Royalty Free?

A Complex Issue, We Can Help Clarify Things…

So over the past few years I’ve had many a client ask me if we can compose bespoke music for their film material. Be it an advert, YouTube video or short film destined for the festival circuit, the question is often the same…

“Is Your Music Royalty Free?”

Julia Orpen, my university tutor for my first two years at the Colchester Institute Centre for Music & Performing Arts , was a music publisher with Boosey & Hawkes. Her lectures on the rapidly changing music business were startlingly frank; an alarming number of film industry professionals have little to no understanding of music publishing, copyright law or the complex issues of rights. They often make mistakes with licensing music, sometimes infringing on sensitive copyright protections, especially when using stock music from production libraries. Little wonder then, that certain buzzwords have made their way into daily professional vocabulary; one such vague concept is that of Royalty Free music.

First off, Royalty Free music does not mean that it is necessarily free of royalties (I’ll come back to this later). It seems that for many in the film and music biz have become more uncomfortable with this misleading concept, so the term ‘Buyout Music’ has taken it’s place.

“Ok… So What is a ‘Buyout’?”

Buyout music denotes that the licensee (filmmaker) requests permission for x amount of time in y territory to sync the our music to their film. The composers at Musitecture can issue this permission in the form of a exclusive/non-exclusive license. This is what is also known as a ‘Single-Fee License’. This arrangement effectively does away with the need for a filmmaker to repeatedly pay a royalty to us for every broadcast performance of their music’s sync (formerly known as needle-drop rights management), in return for a one off payment (often included in our ‘Work for Hire’ contract).

“So Buyout Music is Royalty Free then?”

Yes and no. For you, your film production and any clients you’re working for, the music you license from us is indeed free of royalties. Where this term is misleading is the following: Our composers at Musitecture are all members of Performing Rights Organisations (PROs). We have signed contracts permitting these PROs (the AKM in my case) to collect our publishing royalties from broadcast performance. These royalties are not paid for by you, the film makers, rather by the broadcast networks like television stations or YouTube, for example. Therefore, the music is royalty free for you, the film maker, but not for the network that it will eventually be screened/broadcast on.

For more information about this, we welcome you to get in touch with us, should you require help understanding the complex field of music publishing and licensing.

©2020 Musitecture/Mark Peter Royce
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