So you’ve come looking for a license to synch Kobalt represented music with your visual media project? You may have some questions about the process. Below is some reference information to help guide you through the process.
Synch License: This is the license that grants you the right to synchronize a composition and/or master recording, as applicable, with a visual media project (film, advert, television program, etc.).
Composition: A composition is an original piece of music, including both the lyrics (if applicable) and underlying melody. A composition may have one writer or several writers. The composition needs to be licensed for every synchronization license.
Publisher/Co-Publisher(s): The publisher is the representative of the composition. For any given composition, there can be one publisher, or several publishers. In situations where there are several publishers to a composition, the involved parties often refer to one another as the co-publishers, or co-pubs. In order to properly clear a composition, you will need permission from all applicable publishers involved before you have a fully approved composition for synchronization use.
Master Recording: This is the actual sound recording of the composition. Though there are exceptions, this is generally represented by the record label that originally released the recording. To illustrate how all of this is related, the composition “…Baby One More Time,” was written by Kobalt songwriter Max Martin. The most well known master recording of the composition is the Britney Spears recording, which is represented by Sony Music Entertainment. For the purposes of synch licensing, to use the Britney Spears recording in your project, you will need to license the recording with Sony Music Entertainment, and the composition with Kobalt. Keep in mind that the master recording clearance can be impacted by things such as using a cover version or creating your own recording of the composition.
Media: The media represents the medium(s) in which your project will get to and be seen by potential consumers (i.e. Internet, All TV, Film Festivals, etc.). It’s important to keep in mind the wider the set of media requested, the higher the associated license fee.
Territory: This is the territory that your license needs to cover (i.e. Worldwide, Europe, North America, etc.). Sometimes the media requested will impact the territory of the requested license. For example, if the requested media is film festival, it can be easier to align a specific territory to that, such as the United States and Europe. For other media outlets, such as the Internet, it can be harder to restrict the associated territory. Like the media rights, the scope of the territory requested will impact the license fee.
Term: This is length of time (i.e. 6 months, 5 years, perpetuity, etc.) you intend to use the composition and/or master recording for the license you are requesting. It’s important to keep in mind the longer the license term, the higher the associated license fee.
Territory of Licensee: This is the country that your company (if it is just you as an individual, you will be your own licensee) will license from, and also where the associated license fee payment will emanate from. As a result, this is the country that will be on the company’s address for any applicable invoice. In most situations, this is the country in which you reside.
Clear: This is the common term used throughout the industry to reference receiving authorization to use a composition and/or master recording from the applicable publisher(s) and/or record label(s).
Frequently Asked Questions
Whose permission do I need in order to license music for my project?
In all situations, you will need approval from the applicable publisher(s) of the composition. As noted above, oftentimes this involves several different publishers, and they each need to grant approval and license their respective administered share directly. Additionally, if you intend to use an existing master recording, you will need authorization for its use as well.
What is the difference between a composition and a master recording?
As referenced in the term definitions above, a composition (otherwise known as a musical work), is the melody and lyrics that constitute a song. A master recording is the actual recording to a specific performance and recording of the composition. For example, Carl Perkins wrote the composition “Blue Suede Shoes.” This composition has been recorded (and thus turned into a master recording) hundreds of times, most famously by Elvis Presley, but also by many other artists including Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and John Lennon.
What is “MFN”?
MFN, short for Most Favored Nations, essentially means that all rights holders that provided quotes on an MFN basis are entitled to receive the most favorable terms that any of the involved parties receive. Therefore, if you have agreed to a higher fee with one rights holder (be it publishing or the master recording), then you must honor those same terms to any other involved party that authorized their respective portion on a MFN basis. There can be many nuances and variations to MFN clauses.
What does “based on 100%” mean?
Based on 100% means that the fee that you are being quoted is based on 100% ownership of the applicable composition and/or recording. For example, if Kobalt represents 50% of the publishing for a particular composition, then Kobalt will collect 50% of the associated license fee and the co-publisher(s) will collect the remaining 50%. This is also often referred to as “pro-rata.”
What does ‘administered by Kobalt’ mean?
This references the particular portion of the composition and/or master recording that Kobalt looks after. If it is stated that Kobalt administers 100%, that means that Kobalt is in control of 100% of the publishing copyright of that song. If Kobalt represents less than 100% of a composition, then that is an indication that there are other publisher(s) involved in the composition.
What do I do if Kobalt represents less than 100% of the composition?
You will need to locate the rest of the publishing with the other publishing companies outside of Kobalt, and negotiate the license fee with them directly for their portion of the composition. To help establish the publishers on a particular composition, in the United Kingdom, you can visit www.prsformusic.com and see all of the publishers on a song. In the United States, you can visit the repertory section via the following websites www.ascap.com, www.bmi.com, and www.sesac.com. Sometimes you may need to reference multiple sites in order to establish all publishers.
Where do I find the master owner of the composition?
Referring to digital service providers like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, etc. to find respective master owners can be helpful, as can a website such as Discogs. There is no one source of providing this information and it often requires a good amount of research and communication.
What do I do once I’ve cleared a composition and/or recording with Kobalt?
If other rights holders are involved outside of Kobalt, make sure you have 100% of the song cleared with all of the co-publishers, and the associated master recording before proceeding with the formal licensing process. If there are multiple co-publishers involved with a song, we require that you clear all applicable portions of the song before proceeding with licensing.
How much is it going to cost?
Fees vary depending on the song, media, term, and other rights being requested.
How long does it take to clear a song?
Due to the high volume of incoming requests, this may take up to 3-4 weeks.
How can I help expedite the clearance process?
In your request, be as descriptive as possible with your project and usage of the song, meaning letting the publisher and master know how the song will be used, where it will be seen, for how long it will be seen, and anything else that might be helpful. Back and forth to confirm details will slow the clearance process down.
What if I want to license song lyrics for print (i.e. books, magazine, etc.)?
For print rights, please contact Hal Leonard.
What if I want to create an arrangement to one of your songs?
For arrangement rights, please contact Hal Leonard.