How to License Your Music UK | YouTube, Film & TV + Sync Licensing

You can start looking at how to license your music once you start 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 and 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 upfront fees for your music and big companies can 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.

How do I get my music licensed for commercial use?

How do I get my music licensed for commercial use?

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 does sync license mean?

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.

How much does it cost to use copyrighted music?

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 does a song license cost?

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 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.

How much does a synchronisation license cost?

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. 

How are songwriters paid?

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 sync royalty?

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.

How much do singers make from royalties?

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.

How do I get my music royalties?

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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How do I publish my own music?

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.

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.

You don’t need to worry about performance licenses and royalties on YouTube. There is an existing deal between YouTube and collection societies like PRS and PPL that covers performance royalties so it should all be covered.

How do I get a sync license for YouTube?

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 music library

YouTube’s audio library is a massive library of free music that you can use in your 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 music policies

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.

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. 

This kicked off quite a storm as 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 shouldn’t have had to consult Apple Records and they but they got sued anyway. 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.

What music have you heard that’s been sync licensed on YouTube, film or TV? Share in the comments below.

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