Tag Archives: Music Licensing

The Public Domain – A Guide for Media Producers

What do these artistic works have in common?

  • Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
  • Hamlet
  • Moby Dick
  • Oh Susannah
  • America the Beautiful
  • Tarzan
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Answer: They are no longer protected by copyright law and are free for all to use. They are classified as being in the Public Domain.

These creative works, and thousands like them, are available for use by the public at no charge because their copyrights have expired or have somehow, been nullified.

The available public domain media include images, music, photos, illustrations, graphics, books, artworks and movies.

Generally speaking, US publications prior to 1923 are in the public domain. So you won’t find the latest bestsellers or any top ten hits. You will find the classic books from the start of this century and previous centuries, as well as the great musical masterworks from Bach to Tchaikovsky.

Copyright Limits
In the United States, works published with a copyright notice from 1923 through 1977 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. Those published in 1978 or thereafter are now protected for 70 years after the death of the creator, as are those in the European Community. In Canada and other countries, the period is life plus 50 years.

Misconceptions about Public Domain works
True or False…since Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, Swan Lake, was composed in the 19th century and is now in the public domain, it can be freely used as background music in video or multimedia presentations?

The answer is True AND False

It is true that Swan Lake is no longer under copyright and this public domain music can be freely used without seeking permission from a publisher. In other words, you don’t have to pay anyone to acquire synchronization rights to be able to use the music of Swan Lake.

However, if you use an existing recording of Swan Lake in your work, that recording is protected by copyright and you would need to get permission from the record company to use it.

So yes, Swan Lake is public domain music and you could use it for free if you assembled your own ensemble of musicians and recorded your own version of it. But if you use someone else’s recorded version, you would need permission from them to be able to use their recording in your production.

This is an example of a public domain piece of music –  Jeux D’eau by Maurice Ravel. Though the work itself is in the public domain, this recording is fully copyrighted and would require a license to use in your work.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb when using music, images, graphics, or texts in your productions… If you didn’t personally create it, then you need permission to use it in your work unless the media in question has entered the public domain. For a detailed article about copyright permissions, Master Use and Synchronization Rights, see the article How to Use Music Legally in Your Work.

UniqueTracks Public Domain Classical Music
UniqueTracks offers a quick and easy way to legally license classical music recordings of music works that are in the public domain. When you purchase a license from UniqueTracks, you are acquiring master use rights to use the recordings in your projects and products with no further licensing or payments to us.

The UniqueTracks Stock Music Library licenses public domain classical stock music recordings for a variety of media use.  Classical music offers the benefit of time-tested melodies that have moved listeners for generations. Included in our series are movements from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballets ” Swan Lake“, “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Nutcracker (Suite)“, the famous “Blue Danube Waltz” by Johan Strauss, Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” Vivaldi’s brilliant “Gloria” for choir and orchestra, numerous solo Piano Waltzes by Chopin, the “Air on a G String” by J S Bach, and Schubert’s “Fifth Symphony”.

Public Domain Sites, More Information
Project Gutenberg – A great site of public domain literature, Project Gutenberg is the oldest producer of free electronic books (eBooks or etexts) on the Internet. All may be freely downloaded and read and redistributed for non-commercial use.

Copyright Confusion by Neil Wilkinson
Clear and concise discussion of copyright from WritersWeekly.com

United States Copyright Office – Library of Congress. Lots of copyright information, also tells how to register your own work for copyright.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising, and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results.  UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.


Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, and Animated Video Backgrounds

How To Use Music Legally In Your Work

When do I need a license to use music in my work?
You need to acquire a license when you want to take music that you have not personally created and use it as background music soundtrack in your production.  Acquiring a license gives you the legal right to include someone else’s copyrighted work as a part of your own work.

What is a Copyright?
Copyright is a federal law that protects creators by giving them exclusive rights to their works for a period of time.  Once a work is under copyright, it is considered copyright infringement (illegal) to use the work without the permission of the copyright owner.

How does copyright affect my decision to use music?
Music that has been recorded and issued on CD is protected by 2 copyrights.  To use a recording of a musical composition in your work, you need to get permission from both copyright holders.

The first permission you need is from the music’s publisher.  The music publisher holds the copyright for the actual written music – the melody, the lyrics, the accompaniment, the actual music as it would appear in sheet music.  This copyright is shown by using the familiar © symbol.

