So you've pitched your songs for a show and the music supervisor has just emailed you to notify you that they might have found a possible home for one of your songs in their TV show.
Understanding the steps in the clearance process is imperative so you can make the music supervisors job an easy one and make yourself look like you have your shit together.
Before we get started I'm not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice – these are simply the steps normally taken to clear a one-stop track into a TV show.
First up, there are 'two sides' of a song that needs to be cleared. The master is one side and the publishing is the other side. If you own or control both sides (this is what the industry refers to as one-stop) of your songs then the clearance process can be quick and easy.
When a music supervisor wants to use your song they will always first send you a REQUEST of USE.
A request means that they have found a place for the track in a show BUT it is not 100% confirmed, meaning it may not go ahead. Things that may stop a placement from getting approval could be; the scene gets cut, the producer has discovered another song they'd like to use, or the show/production gets cancelled.
The initial request will outline the Term, Territory, Media and Fee.
The Term: reflects how long they will license your music for.
The Territory: reflects the location/s in which the license will allow it to be used.
The Media: reflects the media platforms in which the license allows them to use your track.
The Fee: you will normally be provided the fee that they would like to offer for the use of the track - this will cover both the master and publishing side of the song.
The stock standard TV show sync deal for an under-the-radar track is;
TERM – Perpetuity (meaning forever)
TERRITORY – World (all countries)
MEDIA – All forms of Media now known or hereafter devised (Describes any distribution method (now and in the future) or means of transmission for any viewing device such as television media (including free, basic cable, pay, subscription, satellite, pay-per-view, on demand, video-on-demand, subscription- on demand and closed circuit); non- theatrical media (including Common Carriers and public areas); all audio visual devices and products for personal use such as (video discs and other digital video devices.); internet or virtual private network communications streaming, downloading or other wise); networking technologies and storage and retrieval devices)
FEE - will always vary based on the shows budget, the reach of the show and where the song is placed.
The initial request document will also need details on who owns the song.
Knowing who owns the song is the most important factor when clearing a song. If a song has multiple writers, with different splits and different PROS, then you need to have all the correct info ready-to-go to send to the music supervisor. Details on who owns the master are also normally required. All of this information allows them to formulate the final license agreement and the cue sheet, which allows everyone to receive their performance residuals when the placement goes to air. Getting the information right from the start is the key to reducing headaches for everyone involved in the paperwork trail.
The second step is when you receive a CONFIRMATION OF USE.
This is normally a one or two pager that informs you that the song will be used and clarifies all the information you have already provided to them. This is where every detail should be tripled checked especially the writers/publishers details as this information will be on the cue sheet.
The third step is the LICENSE AGREEMENT.
This form will complete the paperwork for the license and covers details of the agreement.
Basically you both agree that:
• They can use a song that you own/control in their production.
• They will pay to use it a certain way, in a certain place for a certain time.
• You will both follow the contract.You can both be held accountable to each other. A court may decide that you, or they, have to pay money as compensation for failing in your promises. E.g. if you don't own the song and they use it, the person who does own the song and the production company may take legal action against you. Or, if the production company uses your song in a way that is outside of the agreement, then you may take action against them to seek compensation.
The final step is GETTING PAID and GETTING A CUE SHEET.
The time it takes to get paid for your upfront license fee depends entirely on the accounting practices of the business that has licensed your song. Just be very mindful that it can take up to 3 - 9 months to get paid from the first air/streaming date.
A cue sheet should be provided by anyone who has licensed your music. The cue sheet acts as a record of use, and a report for PRO's to pay on. If you are not sent a cue sheet always ask for one and then send it to your PRO.
A cue sheet is essentially a tracking report that allows songwriters and publishers to be paid for the broadcast/streaming use of their song. A cue sheet includes details such as the production and episode, writers/publishers details, the airdates, the length it was used, and when it was used. It also outlines how it was used with in the production such as featured, vocal, instrumental, or background use. The production company will always send the cue sheet to the PRO, but you should always request one so you can send it to your own PRO rep, and have on file for your own record.
About the Author – Daniela D'Onofrio
Daniela has been responsible in representing hundreds of indie artists, and successfully securing placements for Virgin, Qantas, Contiki, Jeans West, Joe Fresh, Sony PlayStation and countless Films and TV Shows with Disney, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, HBO, Showtime, FOX, USA Network, MTV, CTV, Warner Bros, ABC (USA), and NBC Universal.
Passionate about the sync industry, Daniela has had many speaking and teaching engagements including Q Music, Music Industry Inside Out, and SYNC Master Classes at Queensland University of Technology.