Music Licensing For Film [FREE Music Release Form]

Music Licensing For Film
Music Licensing For Film

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In this article, we look at a few different key areas relating to music licensing for film, such as finding permission, hiring composers, and stock music sites.

You might want to use your favorite song in your film’s opening credits. But you can’t use it without permission, even if you are a student or beginner filmmaker.

Just like images, if you use music in your film, you need to have permission from the person who created it. But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to find and get permission to use music.

Below you will find a detailed guide on how to approach music licensing for film.

How To Find Music

Filmmaking is a combination of many art forms: creative writing, photography, theatre, set design, and editing. Finally, a musical soundtrack completes the film.

Music is an integral part of a film. It helps create atmosphere, emotions and can reinforce a film’s plot. George Lucas once said that ‘sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie’.

And music licensing for film can come from a variety of sources.

Public Domain

Vintage record player

To begin with, if you don’t have a budget, you can use royalty-free music. And this means that the music is in the public domain for free. Additionally, if a creator died more than 70 years ago, it is likely their music is in the public domain.

Some great places to find free music are Free Music Archive, Jamendo, and  Sound Cloud* (under the creative commons license*).

Royalty-Free Music Websites

royalty-free music website

There are also royalty-free music sites that have an extensive library of high-quality music that you can use. Perfect if you are producing a lot of content, such as for a company or as a YouTuber.

Hiring a Composer

Recording studio

The best option for filmmakers with a budget is to create an original soundtrack. And this means hiring a composer to make the music for you. You can find and hire composers on sites such as Soudbetter, Melody Nest, and Airgigs.

But if you are adamant about using pre-made music, you need to find permission.

Finding Permission

Music license copyright

It’s essential to have the correct music licensing for your film; otherwise, you might get sued. Even if uploading straight to YouTube, you need contract evidence that you are allowed to use the music.

There are two types of music copyright for every song. Firstly you need permission from the people who wrote the song and secondly from the person who recorded it.

Sometimes music is created by a single individual, at which point you only need their permission. However, you might need to request music rights from a record label as well as the performer.

To make things easier, you can use music license websites to find out who owns the rights to the music. For example Ascap, Sesac, and Global Music Rights.

When requesting permission to use music with a record label, you need to send them some additional details. Such as a synopsis of the film, a description of music use, and distribution plans.

However, how much you pay for music rights depends on several factors.

Paying For Music

music licensing

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to music licensing for film. That is to say, how much you pay for music will change per project. Here is a breakdown of how an artist or record label determines the price.

  • Student film – If you are using your music as part of a student project, you can get lower costs. Especially if your project is only showing at festivals and not being used commercially. Record labels, however, may write a clause on the contract asking for additional fees if the film makes a profit.
  • Film budget – Your film budget will give the record label an idea of how many people will watch the film. For independent films with low budgets, you will likely get a more affordable price to license music.
  • Music Usage – The exact purpose of the music will decide the price. For example, if the music is in the opening or closing credits, it will cost more than background music. Music licensed for trailers also has a higher price tag.
  • Distribution – Your film’s screening location will arguably be the most crucial factor. Whether that be at festivals, streaming, online, or cinema release, every distribution platform will have a different music licensing price.

If you have a budget, you should hire a qualified entrainment lawyer to help you with contracts. According to Ascap, permission for already produced music ranges between $15,000 and $70,000. But if you are an independent filmmaker, you can create a music release form negotiate lower prices.

FREE Music Release Form

Also, check out our library of other free production templates

Wrapping Up – Music Licensing For Film

Music licensing is essential to filmmaking; it helps create mood and convey emotion. But always remember that you need to have permission for any music you use.  

How will you find music for your next project? Let us know in the comments section below.

Amy Clarke
Amy Clarke
Amy is a content writer at the Video Collective. She is a former script supervisor and writes about careers in the film industry. Follow her on Facebook.
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