Music and filmmaking go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. Separate the two can be equally great, but when combined, the result is magnificent.

Because of this, filmmakers are very critical of the music they choose for their films. Often times a particular scene will be written while listening to the perfect song.

Without realizing the filmmaker has hinged everything on using that song for that scene. It’s the only way the scene will work.

But using a song you heard on the radio isn’t as simple as just buying the track and adding to your film. In order to use someone else’s music, you first have to obtain a license to use that song.

If not, the consequences can be severe. You will likely be sued, your reputation tarnished, and your film pulled from the shelves and theaters.

If you want to use someone else’s music in your film and just can’t live without out, then keep reading to find your guide to music licensing.

Licensing Basics
Obtaining a music license is really just asking permission to use someone else’s music. There are a couple of different types of licenses, broad licenses and narrow licenses.

The broad license allows the licensee to use the music in multiple ways with few if any restrictions on use. A narrow license, however, only allows the licensee the ability to use the music a limited number of times and in limited ways.

Licensing is needed however since it helps to protect all copyright owners of a song. A song is made up of two components, the musical composition, and the sound recording.

The musical composition refers to the written lyrics and musical notes whereas the sound recording is the specific recorded track. For this reason, you may need to obtain multiple licenses for one song.

Obtaining Licenses for Films
When it comes to obtaining a license for a song, you’ll need to first locate the copyright owners/holders.

So if you require permission to use both components of a song you may need to get a sync license from the musical composition copyright holder and a master use license from the copyright holders of the sounds recording.

Once you’ve determined the types of licenses you’ll need and have located the copyright holders it’s time to begin negotiating a deal. When negotiating state exactly what it is you want the music for.

Will it be played by a character? Will it be background music? Be as specific as possible. Remember like your film this music is someone’s baby and while this is a business deal, even record labels want to make sure the song is represented well.

Once you’ve reached a deal it’s time to prepare the license. This is where it will be best to hire an attorney or third-party company who are experts in license writing.

Alternative Options for Music
While all that may have seemed daunting and more trouble than it is worth, there is hope.

There are other options for obtaining a musical license that still lets you infuse your film with the perfect balance of rhythms and melodies. From hiring a composer to royalty free sound effects.

Hire a Composer
Probably the easiest solution to ensuring you won’t need to ask anyone’s permission is to hire a composer.

While this may seem way beyond the capabilities of an independent filmmaker, rest assured there is a music major somewhere eagerly awaiting your call.

Hiring a composer allows you to create original music for your film that elicits the exact emotion you want to portray. Often filmmakers rely on pre-existing music, forgetting the power of unique and original musical accompaniment in an original film.

Use stock sites
If a composer is out of the option, there are third-party stock music sites. These websites provide non copyright sound effects for filmmakers and home movie enthusiasts alike.

These companies offer original stock music licenses. These licenses are similar to the ones described earlier but are cheaper and much easier to obtain.

Scoring your film
Regardless of how you to choose to do so, scoring your film isn’t something you should skimp on.

Nothing can elevate a movie like music. However, while it is easy to become obsessed with a particular song heard on the radio, scoring original music is often overlooked to the detriment of the film.

Even using third-party stock music businesses provide a level of originality and uniqueness to the music and the film that is lost when using the top 40.

However, should you need a music license to go about it the right way? Don’t find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

***In cooperation with soundstripe.com***

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