How to Purchase Song Rights

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Whether you're directing a movie and need a song to supplement a scene or you want to play copyrighted songs at a music venue, you'll need to know how to purchase song rights. When you purchase song rights, you don't actually buy the song; you buy the right to use a song within the limits of the contract you negotiate with a music publisher. To purchase song rights, also known as licensing, you'll need to contact music publishers and negotiate a fee for usage.

  • Brainstorm ideas for songs you want to purchase the rights to. For example, if you're looking to add a song to an action scene in a movie, you might consider purchasing the rights to an upbeat rock song.

  • Locate the name of the publisher of the song you want to purchase the rights to. This information can be found by searching the databases of performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC; the U.S. Copyright Office; or by looking at the liner notes of an album.

  • Contact the music publisher who owns the rights to the song you want to license. Submit a letter containing the name of the song and the situation in which you wish to use it. A music publisher might not license a song to you if your intent is in conflict with its image or ethics.

  • Negotiate a fee with the music publisher. You may purchase the rights to a single song or the usage of a large portion of the publisher's catalog.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the song in the setting in which you agreed in your contact with the music publisher. Doing otherwise will render your contract void and could result in legal trouble.

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