The second permission is for the recording itself.  To get this, you would approach the record company that released the recording.  The record company holds the copyright for the actual performance of the song captured and mastered on tape and released on CD.  The symbol for this copyright is the letter (P) inside a circle. (look on the back of your own Cds, you will see these symbols in use)

The fact that music is protected by copyright doesn’t mean you cannot use it, it simply means you have to seek permission to use it.  To receive that permission you will typically have to pay a licensing fee.

What licenses do I need?
Here are the licenses you need for the right to use music in your media project:

Synchronization License – This license is issued by the music publisher.  The Synchronization License (often abbreviated as “sync” license) gives you the right to “synchronize” the copyrighted music with your images and dialogue.

Note: Having a sync license means you have permission from the publisher to use the music but it doesn’t give you the right to use a specific recording of the composition.  For that, you need the following…

Master Use License – This license is issued directly from the record company. Fees can range from several hundred dollars to millions of dollars depending on the popularity of the music.

Once you have paid the music publisher for a Sync License and the record company for a Master Use license, you have the legal right to use the music in your production within the terms of the license you negotiated.

Sidebar
This article is about music that is under copyright and NOT in the public domain.  In the United States, music written before 1933 is in the public domain and can be used without having to acquire a synchronization license.  However, you will still need a master use license if you use a recording of a piece in the public domain.  Music written after 1933 is still under copyright according to US law.  Public Domain is defined and interpreted differently in Canada, Europe, and the UK. Here is an article with more detail about using public domain music.

How do I find out who owns the song rights?
If you don’t know the publisher of the song you want to license, you should contact the major Performance Rights Organizations like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.  These groups have large databases of composer and associated publisher song titles.  Another place to try is The Harry Fox Agency. This company mainly grants mechanical rights (for recording and existing song), but their database is also huge.

Music Clearance
As you can see from the process described above, licensing music can be a time-intensive, form-laden, and expensive process.  There are companies that just specialize in finding and processing the paperwork to get you the rights to a song. If you enter the term “Music Clearance” in a search engine, many music clearance companies will appear.  If you have a music supervisor on your project, he or she will also be experienced in music clearance.

A Licensing Alternative – Production Music
Using Production Music (also referred to as Stock Music), is the easiest way to quickly license music to use legally in your work. Production Music fills a niche for producers who don’t have a million dollar music budget and can’t afford to license a major hit song.  Production Music gives the smaller, independent producer the ability to use music soundtracks in his or her production.

Is Production Music under copyright?
Production music is protected by both the (C) and (P) copyrights.  When you buy a track from a production music library, you’ll receive a license agreement which grants you both synchronization and master use rights. It’s simple and easy to do.  For instance, at the UniqueTracks Stock Music site, your license and recorded master track can be downloaded right to your computer upon purchase.

Stock Production Music is not copyright-free as some have termed it.  It is fully protected by copyright law. With production music, you get the ease of licensing.  You don’t have to contact several sources to seek sync and master use licenses.  These licenses come bundled together and the rights granted are very wide.  A typical stock music license grants you permission to use the music in TV broadcasts, TV & Radio advertising, Internet streaming (great for YouTube videos) music-on-hold, apps & video games, in-store broadcast, and as corporate trade show products and giveaways.  Here is an example of a typical stock music license agreement.

Can I license a famous song from a production music library?
There are no production music pop hits.  You won’t find an Eminem track in a royalty free production music library.  To use an Eminem cut you would have to negotiate a license with Interscope Records.  That’s not to say you can’t find Hip Hop tracks in production music libraries but you won’t find current or past pop hits.

Unlike a pop song, production music is composed to be used specifically as background music. It is usually instrumental, with no vocals or lyrics, and is similar to a film soundtrack.

The simplicity of licensing makes it a perfect choice for corporate videos, Flash animations, Game apps, Music-On-Hold, PowerPoint presentations, independent film, multimedia applications, – virtually anywhere where music is helpful but where the project budget doesn’t include hundreds of thousands of dollars to license expensive songs.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results  UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.


Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, and Animated Video Backgrounds

How Is Music Clearance Different from Music Licensing?

Every few weeks or so I’ll get a phone call with an inquiry that goes something like this…

I’d like to use Elvis Presley’s recording of ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ as background music in my film. Can you help me do that?

Regretfully, beyond recommending some other companies to investigate, I am not much help in this regard.  Though music licensing is our core business, UniqueTracks only licenses recordings that we have created in-house or that we control the publishing rights to.

What these folks are looking for is a firm that will do “music clearance” work for them.  Yes, there are companies you can turn to when you are looking to obtain music licensing rights but have no idea where to turn.  These companies will help you acquire the rights to use famous songs but they are even better at finding the rights for obscure songs.  Music clearance companies are experts at finding the needle-in-the-haystack information that will eventually track down the song you’re interested in.  They will then act as your advocate with the publisher and record company to try and get you the best license pricing available.

