How to License Your Music UK | Where to Begin (YouTube, Film & TV + Sync Licensing)

You can start looking at how to license your music once you begin building a reputation for yourself. Your music needs to be at a professional level first so that brands, films and shows can license and synchronise your songs.

Your music is a form of intellectual property. So you can make money when you license your music. This can be done through sync licensing for YouTube, film and music where you receive royalties from collection societies. You can also get sizeable upfront fees for your music because big companies will pay a lot for the right song.

But how do you license and publish your music and how can you get these sync opportunities? We’ll explain how licensing music works, although you might want to brush up on music copyright first. Read on to find out exactly how to go about it, where to begin with licensing and what you’ll need to do before making the big bucks

How to licence your music – where to begin

How do I get my music licensed for commercial use?

You make money when someone else wants to buy the licence for a song that you’ve written. This means they need to be able to find your music in the first place, have heard it and liked it. So the very first step in how to licence your music is to make sure your it’s in the public arena in the first place. Put it on YouTube, streaming sites and with agencies and libraries that specialise in bringing music makers and music buyers together. We’ll have more on this later, including how to format your music for the best chance of getting picked up.

Many musicians assume streaming is the way to make cash from tracks. In fact, licensing is a far faster and more effective way to make cash from your tracks. Here are some of the places your music could end up if you follow all the advice in this article (and of course if your tracks are good enough):

  • A wedding or corporate video
  • Adverts
  • YouTube
  • On a film soundtrack or trailer
  • On a TV show – for a trailer or during visual segues

If someone wants to commercially license your music then they need sync licenses for the two separate rights. 

  • A license for the publishing ie,. the right to license the song
  • A license for the master ie,. the right to license the recording of the song

You need to own the rights to both the song and for the recording of the song. Both of these rights can be licensed separately for synchronisation to visual formats, public performance/broadcast and reproduction and distribution. However, if you’ve signed a record or publishing deal then the publisher will handle the sync of the song and the label will handle the recording.

What is sync licensing?

A sync license, also known as a synch or synchronisation license, means another party can synchronise your song and a specific recording of that song to a visual format such as YouTube, film and TV. Sync licenses only cover the use of that song alongside a video and won’t allow them to reproduce and distribute your music. They will need a mechanical license to do this.

Music licensing companies UK

We have bodies in the UK who track and monitor royalties and licensing (PRS and PPL). But you must register with them as a musician. This is another step toward making money by others using your music. We also have music licensing companies and sync licence libraries with whom you can submit your music for consideration. This increases your chances of it being picked up for licensing (more than that shortly).

There is no definitive cost applied for using copyrighted music in videos. It can completely depend on the music, the owner of the music and the type of video that it is being used in. As a result, costs for music can vary significantly.

Many other factors affect the cost of copyrighted music. This could be whether the music is exclusively used for a certain video. It could also be determined by how the music is used. This includes how much music is used in the video, the length of the license and where the music is used.

One of the biggest factors that determine the cost to license your music is your reputation. The more accolades and success you have, the more you can drive up your license fee. However, this is mostly associated with the recording of the recording artist. The value of a song can be entirely different.

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How much is a music licence UK?

The cost of a song license isn’t associated with a songwriters reputation as much as a recording is to a recording artist. This is because great songs can be recorded by different artists, regardless of their reputation.

For example, a song like Yesterday by the Beatles is going to go for a massive premium. This is because it is one of the most well known and performed songs of all time. However, the license to a master recording doesn’t have to be the same. A completely unknown artist could theoretically record a version and charge next to nothing because they care more about the opportunity than the fee.

This opens up great opportunities for independent artists. Brands can have great success spending more for well-known songs and then saving money by using lesser-known artists.

For example, John Lewis uses covers for the famous Christmas adverts every year. In 2015, they used an Oasis song, ‘Half the World Away’. This wouldn’t have been cheap and they may not have had enough budget for the Oasis recording. Instead, they got a new artist, Aurora, and used a new recording of the song.

