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Hello everyone! This is my first time posting to the forum. I use the site for reference all of the time, but never became a member until now. I'm hoping to gain insight as to the best way to execute the music licensing process as a 26 year old independent filmmaker.

The project is funded entirely out of pocket, so as terrifying as it seems, I plan to try and tackle the endeavor on my own. I know that a copyright attorney or clearance company could greatly expedite this, but again I'm trying to keep my costs as low as possible, because I know licensing the music itself won't be cheap.

Here is some background information:

The song I intend to use is a cover of a popular song from the 1960s. The band that covered the song was a group no one has ever heard of. It was recorded by a company that no longer exists (A1 records [a division of Trans Canada]). The company was sold, sold again, renamed several times and I guess now is a relic of the past somewhere in a basement filing cabinet. I traced the company from the 60s to a large Canadian conglomerate (Quebecor Media) whose subsidiaries control a good portion of the media and entertainment industry in Canada. The company I believe who owns the rights is called Distribution Select. Even if they don't own the rights, hopefully they will be able to point me in the direction of the person who does. I digress.

From what I have learned from reading about the subject I have gathered the following:

- I need both synchronization rights and master use rights
>synchronization to use said music in tandem with my visual imagery
>master use to be able to use the specific recording of the song in general

- I need to obtain rights for the physical recording of the song, as well as the intellectual property rights. These are usually separate from each other.
>contact person who owns the recording (artist or label)
>contact intellectual property owners (publisher/songwriter/entity/entities)

All of this is still a tad confusing to me, so if I am wrong on any of this, please correct me.

Because my song is a cover, which by the way is recorded in a foreign language (French), what rights do I need and from whom?

I assume it would be something along these lines…

I would need to get both the synchronization rights and the master use rights. Synchronization, I would get from the Canadian company that I hope still has records that they in fact own the song. For the sync rights I would also need to contact the publisher/representative to the party that owns the intellectual property rights to the original song that is being covered.

So contact the owner of the recording of the cover, then the covered song's original composer?

Who then would I contact for the Master Use rights? Would I need to contact multiple sources, as I did to acquire the sync rights?

Sorry, I know this is getting lengthy, but I'm almost done.

Lastly, which party do I contact in order to obtain a film festival license, which if I remember correctly has a two year cap? Also I would be interested in looking into some kind of limited use license (for internet and possible small scale future distribution)? Are these licenses' processes ones which involve obtaining rights from multiple parties as well?

I know the basic formula is the more exposure the film gets, the more royalties you have to pay out.

I also read it is pretty imperative to negotiate all prices for all licenses needed upfront if possible.

This is why I am asking so many questions. I'm merely trying to cover my bases and proceed in a correct and educated manner. I apologize if reading all of this made your brain hurt. Thank you (:

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Licensing commercial music is a nightmare at the best of times. Typically only the best funded productions attempt it. There is one other option, use a music supervisor instead do this work for you. Either way, if you plan to sell your final indie movie you will need E&O. The E&O company is going to bore into your paperwork on any licensed songs as its an obvious red flag.


I think you might be shocked at the pricing once you do make it to the right person. These companies will charge you incredible sums of money to license their songs. The fact that you are a self funded indie production means nothing to them. I looked at licensing a Mancini song a few years ago, they balked at $50, 000.00, not even close they said.



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Which is why so many small producers try to find unknown but talented bands to supply soundtrack music. That way you get your music, and they get some exposure.


Depending on what track it actually is, you're probably better off trying to find someone to do a new cover version that sounds something like the one you want to use. That way the band has 100% control of that particular recording and are free to license it to you.

You still have to get the rights to the words and music, but that's usually not as difficult or expensive, UNLESS it's something like Richard's Mancini number....

Can you tell us the actual song Title?

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At the risk of seeming a little self-congratulatory, I recently wrote an article about this for Red Shark News.


Most of my thoughts are therein, so suffice to say here that the situation is absolutely laughable and the various performing rights bodies of the world give every impression that they're working as hard as they possibly can to prevent people from using any form of music. Thank god there are independent composers willing to work without their involvement.



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Slightly off-topic, I once created part of a "soundtrack" for a no-budget student short by "looping" (repeating ) the ambient sound of a scene shot in a large railway station, as a train pulled in. With a bit of echo and pitch changing, people just assumed it was some sort of unsigned avant garde experimental band :rolleyes:

On the same production, the "foomp!" sound of an animated Police speed camera flash going off was actually the sound of me frantically trying to blow out one of the props that caught fire when I set some fireworks off....

The sound of them exploding in my garage also produced the most incredible echo-ey "Braaaap-Boinggggg!" sound that would have been no-questions-asked on any big-time Sci Fi flick. :D

Figuring out no-budget solutions for no budget stuff can be really satisfying, but it's incredibly hard to get the wannabes to just go out and make something, it's like: "No, my first production has gotta be 'right'"as if you're only ever allowed to make a limited number of films in your entire lifetime B)

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