What is Music Clearance?

Music Clearance is the process of obtaining the permissions necessary to include a music recording in a production.  The music clearance process should encompass all music used in the production.  This means every music cue, not just the soundtrack but also any source or background music.

For instance, if a film includes a scene where the characters are listening to music on the radio, the song being broadcast from the radio will need to be “cleared” –  you will need to get permission to use the song.  If the characters are at a bar and live music is being performed in the background, you will need to obtain the permissions necessary to use the song in that way.

The act of “clearing” these music cues involves obtaining the necessary licenses needed to use the music in the production.  You will need a synchronization license and a master use license.

Licensing is priced based on the type of project.  For instance, with a film, a festival rights license will be cheaper than a general release license.  Licensing music for use in a TV commercial will cost whatever the market will bear.  A famous recording of a song will command a much higher rate than an undiscovered or unknown song.

Performance Rights Organizations

If you are doing music clearance yourself, the best place to start is with the major performance rights organizations (PROs).  ASCAP, Broadcast Music (BMI) and SESAC are the major PROs in the United States.  Chances are the song you are looking for is registered with one of these organizations and you can obtain valuable publisher and writer information from them for free.

Note: You will still have to track down the owner of the recording rights (usually the record company) to get permission to use a recording of the song you’re interested in.  Hint: A great way to find the name of the record company is to use Amazon.com’s search function.

Most nations have their own performance rights organizations. In the United Kingdom, the performance rights organization is PRS. In Canada it is SOCAN, in Australia it is APRA, Germany has GEMA.  These groups link their database of songs so they are aware of each other’s listings. If a song registered with ASCAP and created by an American composer is played on the radio in England, PRS, the UK performance rights organization, will log that performance in their database and send ASCAP a report of all performances of that song (usually on a quarterly basis).

Music Clearance Companies

The links below are to some notable companies that handle music clearance and music licensing.  I’ve linked to informational articles on their sites so you can get more information on this subject.

EMG Music Clearance – Do It Yourself Music Clearance (good article)

The Music Bridge LLC – A Music Clearance Primer

Parker Music Group – A good FAQ

The Rights Workshop – Licensing & Music Clearance

One of the reasons stock music companies like UniqueTracks exist is because we can license music quickly and easily without having to seek a third-party company to negotiate licensing for you.  We are a one-stop shop.  When you purchase a stock music track on the UniqueTracks site, you are immediately issued a synchronization and a master use license to use the music in your production.

The trade-off, of course, is that UniqueTracks cannot license a Beatles or Led Zepplin song to you. We can, however, license famous classical production music like this piece by Tchaikovsky.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.

Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

The most famous piece of classical music in the world

Antonio Vivaldi’s best-known composition is a set of violin concertos composed in 1723 entitled the Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni). The Four Seasons is actually four individual violin concertos that have been grouped together, each labeled for one of the seasons of the year. Each concerto (each season) is in three movements with a slow movement set between two faster ones.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has become arguably the most popular piece of classical music in the world with more performances and recordings than even Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. This achievement is further magnified when you consider that this music lay forgotten on a library shelf for two hundred years. It was not until 1950, when a recording of the Four Seasons appeared, that the piece gained notice. The success of The Four Seasons is an extraordinary journey for a piece of music that had lived so long in utter oblivion.

The popularity of The Four Seasons also points out how much Antonio Vivaldi’s music owes it’s current acclaim to the world of technology for without audio recordings, it is doubtful that Vivaldi’s music would have gained its current wide renown.

By now everyone has heard at least one of the movements from The Four Seasons. You may not have known the piece’s title but its most popular movements, especially the “Spring” Allegros, are quite ubiquitous in our culture having been used hundreds of times in national and regional commercials, movies, TV shows, as background music in restaurants, music-on-hold messages, not to mention constant radio play on classical music stations.

The addictive rhythmic vitality of so much of Antonio Vivaldi’s music has led to its rebirth and great popularity amongst classical music lovers and the general public as well. Much like the music of today, Vivaldi’s music, especially his opening movement Allegros, have a driving rhythmic vitality and are brimming with energy (The Italian word “Allegro” is a tempo indication meaning “lively” or “fast”). Vivaldi’s melodies are simple and easy to listen to. The tempo Adagio slow movements evoke a warm and beautiful sensibility (“Adagio” means slowly).

