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Commercial music – easy on the ear but sometimes a pain to use!

Spice_Girls_2008_02.jpg: Eric Mutrie from Canada derivative work: From1988 [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Why is it that with music – even if under Copyright Law there are only three basic rights to deal with (the copyright in the song / musical work, the copyright in the sound recording and the rights of performers) – the actual process of licensing music can often end up being complicated, time consuming – and costly?

It’s probably because we are talking about musical creations that, in many cases, involved the heart, soul and individual expression of song writers, recording artists and other music contributors.

It’s therefore understandable that the first question asked by artists and songwriters is not what money is on offer but how the music is going to be used (it’s not like carpet by the metre!). With some artists – especially if they were the songwriters too – if they don’t like what you want to do with their music, there is a flat denial!

And when it comes to the music publishing rights in respect of the musical works, it gets more complicated. In the old days, songwriters such as George & Ira Gershwin would both sign to the same music publishing company. These days, co-writers sensibly understand that they are not just dealing with music but also business. So just because Robbie Williams signed to one publisher, his co-writer, Guy Chambers, probably had different thoughts and signed to another company.

  1. Taking matters to extremes (always good when making a point!), each of The Spice Girls had their own publishing deal, so to gain permission to use one of their songs, all five writers and all of their publishers have to agree on the deal on offer. The music publishing rights nearly always have to be cleared first, otherwise, the record company is reluctant to take matters further.
  2. Once the music publishing/song rights hurdle is over, potential users/licensees have go to the record company that owns the so-called ‘master rights’ – and sometimes split between two owners. For example, Under Pressure by David Bowie and Queen, the master/sound recording rights are split territorially between RZO (in the USA) and Universal Music Operations internationally. NB Many music rights owners in America still consider the value of their territory to be 50% of the World so fees are apportioned accordingly.
  3. Moreover, if there were any session musicians and backing singers involved, unless their performer rights were pre-cleared for all media at the time of the original recording sessions, then you may also be dealing with Unions such as the M.U., Equity and/or the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) – or otherwise performers direct.

It’s no wonder that producers of content opt for either production (library) music and/or commissioning a composer to create an original score. In terms of commercial music, if you want the best, and want to “Do It Yourself”, be prepared to go through what can be an onerous process.

Alternatively, you can ask Musicalities to clear & handle all the music rights relating to i) songs/music publishers ii) master/sound recording/record labels iii) performers (musicians, singers, etc) and get all the music sorted for your production. We thrive on dealing with complications, rising to the challenge and happy to deliver music cleared with all paperwork sorted – in a cost -effective and time efficient manner

Look out for the next blog post: “How much does it cost – and how long does it take?”

Why using nursery rhymes like Lavender’s Blue on TV isn’t always child’s play

MUSIC COPYRIGHT REPORT ON LAVENDER’S BLUE AND HUSH, LITTLE BABY

We were recently asked to research, check and advise as to the copyright status of two nursery rhymes in respect of a proposed performance of either or both of the nursery rhymes for a forthcoming television programme.

The nursery rhymes are “Lavender’s Blue” and “Hush, Little Baby”.

Our findings are as follows:

LAVENDER’S BLUE

On checking the PRS (Performing Right Society Ltd) database, we found in excess of a hundred (100) registrations of the title “Lavender’s Blue”, also shown as LAVENDERS BLUE and LAVENDER BLUE. The majority were marked as either ‘TRAD’ or ‘DP’ (Domaine Public – French for ‘Public Domain’) and commonly known as ‘PD’ i.e. ‘out of copyright’.

Essentially, DP or PD – when related to a song or other musical or literary work – means that the copyright is in the public domain and free for the public to perform, record or otherwise use the song or other musical or literary work. To confirm, the copyright period of a song is the life of the composer(s) plus 70 years except in the USA where songs were protected for 95 years until 1978 after which the copyright term changed to ‘life’ + 70 years.

Further research shows that Lavender’s Blue (otherwise known as Lavender Blue) is an English folk song and nursery rhyme where some of the earliest printed versions date back to the late 17th century. Neither the composer nor author are known. As a result and also confirmed by the notes in the two above paragraphs, it is safe to say that the proposed performance and recording of this PD / ‘out of copyright’ song, LAVENDER’S BLUE, does not require permission or the payment of any fees.

However, please see Advisory Note further below.

HUSH, LITTLE BABY

On checking the PRS (Performing Right Society Ltd) database, we also found in excess of a hundred (100) registrations of the song, also shown as HUSH LITTLE BABY MELODY and HUSH A LITTLE BABY. As with LAVENDER’S BLUE, the majority of registrations were marked as either ‘TRAD’ or ‘DP’ (Domaine Public – French for ‘Public Domain’) and commonly known as ‘PD’ i.e. ‘out of copyright’.

Please see above the 2nd paragraph under LAVENDER’S BLUE confirming the term of copyright in songs and other musical and literary works.

HUSH LITTLE BABY is thought to have originated in the Southern States of America. We could find no dates as to when the song may have been composed and, further, the author is unknown. Considering the numerous traditional versions in existence and the related registrations showing the song as ‘TRAD’, we consider that it is acceptable to take the view that the proposed performance and recording of this PD / ‘out of copyright’ song, HUSH,LITTLE BABY, does not require permission or the payment of any fees.

ADVISORY NOTE

One has to careful when using what may be considered ‘out-of-copyright’ music as there are in existence many published arrangements and adaptations of out-of-copyright classical works, traditional airs, folk tunes and other popular melodies (many of which are registered with PRS and other similar societies).

Therefore, to perform a song which is in the public domain  – and to avoid any claims from copyright owners of existing copyright arrangements of traditional (‘Trad.’) works – such performance(s) should be unaccompanied and sung in its traditional most popular form and in a ‘straight’ manner with no references in the interpretation to existing arrangements.

Having said that, it would be impossible to know of ALL existing arrangements and therefore one cannot be 100% certain that any performance of a traditional song will be different and sufficiently separate to stand alone and be free of any claims. However, the lyrics of both LAVENDER’S BLUE and HUSH, LITTLE BABY with which we were provided, are most common and, subject to our advice on the performance of the songs for the television programme, are the ‘safe’ versions to use. We therefore have to add the proviso that, whilst we have provided a professional and expert opinion in regard to this matter and use our best commercial endeavours to help ensure that the information contained in this report is informed and relevant, neither myself nor my company can take responsibility for any omissions or inaccuracies or for any consequences arising therefrom.

Ivan Chandler
Founder & CEO
Musicologist and Music Copyright Consultant
Musicalities Limited
2nd January 2018

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