How can you pay royalties in order to use copyrighted music in for-profit videos?
January 20, 2007 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to pay royalties to bands in order to use their songs in commercial videos online?

My brother makes music videos for popular songs, using his friends as actors. He has made them for bands like The Hives and The Arctic Monkeys. This was mentioned previously, over at MeFi Projects.

Now that he has won several competitions, he is thinking about posting them to so as to try and earn some of their producer rewards ($5 per 1000 views). If he did, he would be earning money on videos that incorporate music from bands without their permission. Is there any feasible way he could pay royalties, and thus make the process legitimate? If so, about how much would he need to pay?
posted by sindark to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Harry Fox. There he should find the info he needs.
posted by micayetoca at 7:58 AM on January 20, 2007

you have to contact the bands and their publishers / labels directly. the fee is not compulsory, therefore the writer and publisher technically can set the price at whatever they please. in the industry, this price typically depends on what the song is used for, the duration of the sample, and the context in which the sample is placed (beginning of movie? middle of movie? end of movie? when character a and b kiss?)

keep in mind that to couple a band's recording of a song, you essentially need two licenses - a master use license (for use of the actual recording) and a sync license (for synchronization with film).

if this is your first time seeking clearances, you may want to approach a clearance consultant, a middle-man that essentially helps organize deals like these. they probably have a much better working relationship with the labels you are referring to. let me also add that from experience, i would venture to guess that you being able to land an affordable deal with the writers/publishers of these songs you intend to use is fairly low.
posted by phaedon at 8:02 AM on January 20, 2007

on preview: harry fox does not handle video syncs. they handle mechanical licensing.
posted by phaedon at 8:03 AM on January 20, 2007

See and follow: ASCAP and BMI.
posted by yclipse at 1:21 PM on January 20, 2007

Ascap and BMI. And be prepared to pay. They have web licenses for some artists...and some artists do not.
posted by filmgeek at 2:56 PM on January 20, 2007

i hate to nitpick at other people's answers here, but ASCAP and BMI will not address your particular intended use of music. From ASCAP's own site:

It is also very important to know and understand how money can be generated from licensing songs. Three separate streams of income could come from the following:
1) A Synchronization License fee (also known as a "Sync" License fee) on the "front-end" which is a fee for the actual use of a composition in a film or TV program.
2) A Master Use License fee on the "front-end" as well which is a fee for the use of the actual Master recording.
Both a Sync and Master Use agreement can be lumped into one license if the Master and Copyright owner are the same person or entity. This is often preferred by Music Supervisors due to the ease of licensing. Generally speaking however, there will be at least two different Licenses issued by two or more parties.
3) A Public Performance royalty on the "back-end" which is a royalty for the "public performance" or "broadcast" of a song that is aired over a television station (including cable and local) as well as foreign theaters. Performance royalties are not collected for the use of music on films in movie theaters within the United States because of a 1948 court decision when most of the major film studios also owned the movie theaters. Even though this is not the case today, this non-licensing status has never been reversed.

Having said this, this advice only applies in the United States.
posted by phaedon at 3:11 PM on January 20, 2007

Having said this, this advice only applies in the United States.

I should have specified jurisdiction. My brother is in Canada. I presume that Metacafe's servers are in the US, if that matters.
posted by sindark at 3:26 PM on January 20, 2007

This is interesting stuff. Typically PRO's like ASCAP/BMI/SESAC have jurisdiction over US territory only. I've suggested so far that you do not need to deal with them, however; and so consequently, in a hypothetical scenario that you ink a deal directly with a writer/publisher for use of these songs, one of the points you would go over would be that of territory - ideally you would be asking for some non-exclusive right to use/sync the song in the "world" or "universe". The use over the web further complicates things (let's say the servers are in the US, but the contest is in Canada). Let me also throw out there that you imply this distinction between "for profit" and "not for profit" videos - well technically, both are equally problematic (read illegal). Imagine, for example, that you make a "not for profit" video that rocks and put it up on Youtube; well, in turn, Youtube is using your video to sell ads. But you're using the music illegally, so at a minimum somebody else appears to profiting from that action. Now this obviously happens all the time, and is something of a hot button topic.

I would venture to say that, in broad strokes, if you look at the state of things, publishers are more inclined to license their music than writers. After all, that's how publishers make money - they organize licensing deals. Writers, on the other hand, tend to have a more personal relationship with their work - and keep in mind, they "own" a lot less work than a typical publisher, who can theoretically own the works of thousands of other artists. so they might be a little less charitable towards lending their work to "viral video makers", (i personally dont mean to be diminuitive here) and they tend to awkwardly hold out for more.

bottom line, we're talking thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands of dollars, for the use of popular music in the manner you suggest.

but to be honest, i know that this practice is not altogether uncommon. and i sincerely believe that with good intent, nothing is actually impossible. so im tempted to ask a couple of people i know about this, and if you're interested, please email me and we can talk about this further.
posted by phaedon at 4:04 PM on January 20, 2007

I would bet that this falls squarely into the "the music industry has no system at present to properly deal with a request like this"

I'd do it and take it down if they complain.
posted by softlord at 5:08 AM on January 21, 2007

Metacafe are extremely strict about which videos they will allow into the producer rewards scheme. Even with all the necessary paperwork there's a very good chance it won't be accepted. From the FAQ page:

Q: Do I need the rights to use music in my videos?
A: Metacafe has a very strict policy regarding the use of copyrighted content. If there is any doubt about whether you own all the rights to the video you submit, Metacafe will not accept it into the Producer Rewards program. It is far better to make your own sounds or contact Metacafe for advice.
posted by blag at 6:27 AM on January 22, 2007

The hope was that this could be a way to earn a bit of money to move beyond a camcorder as his major recording tool. It sounds as though getting the right to use the songs would be far more costly than even an optimistic assessment of what might be earned would warrant.

I suppose we will be sticking to the legal grey-zone of YouTube space. Personally, I think the videos are of such a quality that the bands whose songs are used should be flattered. Their managers and paymasters, however, are likely to be less friendly.
posted by sindark at 7:28 AM on January 22, 2007

In terms of your own benefit / in a practical sense (I won't get into other senses), the "should be flattered" attitude is a serious liability. If that's how you feel I'm not interested in trying to change your mind, but I think if you keep talking like that in public you may specifically inspire legal action from some bands who otherwise wouldn't have noticed or cared.
posted by allterrainbrain at 8:36 PM on January 22, 2007

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