The Legal Side of Music for Your Marketing Campaign

by Lilly on August 16, 2013

Before you select a song for your commercial or viral video, there are a couple of things you need to know about the legal use of it in a marketing campaign. No matter how big or small your business is for a commercial or however you plan to use the music in for brand, be sure to do it legally by receiving the rights to the music. Each marketing campaign is unique and you will want to have the background knowledge of music business and copyright law before deciding which song to use and how you can use it.

Legal Side of Music

Copyright protection of a song as intellectual property includes both the artist’s composition and any sound recordings performed in the studio or live in concert by the same artist. If contracted by a recording company, they will have rights to the artist’s recording of the song whereas a publisher protects the song’s written composition. In order to use a recorded song for a marketing campaign whether performed live for broadcasting and promotion or for media use, a royalty payment is due to the copyright owner aka the artist/composer through the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers aka ASCAP.  For your marketing campaign and depending on which type of media you plan to use for your marketing plan, there are different types of licenses  for using copyrighted songs as well:

  • Master Use license from a record label for a TV or radio commercial
  • Synchronization license for TV
  • Transcription license from a publisher for the radio

Upcoming Artists

shutterstock_117168841Upcoming artists may not have the backup of a manager, record label, or publisher to protect their copyrighted songs but they still have the right to decide if their music can be used for marketing purposes as intellectual property holders. You can research upcoming bands and artists through Sonicbids for the chance to listen to their music and contact them about using their recorded songs. Another source is SoundCloud, a website that offers different songs and sounds to legally use for free as long as you don’t sell the songs and in some way are able to give credit to the artist such as a credit line before, during, or after the commercial song.

Writing a New Song vs. Cover Songs for Campaigns

For your campaign, you can either gain the rights to use an original chart-topping radio song from a well-known artist or take a different path by hiring someone else to create a new song. There are artists who can write the perfect catchy song for an ad and that are waiting for the chance to let their music be known. If you decide you want an artist to record a cover song instead of writing an original, you will need to obtain a mechanical license from the publisher to receive the rights to re-record a song.

If there is a will, there is a way and there are many options to allow you to use songs for marketing purpose in commercials, promotional online videos, and more for your marketing campaign. Just be sure to do it legally, and understand the process of being able to use copyrighted songs.





I'm Lilly Sheperd, an occasional guest-blogger and a full time freelance communication consultant. When not blogging, I like to travel and read a lot, especially about education and law.

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