This tactic works so well for many reasons. The first is that great songs are familiar and recognised, regardless of who is singing them. Second, the new recording can be tailored to fit the visuals and create a better atmosphere. Finally, the brand can get credit for giving an exciting new artist a boost in their career. Aurora’s version actually has around 3 million more views on YouTube than the original Oasis version.

Sync license rates

The cost of a synchronisation license is the combined fee for both the master and the publishing license. There can be added costs on top of this, such as studio and artist costs of commissioning a bespoke recording for a song. However, making this new version could end up being cheaper than the sync fee for the original recording. The cost to pay all the people involved in the licensing process should also be considered. 

Who gets paid for a sync licence?

Songwriters are paid for their songs in three different ways.

  • Performing royalties
  • Mechanical royalties
  • Sync royalties

Songwriters are also paid through collection societies such as PRS. You must register your song to societies so that you can receive royalty payments from them. You will receive these royalties whenever a video with your music is broadcast, as well as through any increases in streams and sales for your music.

Mechanical royalties are paid to songwriters for the reproduction and distribution of their songs in recorded formats. This is also distributed by PRS.

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What is a royalty in music?

Sync royalties your music often come from a set licensing fee that is negotiated. This could be directly between an independent artist and the party that is licensing the music. However, it is more typical for that party to pay a label and publisher for both rights. They will then pay a manager who will then pass it on to the artist or songwriter. 

What are sync fees and who gets paid for sync license?

Sync fees are the costs for the sync license and they aren’t always for the rights holders.

Other parties can also end up taking a cut, such as a sync agent who work on behalf of a record label or publisher. These agents are more prominent amongst independent labels and publishers that don’t have their own in-house sync departments.

Music libraries for film and TV – who are the major licensing companies for music?

The biggest companies have their libraries combed by major TV production companies, Netflix and advertisers. The companies will take a cut of what you make, but it’ll be worth it to get access to the big names of the small screen, who otherwise wouldn’t know you exist. But like anything in the industry, it’s competitive. So be sure to have your submission perfectly and fully recorded (no samples), ready for professional use.

According to Filmmaker Freedom, these are the hottest music licensing companies of 2020.

  1. Music Vine
  2. Artlist
  3. Musicbed
  4. Marmoset
  5. Soundstripe
  6. Epidemic Sound

You can also check out the top sync licensing libraries here.

Submit music for TV placement – submit music for Netflix

Now you have the names of the companies, what do you do? You’ll have to submit some music to them to agencies to see if they like it. Then if they do, they may add you to your books.

Remember, quality is important. Pick between three and five tracks to submit, and export them in the following formats.

  • 24 bit > 16 bit
  • 320 kbps > 256 kbps > 128 kbps
  • WAV = AIFF > MP3
  • 48kHz > 44kHz is the standard for TV and fil

You should also add something called metadata to your files, including:

  • The track title
  • The artist’s name
  • The album name
  • Song genre
  • Recording or release date
  • And if possible, add your email address in too.

You can then send the tracks to the agencies and libraries for consideration.You can find the contact details for submissions and/or their submission forms on their sites.

How much money can you make licensing music?

How do I get my music royalties?

Singers are only paid royalties as the recording artist. Of course, this changes if you’ve written the song as well but we’ll focus on singers who haven’t. The amount a singer will make will depend on how much their recording has sold or been streamed. The size of the audience that they have been broadcast too will also have a big effect on royalty payments.

PRS for music and PPL

Whilst songwriters get their music royalties from PRS, recording artists get them from PPL. PPL royalties will also follow a similar process to PRS royalties. They will go to the record labels first, instead of publishers, and gradually make their way to the artist. 

Most countries have their own versions of PPL and PRS and they collect the royalties that are generated in their own territory. You don’t have to register to these collection societies as PRS and PPL will collect international royalties.

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Publishing vs royalties

You publish your own music by avoiding publishing deals and registering your music yourself. You will have to account for your own royalties and you may be responsible for the royalties of any collaborations that you do.

