright. It's impossible to cover all details in a short summary so if you're in any doubt please check with the rights owners before assuming something is OK. Never assume 'no-one will notice'. Every promo has the potential to reach millions of viewers. Always obtain independent legal advice if you're in any doubt over your position. This information is intended as a guide only.

Audio Network Australia +61 2 8204 0100
APRA - APRA for Music (representing publishers and composers) +61 2 9935 7900


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