By Mark Frieser
CEO, Sync Summit
In the music in media business, we use the terms “one-stop” and “easy clear” when describing how easy a composition and/or sound recording (master) is to license, but what do these terms actually mean? Saying your music is one stop can be a distinct advantage for you when presenting your music for projects, but if your music isn’t one-stop, saying it can ruin your chances of getting it licensed
And in regards to easy clear, this means that even though you don’t actually control all the rights to a song, you can quickly gather the approvals and then provide the license to the licensor.
This is going to be a bit of dense reading, but it’s important information, so please bear with me while I get into a bit of detail. Let’s get into it.
One stop and easy clear are terms we use to describe how simple it will be for a music supervisor, ad agency, brand, game developer, TV/Film studio, production company or other potential licensee of one of your songs to license one of your songs and how many people or companies will have to approve the license. Here’s a basic breakdown:
- One Stop: A one-stop license means that you are the only person the licensee has to do business with in order to license a song. This means that you have 100% authority to license both the licensing rights for both the sound recording (master) and the composition/lyrics. So if you have 100% authority to license both the master and the composition/lyrics, you are a one stop licensor.
To put a finer point on this, if your music is one stop, you do not have to seek authority from any other entity (e.g., another writer, another owner of the master, a publisher, a label or anyone else) to license the track. If you do not have this authority for both 100% of the master and 100% of the composition/lyrics of a song, you cannot provide a one-stop license and should never say to a potential licensor your music is one-stop.
Additionally, if you cover a song that is in the Public Domain, and you own 100% of the master, then you can in almost all cases represent that song as a one-stop. Just be sure and double check that your version is not using an arrangement of a Public Domain song that has been registered with a Performance Rights Organization like BMI or ASCAP, then it’s not a one-stop because the licensor will have to license the rights to that particular arrangement.
- Easy Clear: An easy clear license means that though you do not have the sole, 100% authority to license both the master and publishing rights of a track, you have the ability to confirm the clearance of the percentages that you do not control quickly (typically 12-72 hours) so that you can provide the licensor with a license for both the portion you control and do not control, or you can provide the licensor with a direct contact to finalize the clearance from all the parties that hold a portion of the master and/or composition/lyrical ownership. Here’s a couple of examples of what an easy clear track are:
– A Sync Agency Licensing on behalf of a client. In this case, I’ll use my own sync agency. Many of the tracks I represent are easy clear. This means that although I am not the owner of any of the tracks I represent, I do have the authority to execute licenses on behalf of my clients, according to stipulations that have been defined between my clients and my company, and I can finalize the license quickly for both master and publishing rights.
In practical terms, this means that I represent my clients music for licensing purposes, but in order to execute a license, I need to confirm all the details (cost, license terms, media, etc.) with my client and give them my advice on whether we should take the deal or not. Then, once the deal is approved by my client, I can then execute the deal on behalf of my client and license the track to the licensor. As a sync agent, if I am working with a client, I can usually guarantee clearance quickly, and the licensor only has to deal with me and my company to execute the license.
– A creator or company with multiple master and/or composition owners. While in many cases, a scenario where there are multiple writers and master owners or publishers can get complicated is definitely not what we’d call an easy-clear track – this is the case with many popular pop or hip-hop tracks – a track with multiple owners and/or writers can be an easy clear track. In this case, it comes down to your being in contact with and having good relations with the other owners and/or creators. If you know 100% you can quickly get in contact with the other writers and/or owners, and you have a strong working relationship with them, and you have done deals before, a track as described above can be an easy clear track. That said, without these relationships in place, a track as described above can be a challenge to clear.