Publishers exist so that you don’t have to worry about this. They also pitch your music for new deals and for sync placements. However, if you’re not at the stage to get a publishing deal yet then sign up to PRS and PPL and start collecting your royalties.

How to license music for YouTube

Can you use music in your YouTube videos?

Can you use music in your YouTube videos?

You can use music in your YouTube as the millions of videos on YouTube do. YouTube is the most streamed music and video platform in the world and there are naturally going to be licensing issues. 

Music is used in many different ways on YouTube. For example, a fan-made football highlights video will often have music synchronised to it. This will be both a song and recording. However, music can be used in a cover video of a singer in their bedroom. This will only use the song. 

Do you need a music licence for YouTube?

All videos using music on YouTube will need a sync license. This applies to videos using existing recordings and creators who are singing their own versions. Those that use existing recordings will need a sync license from both the publishing and master owner. Those singing or creating their own versions of songs will only need a license from the publishing owner.

Those creating their own versions of a song may want it to be available on YouTube Music and other streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. This will require a mechanical license for the reproduction of the song.

There are no performance licenses and royalties on YouTube. There is an existing deal between YouTube and collection societies like PRS and PPL that covers performance royalties.

How much does it cost to license a song for a YouTube video?

YouTube does not require you to negotiate sync licenses with publishers and record labels because YouTube has a Content ID system. This automatically scans the music in your video and puts a notice to the copyright holder. 

The copyright holder can then monetise your video through ads, which is the most common outcome. Other options include blocking your video or restricting it in certain countries. Your video could also be muted or blocked from certain formats, such as mobile or embeds on other websites.

How much does it cost to license a song for YouTube?

There is zero cost for licensing a song through YouTube’s Content ID system. It simply scans your video and then allows copyright holders to do what they want, which in some cases is nothing. 

How do you use free music on YouTube?

If you are getting a lot of videos then you might want to use music that isn’t going to take your ad revenue. Using royalty-free music or music that is in the public domain is the best way to go about this. Of course, if you make your own music then you can use your own. 

This is where YouTube’s music library can help you out.

YouTube audio library

YouTube’s audio library is a massive library of free music that can be used in videos. You can search through a whole variety of genres, moods and instruments and use the music in any of your videos. Many don’t even require you to give any credit or attribution.

YouTube library

YouTube’s music policies are licensing guidelines for music that has been commercially released. Many songs are available across all countries but using them will mean that adverts will appear on your video. Some songs aren’t available in all countries but in some and will subsequently be muted in certain territories.

The music policies will also tell you if you can cover a song and whether it will be blocked in certain countries. The same typically applies to covers as you would for using songs and ads appear on your cover video.

Do keep a record of what you’ve submitted and where – especially if someone has since bought the rights to one of your tracks. You could get into hot water legally otherwise. A simple spreadsheet is a great way to do this. And be mindful of what you’re submitting too. A song with swear words or violent themes is unlikely to do well, even in independent films and TV. So keep it clean, be organised, keep getting your best tunes out there and you too could hear your work on screen before you know it.

Related Questions

  • What is the most expensive song to license?

The most expensive song licensing deal in history is Nike’s 1987 license for “Revolution” by The Beatles. Nike paid $500,000 for the license to use the song in their first major TV ad, which would be well over $1m when adjusted for inflation. 

None of the Beatle’s members that were alive at the time gave consent. Michael Jackson had bought the rights to the Beatles’ catalogue a couple of years before the deal. Nike got sued and a settlement was made out of court and the details remain a secret to this day.

  • How much did Google pay for Beatles song?

Google used ‘Help’ by the Beatles in an advert but the amount they paid hasn’t be made public. The TV show Mad Men famously paid $250,000 for a snippet of a Beatles song in one of their episodes. Google used a whole minute. It can be expected that they paid more than $1m if we use the Nike advert as a guideline.

Have you licensed your music? Do you have any tips for others on where to begin with submitting to libraries and agencies? Share them in the comments below

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