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Rights/Royalties etc for commercial music
Old 31st August 2011
Gear Head

Rights/Royalties etc for commercial music

Hi there,

I am just starting to get jobs through writing and recording jingles etc for companies. I was wondering how the royalties and rights etc work for this sort of thing. For example, when i hand the tracks over, does the company now own the rights to it or do i retain them.
I assume that this si a contract by contract issue, but what is the standard protocol?


Old 31st August 2011
Lives for gear
hasbeen's Avatar
If you have accepted a flat fee for your work, you will get paid once. if you keep the copyrights to the jingle each time the commercial is played the money goes into your pocket.

Please consult a lawyer if you are getting serious with this. There are many avenues including joining a production house and even management.

Good Luck!
Old 31st August 2011
Gear Head

We are part of Pump Audio who is owned by Getty Images. The last 2 songs we sold we got payed 35% share of the sale. Plus we get a royalty once a year but it's nothing. We sold one song to Nike for their Beijing Market and another to a company in Germany called Stupid ApS. The contract we signed for both was a non exclusive agreement which means we are free to sell the songs again to anyone. We sign a new contract for each sale we do. We are also part of ASCAP but they really don't care about you unless your a top earner. We never got a check from them. ASCAP uses a weighted average. So unless your pulling in big money thru songs and publishing, your not going to see anything from them. The royalty rate is tiny and amounts to percentages of pennies. However, your rights as the owner of the copyright will stay yours unless you give up that right. You must have a lawyer look at the contract to ensure that your not "giving up" your ownership but instead entering into a "partnership" with the other party. The terms of that partnership are were the rights are stipulated. Also you should claim yourself as the writer and performer and if possible the publisher (if you don't already have one). If your a freelancer then you need protection which means a lawyer. Hope this helps
Old 31st August 2011
Lives for gear
007's Avatar

It's case-by-case situation for me.
I'm a freelancer, and most of the stuff I do is rendered as a non-exclusive license.
They use it for the spot, but I'm free to sell it/license it to someone else as well.
As for royalties, I've had some generated, through ASCAP, but as mentioned above, it barely pays the utility bill, so don't hold your breath.

In my 6 years doing this, I've only had 2 instances of 'buy-outs'.
More money upfront, but they own it and I can't use it for anything else.
Old 31st August 2011
Gear Addict

Full disclosure, I'm a partner and composer with Fliktrax LLC (FlikTrax Home - Production Music Licensing -). We are a music licensing/music production company. We represent hundreds of artists and composers as well as compose custom music for all mediums.

There has been some good information already stated and yes, these days almost all instances arise. If you are licensing an existing track, meaning music to be placed in a TV show or Ad as underscore or bed then most buyers don't really care if its exclusive. You hear some of the same pieces in shampoo commercials than on cable TV reality shows a month later. Some networks or outlets are better than other in terms of properly filing cue sheets. We try to get copies of all our placed spots cue sheets but that's not always possible nor is a buyer legally required to do so. ASCAP or BMI are both pretty diligent organizations but it is true that if you only have minor placements in something that might only air once or twice you may never see a check. Simply because it may not reach a threshold thats actually worth delivering.

You tend to see buyouts much more often when you are creating a full jingle with vocals or a specific branding melody. If a company hires you to create a custom piece of music for them, often they want exclusivity. Now that isn't necessarily a buyout. You may agree not to license that particular track to anyone else but still get royalties. It really depends on who hires you and how they do biz. Some don't want to bother filing cue sheets or be bothered by paying royalties so they pay a bit more upfront and just buyout the track outright.

Often times TV/Film might arrange a 1 or 2 year exclusivity. That way they keep the music primary to their media for the time frame it is heavily viewed. Feature films don't really deal in royalties in a sense of times aired in certain markets, they usually have an upfront payment and if the artist has some clout they may get a second payment for DVD release or if there is a soundtrack they get a percentage of that as well. Indie artists are usually just paid for the placement though.

Just FYI the standard payment for any music placed is called Master/Sync. these are often grouped together as one price but at times you may be paid separately or rarely for just one. Some networks which will remain nameless
don't pay master/sync and only pay royalties which usually amount to a Venti Coffee.

TV theme songs or recurring underscore as well as national commercials are normally the best paying categories.

It is advisable to have an entertainment lawyer look at any contracts however to be honest, you may pay the lawyer more than you make on the placement. Most good entertainment lawyers charge upwards of $250 an hour and we've seen decent cable TV placements earn an artist no more than $300. Sometimes it may be best to do some research on your own. If you are a member of ASCAP or BMI both have excellent legal departments available to members. Take advantage of them!
Old 31st August 2011
Lives for gear
RKrizman's Avatar

Don't underestimate the value of performance royalties, as paid by ASCAP or BMI. The major networks pay a yearly fee to these organizations in exchange for the right to broadcast the music of their members to the public. That money is then divided up among the composers and publishers according to how much airplay, i.e. public performances, their music has seen. I've been doing this for 30 years and typically if I write something custom for television it is a "work for hire", which means that my employer (the specific show, production company or network) owns the copyright exclusively. However, a work for hire contract should ALWAYS stipulate that the composer retain the writer's share of performance royalties. This is the most important thing, and for an employer to not allow this is considered unethical to us old school guys.

Different uses pay different amounts of performance royalties. Commercial jingles get paid the least, show themes pay the most, with underscore and featured songs somewhere between. It varies with time of day and network. Again, you do NOT want to give up this income. Go to the ASCAP website and start educating yourself about all this. The deal you make with somebody will balance front money with the likelihood of making money on the back end, so you should know what all the possibilities are.

Old 31st August 2011
Gear Head

awesome thanks for this.
its very early days im currently working on relatively informal projects for a few charities to build up my portfolio/CV so nothing serious yet
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