- Not a true easy clear, but an easier to clear: A Cover Song Where You Have a good relationship with the publisher and/or writers. As most people know, you can cover any song you wish to for the purposes of streaming, but in the case of sync, it’s very different. I personally wouldn’t’ call any cover song an easy clear song, but you can make it an easier to clear song. The fact is, cover versions of songs are licensed all the time, and from my perspective, having worked with covers as a sync agent and a music supervisor, the composition/lyric rights are often clearable, but they can be complicated and/or expensive, dependent on the writers, the publishers and the owners (like an artist’s estate) of the track. So in many cases, they are certainly not easy clear. That said, you can make a cover song an easier to clear song if you start off by doing some homework and get confirmation from the publisher that owns the rights before you submit the song for sync. Usually, your best course of action is to contact the publisher, tell them of your intent to do a cover version of the particular song in their catalogue and ask them how easy it is to clear the publishing of the song when it’s covered. If they tell you it’s clearable for sync. Then, if they tell you it’s clearable, the best next step would be to send your cover version to the publisher (who may even help you sync it) so they know what your cover sounds like. Now, when you send this version to a licensor, you can tell them that you’ve spoken to the publisher and they have told you the composition/lyrics are clearable for sync. This doesn’t mean it’s 100% clearable, but if the publisher tells you it’s clearable versions, that means it is an easier to clear song than a song that’s cost prohibitive with a very particular estate that doesn’t usually approve covers as rule (e.g., a cover of any Michael Jackson song).
Now, what do you have to make sure you of before you can say a song is one-stop? Here’s a few pointers:
- No Samples. Period.
- You control and can represent the master and composition/lyric rights 100%. This means you have 100% ownership of both the master and composition/lyrics and do not have to ask anyone for permission to execute a licensing deal. Or…
- If you are not the sole master owner and the sole writer of the composition/lyrics, you have documentation from all of your co-writers and/or co-owners of the master that you can be their representative for their portions of the rights to the master and the composition/lyrics of the song for the purposes of sync licensing. This effectively makes you a one-stop sync agent for the song. My advice to writers and players is to write this assignment of sync representation into the split sheets that you create to divide ownership of composition and master and get it out of the way.
- As a sync agent representing tracks on behalf or artists (i.e., you’re not the owner of the master or the composer), you need to make sure that the tracks you are calling one-stop are 100% owned (master and publishing) by your client, and they do not need to confirm their permission of the license for you to license the song. The more paperwork you get from the people you represent as a sync agent the better.
- For Public Domain Covers, make sure first that the song is public domain in all markets worldwide, and also make sure you are not covering an arrangement that has been registered and copyrighted. You can look up Public Domain songs (here’s a link to get you started https://www.pdinfo.com) to confirm that they are indeed public domain before submitting to a potential licensor.
If you have confirmed and determined the above for your music or the music you represent, then you can safely say the music is one-stop.
And How Do You Confirm Your Music Is Easy Clear?
- If you are an artist, producer or songwriter, Make sure you know all the other rights holders other than you for a track, that you have good relationships with them and can get answers from them in a quick timeframe (no more than 72 hours max) to approve the license. Timelines are extremely important in ads, TV, film and other media productions, and you need to be able to provide to a licensor not only your approval, but the approval of the other rights holders. In this case, you should be able to confirm approvals from your fellow rights owners, confirm them and then present these approvals to the licensor. In this scenario, you can either act as their representative (if they approve this), which will streamline the licensing experience for the licensor (only requiring one licensing agreement) or you can connect the licensor to the other rights holders directly to the licensor, who will contract which each rights holder separately.
- If you are a sync agent, you need to get approvals from your clients in a quick timeframe. If you are working with clients that own 100% of their works, then you need to make sure that you can quickly spell out the potential license and get their approval so that you can license the track to the licensor on behalf of the client. if you are working with clients that only own the master or the composition/lyrics, but not both, you should be able to quickly clear the rights you represent, and also be able to provide the licensor with accurate information on the other rights holder. Personally, when I only represent one side (master or publishing only, not both), I always make sure that I have the contact information for the side I do not control, notify them the other rights holder that we have a sync opportunity, then connect the licensor to them directly. This greatly speeds up the process.
- For Cover songs, if you are licensing an easier to clear cover song, make sure you have contacted the owner of the songwriting/lyrics to confirm their rights are clearable, and when there is a potential license, notify them so they can liaise directly with the licensor to clear their part of the license.
- And for Public Domain Songs, confirm they are Public Domain and that you have not used an arrangement of a public domain song that is registered with a performance rights organization.
If the song is not one stop or easy clear, in most cases, the song is still clearable, but it will take more effort on the part of the licensor. My advice is to make your music as easy to clear as possible, because the easier your song is to clear, the better the chances your music will be licensed.
I hope this article is helpful to you, and as always, if you have any questions or need more info, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org