New Issues In Television Music Licensing (Part 3)


Some of the factors affecting the amount of the negotiated synch fee are whether the show is originally being broadcast or distributed for network, local television, cable, internet or other media, the scope of the rights granted, the options being requested, how the composition is being used (background vocal or instrumental use, theme, visual vocal), the music budget, the stature of the song (standard, hit song, new release), duration of the use, the term, the territory, whether there is a soundtrack guarantee, whether there is an ad card promo at the end of the program, whether only in-context vs. out-of-context promo uses are part of the license, whether a change of lyrics is being requested, and whether there is a dramatization of the events described in the song, among others.

It should also be mentioned that certain programs license on a “Most Favored Nations” basis (with all compositions receiving the same compensation for the particular defined type of use). In such cases, the producer will provide the actual fee structure in the request and the only decision for the music publisher is whether to say “yes” or “no” to the use.


As you can see, successful television licensing is not for the inexperienced. Familiarity with the meaning of all options (e.g., home video, Internet, foreign theatrical, mobile devices), knowledge of the range of fees possible in each situation (e.g., successful or new show, past hit song or new artist release, is the show a “take it or leave it” entity or are standard negotiating norms in place), an understanding of the original writer’s grant of rights to the music publisher (any licensing restrictions, approvals, etc.) and knowledge of the many other factors which could affect the anticipated backend royalties (e.g., status of ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC licenses in all relevant media, Copyright Royalty Board decisions, pending litigation, copyright legislation, foreign country online and traditional media licensing schemes), are all essential if one is to give the immediate and appropriate response that is necessary in today’s world of television licensing- licensing that goes well beyond the initial television broadcast.