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Music Licensing/ Clearing

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I am currently in the very very early stages of pre production for a short I wrote. I am researching how I would go about getting music cleared for a popular artist who is now deceased. I have done all the google searches and been on the us copyright website among a few others. I can't quite figure out which website is the correct one or if the information I've received is accurate and if it is how I go about contacting the current rights holder. I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with this and can give me some tips or point me in the correct direction? I haven't the slightest idea what getting songs licensed even costs, so this is all brand new territory and it may not even be worth it if the cost is astronomical. If someone has tips or secrets please share them.


Thank you,


Kenny Williams 

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If it's anything like the situation here in the UK, which I believe it is, music licensing of any kind is an absolute nightmare.

Popular stuff invariably involves several different licenses covering different conceptual aspects of the right to copy, distribute and exhibit your production, and you are likely to end up negotiating it with several different entities, very possibly including the original composer or whoever inherited it.

If you can't easily find a way to do that - welcome to the club. In the modern world of YouTube and everyone making short films, music rights holders would find themselves endlessly fielding inquires from people. As such you may find yourself emailing an enquiries@... address with very little chance of receiving any sort of meaningful response. This is why people make a profession out of organising music licensing.

And if it's anything like a known artist or track they may have quite firm ideas about the sort of production they want to license the music to; if it's a famous name and you're not a nine-figure blockbuster, the answer may be a straightforward "no" because your budget may not be worth their while and they don't want to dilute their brand. And, as I say, even getting a "no" is something of an achievement.

In short it's not a fun experience even if you can get anyone to engage with you, and I would strongly encourage people not to fall in love with recognisable pieces of music they probably can't ever have.

Sorry, but that's the truth.


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For a short, it's common to get the music composed for it, it costs a lot less. I know someone who got a song cleared for a short, but it limited the exhibition life of the film because of the costs. The copyright lasts after the artist has died, so you have to deal with the estate or whoever holds the rights, plus clearing it with the composer.

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