A Filmmakers guide into Music in Film

As a Filmmaker, production house or producer, navigating though the intricate and complex world of music rights can be very challenging especially if you don’t have any past experience in the matter. It’s absolutely essential that the licensing of music be done correctly in accordance to industry standards, to avoid disappointment and very compromising challenges in the 11th hour.

The challenges faced by a filmmaker when sourcing music for a film are dependent on which stance is taken by them, namely the use of original music vs. pre-existing music.

The clearance’s required for pre-existing music are faced with challenges such as budget constraints, as some music is more expensive than others. When licensing or clearing music for a Film, two set’s of rights have to be considered depending on how the music is used in the film, namely the Publishing Rights and the Master Rights. Time is a very big factor in this regard as the Rights may be spread across several rights holders, and consent is require from all interested parties prior to the music’s use in the film.

The cost implication of any music used in a film differs from song to song, which is why its very important to secure or rather initiate the conversation at the very early stages of the film’s production, as unforeseen factors such as approval, budget constraints and schedules could bring the film’s progression to halt.
Should you to be interested in licensing pre-existing music, the follow needs be considered and subsequently carried out: Identifying which piece/s of music you would like to license, ascertaining who all the rights holders are (publishing and master), negotiating the terms of usage accompanied with a license fee, and lastly the procurement of all the necessary license documents to be signed off by both the filmmakers and the rights holders. Depending on the use of the music, there are instances where only the publishing rights need to cleared/licensed e.g. parodies, adaptations, sound-alikes and other like uses. With that said, a filmmaker needs to be prepared to bare the cost of a re-record uplift fee, which depending on the magnitude of the song, may be about 50% of the license fee paid to secure the Publishing rights, as well as the fee’s involved in re-recording of the Master if need be. In instances such as these, Internationally charting music may come at slightly higher licensing cost vs. South African music, reason being international songs are subject to fees charged in US dollar’s, as opposed to South Africa song’s which are subject to fee’s in rand’s. Thus considering the current economic climate of the dollar vs. the rand, it makes more financial sense to source and license South Africa Music.

There’s something to be said about the feel and mood of music in a film when relating it to the film’s storyline. Some films are more conceptually driven than others, so for this very reason, very specific commercial or/and commissioned music is very important. A filmmaker needs to be aware of this when initiating a music search for music in a film. In some instances, not too much focus will be placed on how popular a piece of music is, but rather how effective it is in conveying the pictures message to an audience. To achieve the perfect synergy between a motion picture and it’s accompanying music, a filmmaker needs to be very aware of the films sonic nature e.g. Philip Miller’s musical score in the The Book of Negro’s. Philip Miller is known to be an exceptional film scorer, more so in the ethnic realm of music needs. This is a great example of how music can be used to enhance a motion picture for heightening an emotional connection with an audience. However, films are different in their nature, a film like “Hear me move” (a dance film) will not have the same musical requirement as The Book of Negro’s, which is why it is imperative for a filmmaker to deduce their musical direction based on the films ethos and message.

Original pieces of music are less prone to these challenges due to the nature of their conception. Original music is also generally less expensive and problematic as this allows the filmmaker a far more hands on approach with regards to the creative concept, the budget, and all the licensing aspects of the music by pre-clearing the above with said composer to avoid any pull out’s at a later stage.

“Sheer Publishing is a very useful resource in the sense that services such as Music Supervisory are offered to help Filmmakers throughout the process of licensing music, by ascertaining all the necessary rights holders information, supplying the necessary documentation, assisting in the sourcing of music and composers depending on the filmmakers needs, and most of all negotiating on a Filmmakers behalf” as said by Brett Vorster a member of Sheer Publishing’s creative team.  Mandrew Mnguni, the Director of Skumba Music further added to Brett’s statement: “This saves Filmmakers a world of time and stress as a Publisher such as ours, would know who to talk too, what questions to ask, which agreements to prepare, and last but not least, to actually conduct the music searches on behalf of the Filmmaker.”

In order for a Music supervisor to assist a Filmmaker in this regard, a filmmaker needs to consider the follow: The song(s) to be licensed, the film’s music budget, a synopsis of the film, the type of usage, duration and term’s of use (e.g. Title sequence, end credits, background music etc.), the territory of use, and the films distribution medium and plan.

So as a filmmaker, when posed with the question, ‘what are the necessary steps I need to take regarding the music in my film?’ The simple answer would be contact Sheer Publishing for a hassle free solution to all your music needs!

All the best for your film! – Zwelibanzi Sisilana

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