Vivaldi was a master violinist and it is thought that he wrote the Four Seasons as a performance vehicle to showcase his own virtuosity. The violin part is quite challenging indeed even by today’s standards.

An often-overlooked compositional force in The Four Seasons is its programmatic basis. In music, the term “programmatic” refers to a composer consciously trying to represent something non-musical, like a story or an image, in the composition. This type of writing is called tone-painting; the composition is a tone poem.

In the Four Seasons, Vivaldi takes four poems titled Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and transforms various passages directly into music. He is quite literal. When the poem speaks of birds, we hear bird calls in the music. Throughout the movements, you can hear musical depictions of streams, thunder, lightning, a dog barking, even drunkards that have fallen asleep. These images can be found painted musically throughout the piece.

Here is a translation of the first poem Spring. It is now believed that Vivaldi himself wrote the poems.

Spring has come and with it gaiety,
The birds salute it with joyous song,
And the brooks, caressed by Zephyr’s breath,
Flow meanwhile with sweet murmurings:
The sky is covered with dark clouds,
Announced by lightning and thunder.
But when they are silenced, the little birds
Return to fill the air with their song:
Then does the meadow, in full flower,
Ripple with its leafy plants.
The goat-herd dozes, guarded by his faithful dog.
Rejoicing in the pastoral bagpipes,
Nymphs and Shepherds dance, in love,
Their faces glowing with Springtime’s brilliance.

Believe it or not, these poetic images are literally “painted” throughout the Spring movements of The Four Seasons. The bird calls can be heard in the Allegro, First movement from the Spring concerto. They appear right when the violin solos begin (about 30 seconds into the piece). This gives way to the undulating sounds of a rushing brook. Next lightning and thunder are heard only to subside as the bird calls return.

It’s hard to believe today that Vivaldi’s music would be destined to lie dormant for 200 years. Vivaldi himself had fallen into obscurity by the end of his lifetime. He died penniless in Vienna in 1741. His music virtually disappeared until just after World War 2. Since then, its popularity has exploded. The Four Seasons concertos are now regularly performed concert pieces and are among the most famous pieces of music in the world. Whether it is the appealing rhythmic drive or the beautiful warmth of the baroque violins, people are just naturally drawn to this music.

Poem translation from Landon, H. C. Robbins “Vivaldi, Voice of the Baroque” Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1993

There is no stronger piece of classical stock music than Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It is music that is recognized the world over which means when you use it as background music, you pull all of that recognition into your own production. The mood of the music is upbeat, buoyant and immensely positive. This has contributed much to its success as one of the most licensed pieces in our music library.

If you’d like to license Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to use as background soundtrack in your video or media project, visit this classical stock music page.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results. UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.


Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, and Animated Video Backgrounds

How a commercial jingle powers FreeCreditReport.com’s successful ads

FreeCreditReport.com is running at least six commercials featuring a down-on-their-luck rock band singing in various settings bemoaning the fact that their credit is bad. The actors are obviously musically talented, the drummer actually knows how to play drums, you can tell by looking at him. I found out that the singer is a French-Canadian actor/musician named Eric Violette, (it’s not actually his voice we hear though, he’s lip-syncing).

I think these are very strong ads. They feature the time-tested, but somehow out-of-favor Commercial Jingle. A jingle is a song written expressly for a commercial. The music and words of a jingle are directly targeted to sell the product. When I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, jingles were the way most products were marketed on television. Most people of my generation can still recite or hum the jingles from that time.

Jingles gradually lost favor with advertisers and were replaced by what we all now hear every day on TV – the licensed pop song put in service of a product. I’ve written before about why I don’t like this method of advertising. I call it “lifestyle” advertising, where the marketer tries to create an ad that will connect with to the viewer’s sense of identity, therefore, connecting to the product too. Using a pop song is the fastest/easiest way to do this. If you can connect your brand with a song by Wilco, for instance, that’s a valuable cultural connection to make for your product. Your product can now live in the same cultural space that the songs of Wilco inhabit appealing to fans of that music and others that want a sense of the contemporary.

In actuality, I do not think this type of ad is very effective because when the spot gets placed into the ad mix that viewers see on a typical TV day, the lifestyle that the ad is portraying gets merged with all the other lifestyles from all the other lifestyle ads and the spots’ message gets merged as well into this jumble of lifestyle imagery and pop hits. The products, however, don’t get defined and their identities and marketing messages get muddled. Â Viewers recognize the pop tunes but the connections to the products are lost. Even with repetition, I believe these ads are a weak way to sell the product.

