1 The Sync Two-Step – masters and publishing.
When a lot of people talk about sync licensing, they tend to lump master and sync licenses together. Avoid that thinking.
Here’s a primer. If you want to use an original recording of an artist, it’s not just the sync – the rights to use the composition and lyrics – that matters, it’s also the usage of the original master recording. So it’s two rights a music supervisor needs to get much of the time – but not always.
let me give you a couple of use case scenarios to illustrate.
Let’s say you’re a music supervisor filming for the pilot of a new TV show about the 70’s disco scene in New York City and you need Chic’s “Le Freak” for the opening credits. You have two choices of what you can do in terms of rights.
A. The low-rent version – just getting the publishing rights to make a cover track.
Unfortunately, your showrunner spent most of his budget to get Bille Dee Williams out of retirement so he could play the nightclub manager, but you still need to get that Chic sound for the show’s intro track.
When you have more will than wallet, recording a cover version of the track is a viable option. That means you need to get the publishing sync rights and do a work for hire for the master.
First, you go to the publisher that administers the sync rights for the track, in this case Sony/ATV, you get the sync rights – the right to use the music and lyrics in the show – to sync with the video. It won’t be cheap, but a lot less than getting access to the original master recording.
After that, the rest is simple, you commission a work for hire, and you use the version of “Le Freak” that you recorded. So all you pay out is the sync fee to the publisher of the song – which can be a one time or ongoing expense dependent on the deal.
B. The better (budget permitting) two-step. Getting the publishing and the master.
Ok, so let’s say Billie Dee, sadly for your showrunner, is on an open-ended sabbatical in St. Tropez and the role of the manager now goes to Antonio Fargas.
Now you, the music supervisor have a bit more money to play with. First, you have to, as above, get the sync rights from Sony/ATV.
After that, you need to get the master license rights from, in this case Atlantic, wonderful people (really they are), who will probably be delighted for the opportunity to get the track out on a major TV show, but they won’t do it for free.
So now, you’ve secured the master and the publishing rights for the sync, you can use the track.
I went down this scenario because I believe