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Getting To The Right Song
In Asia, many performing societies may claim they have the power to license songs for commercials - they do not
By Music Matters
(more articles from this author)
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[This article, written by Susanna Ng, Regional Managing Director at EMI Music Publishing Asia, was first featured in Music Downloaded, published in partnership with Music Matters for last year's Advertising Forum in Singapore.]

With the fragmentation of media making it more and more difficult for brands to reach out to their target market effectively, a right piece of music can be the difference between success and failure. But getting a perfect song for creative needs can be difficult, especially when clients are always never sure how they could spend their money on a right song with a reasonable budget. In Asia, there are many commercial collaboration with music labels to use their artists and songs. Do you know music users can find a new creative way through music publishers to get access to more variety of talents & songs?

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The field of music publishing has traditionally been notoriously difficult for advertisers to navigate how to find a piece of music and get the copyright cleared. Master right is owned by a record company while there is an increasing tendency for music copyrights to be co-owned by multiple parties throughout the world that cause complexity on right clearance. Funny to say record company & publishers are not connected, they are independent.

I remember there was a case a agency wish to use a famous song of a big star. EMI label represents the master while EMI MP & Universal MP controls 50% each of the publishing right. Permission is not approved as the terms from the label & the two publishers could not match. I admitted that such outcome was discouraging to anybody. I can say there is no "one-stop" licensing solution available from any single source in any single territory.

Also, there is much complication to get multiple countries license on commercial synchronization. There is no published tariff for music copyrights, that means commercial synchronization fee are varied from composers & original publishers. Usually International songs are more expensive than domestic songs. Performing societies control performing rights or broadcasting rights, they do not control other rights.

In Asia, many performing societies may claim they have the power to license songs for commercials. In fact, it is not true. For example in Singapore, COMPASS is the organization should help music users of copyright search & they should direct the users to contact the control publishers for appropriate clearance. It is rare to know they have the rights to license a song for commercial use. Major publishers (EMI, Universal, Warner/Chappell & Sony/ATV) control most of international songs. In addition, there are many local publishers in Asia. Such as most of the Chinese copyrights are vested with local publishers in Taiwan & China, malay songs are with Malaysian publishers. There is a very good song search engine at the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong Limited website which you can easily find all the copyright information there. It is free of charge.

In my opinion, music users & the licensors need to be able to evaluate their music licensing obligations together with the risk. "Who owns the material I want to use", "What is my risk" "Who do I pay?" "What are my options" "How much will the solution cost"...all these questions music users should plan smoothly. In United States, there are different kind of music clearance houses. In Asia, I know agency use post-production houses to deal with licensing. I saw plenty of problems caused to agency & the clients. Why not go direct to the music publishers?

Actually, music publisher can supply strategic planning services. Music publishers represent global songwriters with a vast catalog of music copyrights. They can make full use of creative talents and comprehensive knowledge of music to help the advertisers. You may not know music publishers have advertising specialists to take all the hassle and stress out of music licensing. Such as if someone wish to use a famous pop song, publishers can give a professional quotes + yes or no answer in a reasonable time (1-2 weeks). What if he wants a composer to tailor-made a song for the commercial, the specialist will find a right composer for the production. I remember there was a producer screaming on the phone for a music cut to finish a advertisement quickly and he only had a small budget. My colleague has pitched a ready-use master with music rights clearance (a cover version master from Germany) for him.

Labels want your project to tie-in promotion of their new songs or artists, they wish your ads to help their artists. They always focus on the agenda of their artists. Music publishers are more flexible and easy. They service you to find talents & ways to suit your projects. Trust me, music publishers are very helpful to provide you high professional music services to address your client's music licensing needs. If you have not experience that, worth to give a try.

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