Jingles, on the other hand, are written directly for the product. A good jingle campaign, like the FreeCreditCard.com ads, will brand the company name right into the song. A successful ad will, over time, have viewers singing along with the jingle, either subconsciously or even overtly.

Lately, I’ve heard a few fresh jingle campaigns.Optimum’s Reggaeton Jingle and also AAMCO’s I Got A Guy campaign use jingles. I am willing to bet that these ad campaigns were very successful as well.

I was at a cocktail party last New Year’s and I was talking to a young advertising executive and I asked him why jingles lost favor. His response was interesting. He said that more often than not, it is the client, not the ad agency, that is pushing for the high-priced licensed pop song. He explained it as the client getting bragging rights for the company. They are able to boast to the industry and their competition that they have gone out and licensed a multi-million dollar hit song for their latest campaign. To me, this is to lose sight of the goal of the campaign, which is to sell, no?

1-877-Kars-4-Kids: Behind the Most Hated (and Best) Jingle of All Time


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.

How Pop Songs Become TV Ads

  • Devo re-records their biggest hit “Whip it good” as “Swiff it good” in a TV ad for the floor cleaner Swiffer.
  • The Beatles song “All you need is love” is licensed by Luvs who use it for their campaign, “All You Need is Luvs”
  • “Blister In the Sun ” by the Violent Femmes, a seminal punk bank, is used in an ad campaign for Wendy’s hamburgers.
  • This summer Wilco licenses 6 songs from their new album Blue Sky Blue to Volkswagen who uses all 6 songs in ad spots for their latest campaign marking the first time a multitude of songs by one artist/band is used in a single campaign.

Where is today’s cash cow for the music business? It’s the placing of famous or upcoming pop songs in TV commercials. We’ve all heard and seen these ads. Led Zepplin’s “Rock’n Roll” has become the main branding vehicle (no pun) for Cadillac. The ad speaks to those 40-year-olds that can now afford Cadillacs by co-opting an anthem from their youth.

There’s no doubt the trend will continue. Commercial jingles are a thing of the past. Today’s ad strategy is about branding. You put a product, no matter how bland, next to a song that has a “coolness” factor to it, or, in the case of the Beatles “All You Need is Love”, acknowledged cultural value, and voila, the product achieves instant significance or even hipness.

But by glorifying a product, no matter how banal, the song is immediately devalued. If today’s protest song can be tomorrow’s theme for toilet tissue, then the power of a song to effect culture becomes weakened. The power of the song becomes about how much money it commands when it is licensed for commercial use.

The Culture Is the Commercial

Jay Babcock, the publisher of the art and music magazine Arthur makes this point…

“What kind of culture sets up a system where the only way to hear good music is through TV commercials for products you don’t need?” Babcock said. “What little art is out there has to sneak in wherever it can, being stand-ins for jingles. It’s the sign of an unhealthy culture. The culture is eating itself.”

A recent New York Post article reports that the recording artist Fergie recently inked a $4-million deal to sing about Candie’s teen apparel on her next album. “The 32-year-old Black Eyed Peas singer is the first global star to consent to product placement in her songs – agreeing to include the provocative clothing line Candie’s in her lyrics.”

I don’t know that this matters to some bands, they are living in a music business that is sinking into chaos by the day and they are looking for cash, a reward for their work. When Wilco, a major act, licenses 6 songs to Volkswagen saying they are doing it as a way to get their music out there, you know the music business has drastically changed and these artists are looking for the type of payday that used to be available to successful bands through albums/radio play/touring. That old model of success is, apparently, broken.

According to Greg Lane, senior vice president of ad agency GSD&M in Austin, Texas, ad pop is a mutually beneficial relationship. “It’s a marriage of two brands. It’s the client’s brand, be it AT&T or iPod, as well as the brand of the band itself,”Lane said.

“Part of the deal is, you’re never going to make everyone happy. And there’s no such thing as bad press. Even if fans are upset, it might not affect sales of what’s being advertised “it might increase sales.”

The artist does pay a price for dealing in “ad pop”. Their fan base can get turned off and look for music elsewhere.

As the great musician Tom Waits says “By turning a great song into a jingle, advertisers have achieved the ultimate: a meaningless product has now been injected with your meaningful memory of a song,” he said. “The songs and the artists who have created them have power and cultural value, that’s why advertisers pay out millions for them. Once you have taken the cash, you, your song and your audience are forever married to the product.”

Wilco song in Volkswagen commercial

Of Montreal song “Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games” re-recorded with the words changed to “Let’s go Outback tonight” for Outback Steakhouse

More on this subject…

Under the Influence: The Pop Song as Advertising

Where have all the Jingles Gone

How to best use stock media in your production

UT0403_product-01Stock media companies provide ready-made media content that can be legally added to your work in a matter of minutes.

