Monday, June 8, 2015

Can I Score a Movie Using Existing TV Themes?

Dear Rich: While scoring a movie I've been asked to use two existing TV themes. Is this even doable? Do I need a music lawyer? Anything is doable in the world of music licensing. Assuming the owners of the TV themes are open to licensing the rights, the major factors affecting the licensing price will be the type of film -- indie, documentary, studio feature (in other words, your budget), whether the song will be included on a soundtrack recording, whether you will recreate the theme (or use an existing recording), the length of use and where it is placed within the movie (for example, over opening or closing credits), and whether the theme will be used in advertising for the movie.
Do you need a lawyer? A lawyer's advice can be helpful, particularly if you must furnish the licensing agreements. But it may not be as essential if someone in the production has experience with these types of negotiations (and the TV theme owners are furnishing the agreements). You may find it more cost effective to deal with a music licensing agent, an expert in music licensing and clearance, instead of an attorney. These agents are familiar with the necessary rights and agreements and can negotiate terms that may be most favorable for your movie. Type "music clearance expert" into your search engine.
Theme music trivia: Director Robert Altman's 14-year old son earned a million dollars in royalties for writing the lyrics to the movie music (and TV theme) for "M*A*S*H. Altman earned $70,000 for directing the movie.