If a pop song is used on an advert, who gets the money?
December 29, 2011 1:58 AM   Subscribe

Pop music royalties: If a song is used on an advert, who gets the money? (UK)

I've Googled but can't find a reliable and comprehensive answer. There appears to be theory about who should get money, and a reality that's different (as reported by many actual song writers/pop stars).

Let's say a band's song is used on a TV advert. Who out of the following gets money, and if so how much (assuming a typical setup, with the band still having rights to their songs)?

* Record label
* song writers
* members of the band who performed on the record
* manager

... or somebody else?

And how many adverts actually use the actual original recording? I know it's sometimes the case that a very good cover version is used that imitates the original. If it's a lesser known band, is it more likely that the original will be used?

I know the basics of mechanical and performing rights, but feel free to explain them to me.
posted by humblepigeon to Society & Culture (2 answers total)
The term is synchronization royalty, it's paid to the publisher of the composition, who splits it with the composer. To use a specific recording of song, you also need a "master use" license from the copyright holder of that recording -- which is why you often see a rerecording of a song used for a commercial, it eliminates the master use licenses if the commercial's producers record their own version, because they then hold the master use rights and can licenses it to themselves for free.

Lesser known bands tend to be used as recorded, because master licenses tend to be cheap from them -- they're happy for the money/exposure.
posted by eriko at 2:11 AM on December 29, 2011

"I know it's sometimes the case that a very good cover version is used that imitates the original"

Sort of - if a certain percentage of the music is changed, then it is no longer classed as the same song. Until recently UK advertisements couldn't use theme songs from TV shows broadcast within the past six months, so often composers would work on something similar which was not the same, if you follow. 'how many adverts actually use the actual original recording' is an impossible question to answer, given that there are 70,000 or so different adverts on UK TV each year. It depends on what they want to use as well - for The Beatles, the rights are firmly held onto, so just as you will never hear the originals on film soundtracks, you'll be unlikely to hear them on an ad as well. Also, a cover may suit the ad better - a baby formula ad used Adem's cover of an Aphex Twin song, and I can't imagine hearing the original in that context.

I work in advertising clearance and I know that we do ask for the details of the composer, arranger and publisher, but beyond that I am unsure where it goes - the PRS may be able to help you out with that. We collect this information both for data purposes and for relevant rights societies so I believe it is bodies like the PRS who would distribute the revenues.
posted by mippy at 6:12 AM on December 29, 2011

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