What is Stock Media? – Stock Media includes photographs, illustrations, video footage, music recordings, sound effects, Flash animations, website templates, PowerPoint backgrounds, and clipart.

Many stock music companies refer to themselves as libraries because, like a library, they carry a broad array of materials that tries to satisfy a wide range of tastes and needs.

Licensed Not Sold – With stock media, what you are really buying is a license that gives you permission to use the material you’re interested in.

Once you have a license you don’t, in fact, own the material. It is still owned by the stock media company. They remain the copyright holders. Your license lets you legally use the material in your production.  There are two main types of stock licenses.

  1. Rights Managed – The price of a Rights Managed license depends on how you wish to use the media you’re interested in.  For instance, is it going to be used in a national advertising campaign or is it for your company brochure?  Is it being considered for a PowerPoint presentation or is it going to be used in a motion picture?  Each usage has a different price.A Rights Managed license also takes into consideration how long you will use the media. Periods usually range from 3 months to several years.  If you are going to include the material in a product, your license will be based on how many pieces you plan to manufacture.  With a right managed license, at the end of the license period, you no longer have permission to use the media. Your relationship with the company ends (unless you extend your license).
  2. Royalty Free – Royalty free means you are not charged a fee for each separate commercial use of the media. You can use the material as often as you’d like for as long as you’d like. You pay an initial fee for the license and are then free and clear of any further licensing restraints. Licensing is fast and easy, with one price you acquire synchronization rights to use the music as background music in your production.

A Rights Managed license is more expensive Why? Usually, the production values for Rights Managed media is higher.  The media has more of a professional sheen than royalty free media.  Also, in some cases, for instance, a Rights Managed photo, the stock company will remove the photo from circulation for the period of your license.  No one else can use it.

This is a huge advantage for Rights Managed licenses. It protects against simultaneous use – so your competitor won’t be using the same photo as you to launch their ad campaign. When you use royalty free content, there is no such protection. The same photo or music track may be being used by hundreds of companies at the same time.

The question to ask is…is this important to me? Do I care if another company is using this image or this particular web template? If you do, then you will want to pursue a Rights Managed solution. If on the other hand, it really doesn’t matter to you, then you’ll want to take a serious look at royalty free media because it is so much cheaper.

Stock by any other name – Rights Managed recordings are also known as “needle-drops” in the stock music world. This name came from the days of actually lowering a phonograph needle onto a record to place the music into a production. With compact discs in the 1980s, it started to be called a “laser-drop”.   Both terms are confusing.  I find Rights Managed to be a much better description.

Royalty free is sometimes called “buy out”. I’ve also seen it referred to as “copyright-free” but this is really an error. The material is in fact fully copyrighted by the stock media company.

UniqueTracks is a stock music company that offers Rights Managed licensing.  This means each license is written for your exact usage.  We began licensing stock music in 1998.  For more information about our recordings and music licensing packages, please visit us at
www.uniquetracks.com.

ESPN’s copyright clearance gaffe

I’ve been writing about music clearance but the act of getting the legal permissions to use copyrighted content in your production applies not just to musical works but to art and literary works as well. Not taking the time to get the appropriate licensing can land you in legal trouble as ESPN has just found out.

Last year ESPN broadcast “The Bronx Is Burning”, a popular TV series created by their in-house production company ESPN Original Entertainment. The series portrayed the background events leading to the 1977 New York Yankees dramatic World Series run.

Included in the second episode, “Team In Turmoil“, was a full screen shot of Norman Rockwell’s painting “Bottom of the Sixth“. The painting depicts three umpires looking skyward as raindrops begin to fall. It is a classic Rockwell capturing a unique and wonderful baseball moment. The original painting hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

On May 3rd, the Associated Press reported that ESPN is being sued by Curtis Publishing Company, the owner of the Rockwell painting, for using the image without obtaining a license.

Curtis sent an e-mail to ESPN lawyers notifying them that ESPN did not have a license to use the painting and was committing willful copyright infringement, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks to bar ESPN from rebroadcasting the series until it withdraws use of the painting. In other words, until it removes any footage of the painting from the episode.

Compounding the problem for ESPN is that The Bronx Is Burning has been sold on DVD and VHS format. Recalling the unsold copies and destroying them and having to issue a new movie with the infringement removed will prove costly for the cable network.

