We sat down with Vince Quintero, Head of Creative Music Licensing & Publishing at Red Bull Records to get the lowdown on all things music licensing. Vince has worked in the music industry for major record labels and with recording artists for more than 14 years. His roles include strategic marketing/cross promotion, A&R, music supervision, music licensing and artist/producer management. Read below to get a Licensing 101 lesson from this seasoned expert.
Can you give a basic definition of what licensing is?
– Cleophas McDonald, The Madd Felon
Music licensing is the act of ensuring that both master and copyright holders are properly paid for the use of their music. My working definition includes the act of pitching the songs I represent for use in visual media and manufactured items. Visual media entails film, TV shows, video games, movie trailers and advertisements. Examples of manufactured goods are things such as toys and soundtrack compilations. I do all of these licensing deals from inception to approving the final deal terms and signing the licenses.
What is the difference between licensing and copyright? How do the two connect?
A copyright is a piece of intellectual property. Licensing is negotiating a contract which protects the copyright holders. What people like me want to do is license that copyright.
It’s easier to explain if we start by separating a song into ownership of the composition and of the master. The person who writes a song is the owner of the composition (unless they make a deal with another party to acquire it.) The master owner is the person who commissions or creates an audio recording of that composition.
Many times a publisher will buy/acquire either all or a percentage of the copyright to the composition with a clause to control it. A record label will create an agreement between a writer/performer/recording artist who will then record a composition with the record label’s money. That specific recording is the master recording aka “master.” Once the master is in place, I can go out and pitch the song for placement. Should it be accepted for synchronization, I will license that use.
If an artist wants to seek out licensing opportunities, where are some of the best places to start?
– Dylan Bowers, Caught Up In a Dream
I would tell an artist with a great recording to speak with a music industry professional who will refer a good licensor or licensing company. If they can’t find an appropriate contact, then I would suggest they speak with other artists who’ve successfully licensed music. The music industry is very small at a certain level. This especially holds true in the licensing community. To a certain extent, we all know or have heard of one another. Because of this, one’s reputation and work ethic within the industry is invaluable.
What are some of the “red flags” or risks artists should look out for when approaching a licensing deal.
Artists should look out for anyone who tries to negotiate ownership of their publishing in perpetuity without compensation. Giving a licensor the ability to change the titles of songs (without just cause) is essentially doing the same thing, which is another red flag. Allowing a change of title gives the licensor the ability to register 100% of the publishing to your composition under their publishing company, thus taking 100% of your publishing royalties. In all fairness, a licensor should not take 100% of your publishing in perpetuity without some compensation. I would also tell an artist to stay away from allowing every licensing company in town to “non-exclusively” license their songs. This causes confusion between music supervisors and licensing companies in regards to who should be paid for the synchronization.