Music Rights

If you're adding music to a promo it's important to understand what rights or permissions you need to clear before making it publicly available. Different types of music require different rights, and a summary of these can be found below, along with contact numbers to assist with clearance.

Usually the broadcaster or production company commissioning the promo will have licenses to use particular types of music, and can guide you in what you can and can't use, but sometimes they'll give you a budget and ask you to clear the rights yourself. To put music with a promo you need to clear two sets of rights; a synchronization, or 'synch' license from the publisher of the music, representing the composer (i.e. the melody and words, regardless of who performs them) and a dubbing license from the sound recording owner (usually the record company).

What different types of music are available to license?

A: Specially Composed Music

You can commission music for your promo, you can write and record it yourself or if you know someone who writes you can ask them. Commissioning music can be expensive and there are no fixed rates so it's a question of agreeing a fee. If you commission music you usually won't need to clear any rights to use music in your film as this will be part of the agreement with the composer.

B: Specially Commercial Music

This term covers all kinds of commercially available music, from Abba to ZZ Top, Pavarotti to Prokofiev. Generally speaking the better-known the performer and track, the more it will cost. There are no set fees for commercial music, and all rates are negotiable. To use commercial music you'll usually need a synch license from the composer's publisher and a dubbing license from the artist's record company. If the composer(s) died more than 70 years ago, then the musical work is no longer in copyright in the US, and you don't need a synch license. In the US, sound recording copyright last for 50 years after first release, so if it's an old original recording you won't need a dubbing license.

C: Independent Library Music

A number of music libraries exist independently, with the advantage that they are able to set their own pricing and offer blanket licenses covering all music in their library for world-wide multi-platform use in perpetuity. Examples of independent music libraries include Audio Network, APM and Killer Tracks.

If you want to add music to a film, video or TV production but don't know your sync rights from your master rights, be sure to check out our guide to music rights below:


Copyright in music is protected by law and it's important to ensure that you don't infringe anybody's copyright. It's impossible to cover all details in a short summary so if you're in any doubt please check with the rights owners before assuming something is OK. Never assume 'no-one will notice'. Every promo has the potential to reach millions of viewers. Always obtain independent legal advice if you're in any doubt over your position. This information is intended as a guide only.

Contact Us

NY Office +1 (646) 688-4320

ASCAP +1 (800) 505-4052

BMI +1 (212) 220-3000

SESAC +1 (212) 586-3450


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