Podcast Music Licensing and Performing Rights Organizations

I found this description and discussion of music licensing for podcasters very informative. If you do any type of internet broadcasting, you may be interested in how Performing Rights Organizations are looking at this latest internet broadcasting technology.

Should Podcasters have to pay a fee for the right to play copyrighted songs during a Podcast? Yes, says ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. There’s also a good discussion of how much that licensing will cost.

Just releasedPodcaster – Podcast Production Toolkit. This massive collection by Blastwave FX has been created especially for Podcast producers. Podcaster has everything you need to produce a professional podcast. Add podcast theme music or just a beat loop to your intro and immediately give a focus to your show. With over 500 sound effects this set will let you underscore the humorous, contentious and exciting moments of your podcast.

Under the Influence – Advertising & Music Licensing

[this article was originally published in our Newsletter in Spring of 2004]

Licensing Pop Songs into TV Commercials
Every music soundtrack tries to stimulate viewer emotions. Its role is to amplify the meaning and effectiveness of a scene. However, using a popular hit song in a TV commercial is often more of an attempt by the advertiser to hijack the meaning of the song, and the history a listener has with it, and re-frame that onto the product being advertised.

The song has nothing to do with the product. In most cases, their messages are diametrically
opposed. Case in point, the famous Cadillac ad campaign that used Led Zeppelin’s song “Rock’n Roll”.

Led Zeppelin’s “Rock’n Roll”, was originally released in 1971. It had absolutely nothing to do with driving a Cadillac or any type of corporate sponsorship. In fact, it’s a song about sexual yearning. With its pumping rhythm, and forceful vocal it uses “rock’n roll” in its original slang meaning (for sex).

It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled,
It’s been a long time since I did the Stroll.
Ooh, let me get it back, let me get it back,
Let me get it back, baby, where I come from.
It’s been a long time, been a long time,
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.

Another example of simply cutting a few lines out of a song and grafting it onto an ad concept is Royal Caribbean’s “Lust for Life” campaign. It uses the Iggy Pop/David Bowie song “Lust for Life”. I can’t decide if this one is insidious or just stupid.

By using this song as music for their ad, Cadillac is able to harvest the emotions and collective memory of millions of viewers who already have huge pre-existing associations with that song. They hope viewers will transfer that identification into positive feelings for the car. The ad is aimed at 40/50-year-olds (Cadillac’s main demographic) and promises a less encumbered, more spontaneous, and fun lifestyle. In short, it sells them back their youth.

Here’s the campaign slogan –

Get Out There and satisfy your lust for life on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
(The commercial just plays a fragment of the song)

But here is the first verse of the song…

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He’s gonna do another strip tease.
Hey man, where’d ya get that lotion?
I’ve been hurting since I’ve bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love.
Well, that’s like hypnotizing chickens.
Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in the ear before.
I have a lust for life
’cause of a lust for life.

Putting pop songs in advertising is highly effective. Led Zeppelin’s “Rock’n Roll” has become the major branding tool for Cadillac’s fleet. Chevy Truck has used Bob Segar’s “Like A Rock” for over 15 years. Ad agencies are combing through 40 years of pop hits trying to get musical hooks that will act as slogans for their products. Songs attach a coolness to a product that no amount of ad copy can.This song is about, among other things, using heroin! A fragment of a song about heroin use has been clipped out of its context and used to sell……cruise vacations! It’s a total misrepresentation of the music (or perhaps Royal Caribbean has booked Johnny Yen to be activities director on its cruises).

At best this approach is simplistic rather than malicious or sinister. If the song has a lyrical refrain that matches an ad slogan then it is fair game to be clipped out of its context and laid into the ad to support the brand. It works, it sells stuff, but at what cost?

Today, it seems nothing is off limits to advertisers. A famous photo of Gandhi is co-opted by Apple computer to sell iMacs. We are made to associate Queen’s “We are the Champions” with Viagra, the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”” with Nissan Maxima, the Beatles “Come Together” with Nortel Networks.

To survive and grow, all businesses must advertise. But are there limits? Are all images, icons, and songs now nothing more than available content to be reformulated to commercial advantage?

Nowadays the colonization of Sixties rebellion by corporate America is part of the wallpaper of our consumer culture. Rolling Stones songs sell Snickers Bars, and the Who’s generational anthem about a “Teenage Wasteland” is used in a commercial for SUVs. The GAP stores in the
mall use countercultural icons such as James Dean, Jack Kerouac, and Joni Mitchell to sell clothes…      ** From the lecture Apathy, Alienation, and Activism: American Culture and the Depoliticization of Youth by Matt Lassiter, Prof. History, University of Michigan, Jan/2004

No Retreat, No Surrender at the Democratic Convention 2004
When John Kerry took the podium to give his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention this July, he was accompanied by a recording of Bruce Springsteen singing the song “No Surrender” from the classic Born in the USA album.

