How to license music for your project?

A collection of Frequently Asked Questions


- Selecting the right music

This can definitely be the most difficult, yet rewarding part of your project. Are you choosing your favorite song because you can’t stop humming it? Or doesn’t it actually add to the theme and provide a full experience for viewers? Licensing music should become a full interactive experience through your project and picking the right music doesn’t have to be a teeth pulling trial. 


- What do licensing fee’s cost?

Music budgets normally lie around 10% of the overall project and money spent. Once that is set, use your own judgement for dividing that between the songs used. Obviously a Top 40 hit song will require a larger budget than a track from your grandmother’s latest solo project:)


-What details should I provide when obtaining a license?

  Let the publisher know as much about your project as possible. Get specific on details about the song and it’s usage in the film; When will the song be playing? For how long? What happens in this part of the film? Include a quick team list of key players involved (Distributor, Publicist, Director, Production Company) and also include the general goal and marketing plan for the project; Will you be submitting to film festivals? Will this be sold on Blu-Ray / Online? 

These questions should give you a great base to expand on figure out how to communication properly with music publishers!


-What rights should I get Master or Sync?

There is a big difference between a Master License and a Synchronization License. A Master covers the license for the ‘Master Recording’, this meaning the audio files you have heard from an artist’s recording. A Synchronization license will cover the rights to use the actual sequence of notes of a song, the composition.

If you are wanting Master License, almost always this requires a Synch License to go along side. This is because the master recordings contain copyright information of the musical composition. The easiest way to make this process of obtaining both rights is to find an artist/label/publisher that owns the right to both their Master and Sync rights. Music Libraries and Publishers that can clear both of these terms for your film are considered a ’One-Stop Shop’ just like I Am Shark Music Group, and makes the process simple and sweet.

A Synchronization license will cover the actual composition of music, this is useful for using cover songs in your project. This is a perfect way to avoid the hassle of negotiating with a major label and can be done with a few clicks over at


- Can I included this song in my soundtrack for sale?

  You’re going to plan on selling a soundtrack? Fun, that involves more work too! (It never ends). Each time you sell a soundtrack, you’ll be selling each artists song which they will need to be paid for. This falls under Mechanical royalties (also known as Reproduction Licenses). Normally a Label to Artist split is 80% / 20% based on retail costs. You can negotiate a mechanical rate for a song after considering all of manufacturing costs, distribution splits, and any other costs involved in the soundtrack marketing plan. This is a big step, but can really boost exposure and new viewers for your film, soundtracks are timeless!


I want to find somebody to make original music for my project?

There are plenty of opportunities to have original music created for your project, these are commonly known as ‘Scores’. Scores are normally brought up on a work-for-hire basis, where you would pay the composer or artists an upfront amount for the time they are putting in (writing / recording) as well as a percentage of the project revenue. How the music is created and delivered is up to you at that point; Want songs created before you start shooting? That can happen. Want four of your favorite artists to sit in a room together and create a live sound to your film? That is all up to your creative process.


- Bring a Music Supervisor on your team to take over

Is all of this sounding a bit overwhelming? Maybe it’s time that you looked into hiring a Music Supervisor for this project. A Music Supervisor can take care of all of these aspects for bringing in effective songs for an affordable price. They work frequently with music publishers around the work and always have their ear to ground for the amazing musicians.