The big message at the Democratic convention was “John Kerry=Strength”. Springsteen’s song was chosen because together with the powerful driving music of the E Street Band, the song’s lyrics created a strong, confident atmosphere in the convention hall.

We made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter’s night with
A vow to defend, no retreat, no surrender

“Bruce Springsteen has it right. No retreat. No surrender. We are taking this fight to the country, and we are going to win back our democracy and our future,” Kerry had said before arriving at the convention.

The song “No Surrender” is not about the presidency, politics or Democrats. True, it celebrates strength, but it is the strength of the maverick, the independent, the kid who never fits in with the crowd. It is a song that gives the finger to the conventional and the mainstream. In “No Surrender” the singer longs for excitement, the exceptional – something wild.

It begins…

We busted out of class
Had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three-minute record
than we ever learned in school

The Republican party will do the same thing but with artists that reflect their own values. A popular song will no doubt be used to elevate the emotional appeal of the important Republican themes (You can bet it won’t be the music of Bruce Springsteen though. The Boss is planning an anti-Bush tour of the U.S. during the coming election season). To make the song fit their agenda, the Democratic Party had to re-cast it as a song about confidence and power. Snip, snip, lift the chorus, ignore the context and..instant campaign slogan.

You Say You Want a Sneaker Revolution?
It all began with Nike’s infamous use of the Beatles song “Revolution” in their 1987 ad campaign for the Air Max shoe. This TV commercial set the standard and supplies the blueprint for all music for advertising that followed.

  • It loots one of the greatest musical catalogs of the 20th century (the Beatles)
  • It corrupts one of the strongest anti-establishment songs ever written (Revolution)
  • It re-frames the context of the song, forcing it to become a branding vehicle for a product.

Phil Knight, Nike CEO remembers –In 1987 Reebok was the No. 1 sneaker company worldwide. Because of the “Revolution” ad campaign, which combined an exceptional Beatles performance with images of a young Michael Jordan wearing Nike Air shoes, Nike was able to regain the number 1 position. It has been there
ever since.

Nike “got a ton of criticism” for using the Beatles’ Revolution song as the ad’s anthem, but the company found its voice with the spot. “When we started out, we couldn’t make up our minds what kind of advertising we wanted. We had different messages for different groups, but there was no overarching theme. “Revolution” captured everything we wanted to do.”

(from “Fond Memories for Past Nike Ads” USA Today, 6/16/2003)

John Lennon wrote “Revolution” in 1968 while studying transcendental meditation in India with the Maharishi Mahesh.

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
we all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright

Advertising and Music
Michael Jackson (the gloved one) who owns the publishing rights to the Beatles catalog licensed the song to Nike against the wishes of Paul McCartney. As McCartney said when the Nike ads appeared… “the song was about revolution, not bloody tennis shoes.”

All pop songs that are used in TV commercials must be licensed by the advertiser . Last month’s article addressed how the licensing process works.  If you missed the article, you can read it here.


Selling the Sizzle By Sara Minogue in Canada’s Exclaim Magazine – Great article about the use of pop songs in advertising. The article focuses on some younger bands and their feelings about licensing their music to advertisers. For some its a smart career move. This article concludes with a list of bands and the commercials that feature their music. Here’s a small sample…

The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” for Nissan Pathfinder
Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side” for Honda Scooter
Nick Drake “Pink Moon” for VW; “Know” for Nike
The Rolling Stones “She’s A Rainbow” for Apple iMac;
“Start Me Up” for Microsoft
Blur “Song 2” for Labatt Blue, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan Sentra
The Who “Bargain” for Nissan Sentra;
“Baba O’Reily” for Nissan Polo;
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” for Nissan Maxima
Bob Segar’s “Like A Rock” for Chevrolet
Sting “Desert Rose” (and Sting appears) for Jaguar
The Clash “London Calling” for Jaguar
Madonna “Ray of Light” for Microsoft
AC/DC “Back in Black” for The Gap

AdTunes – a great database of music used in TV ads. “What was the music used in that film teaser trailer?” Now you can find the answer at Adtunes.com – the weblog of information on music from TV ads, movie trailers, and more.

Apathy, Alienation, and Activism: American Culture and the Depoliticization of Youth a lecture by the University of Michigan History Prof. Matt Lassiter given in January 2004. Discusses the commercialization of 1960s radicalism.