Music Licensing Agreement

All states
4.6 (36 reviews)
Updated Sep 18, 2023
~ 8 pages
A music license agreement is used in the music industry to establish the rights for a copyright owner. This legal document explains who owns the legal rights in an exclusive or non-exclusive fashion to a piece of music, a video, or a song to someone who is using that piece of music, video, or song. Fill out this legal form on Lawrina in minutes and download a ready-made document for multiple uses.

Template Description

Paper titled "Music Licensing Agreement"; music playlist; woman singing and playing the guitar; microphone standing in front of the woman

Songs used in movies or television are usually licensed through a contract. This legally binding document is known as a music licensing agreement. Anyone who wants to use music in full or as a sample in any art form must obtain the rights to use it from the original owners. Consequently, movie or TV producers must understand the nuances of music licensing and get a standard licensing agreement for music use to avoid legal issues in the future.

What Is a Music Licensing Agreement?

A music licensing agreement is one of legally binding music contracts examples that allows the use of music in different forms of media. The music license agreement outlines all the terms and conditions for music use between the copyright owner and the party intending to use the copyrighted music. Typically, the party intending to use music in products or services fills out a music license agreement form in adherence to the song owner’s terms. 

A music licensing agreement is a detailed document comprising the entire scope, duration, and financial requirements, such as royalties and fees. The agreement helps to ensure that all parties using copyrighted music know their rights, responsibilities, and limitations.  

Parties of the Music Licensing Agreement

Music licensing agreement samples involve a licensor and a licensee. The licensor may be represented by the owner of the music, a songwriter, a publisher, or a record label. The licensee is a person or entity that aims to get the rights to legally use the licensor’s music under certain conditions. Almost any individual or company can be a licensee if the party agrees to the terms of the music license agreement.

Key Terms

The following are a few key terms commonly found in music licensing agreements:

  • Grant of rights: The grant of rights explains the rights the licensee enjoys after signing the contract. The rights may allow the licensee to perform, distribute, or reproduce the music within the limits of the agreement. 

  • Territory: A music license agreement may specify the geographical area where the licensee can use the music. For instance, if the licensor allows the licensee to publish or perform the music within the US, any performance or publication to an audience elsewhere would constitute a breach of contract.

  • Duration: Each document is legally binding only when the duration of the deal is specified. There are two options for the duration — the parties may agree on a specific period of time, or, rarely, licensees may use licensed music in perpetuity.

  • Royalties and compensation: Finances are an essential part of the agreement. A well-drafted contract should specify all fees and royalties payable or receivable by either party. Royalties usually vary based on multiple factors like track record and number of listeners. In many cases, licensing music for a movie or TV show costs between $15,000 and $60,000. However, prices may vary from this range depending on the specifics of the agreement. 

  • Termination and breach: This section lets both parties know how to end the agreement and under what conditions a termination is acceptable.

  • Indemnification and liability: The parties to the agreement should be aware of all possible legal claims and exclusions.

What Is Included in a Music Licensing Agreement?

The following pieces of information are always included in a music licensing agreement:

  • Song name: A typical music license agreement features the name of the song and the artist or songwriter. The music license contract can also include the publisher, record label, or other copyright holder.

  • Types of usage: The permitted use is an important detail to be included in a music license agreement. The licensor must specify to the licensee the exact channels through which the licensee is allowed to use the music. A licensee who fails to follow the defined terms risks breaching the music license contract.

  • Representation and warranties: Licensors must specify in the music license agreement that they have the legal authority to enter the agreement and grant the named rights to the licensee. A music license contract that contains this information may protect the licensor if any ownership disagreements arise in the future.

  • Other details: Both parties to a standard music license agreement may also determine other details to include in the paperwork. For instance, the music license agreement may include financial information like payment methods or terms for renegotiating payment. Others may include the duration of the contract and the best way out in the event of unforeseen circumstances or anything that qualifies as force majeure.

How To Write a Music Licensing Agreement

Writing a music license agreement may seem complicated because of all the different elements the parties must consider. However, the process is not difficult. The following are a few steps to follow:

  1. Keep it simple: Write a music license agreement that is simple enough for both parties to understand. The contract should contain all relevant information and should be as straightforward as possible. List details like the song name, artist name, duration of use, type of use, and financial responsibilities before adding the complex legal terms and conditions.

  2. Emphasize clarity and brevity: Avoid ambiguity by writing an agreement that is clear and specific. One way to ensure this is to follow the principle of brevity. Avoid long sentences that may confuse the licensee about his or her rights to the music. All requirements of either party must be clear to both parties.

  3. Append signatures of both parties: No license agreement is complete without the signatures of both parties. Signing is the only way to show that the licensor and the licensee have both read the terms of the contract and agreed to abide by its conditions.

These steps lay the groundwork for a simple license contract. However, the parties may decide to add more details as needed and may obtain a sample music license agreement to use as a guide.

When Do You Need a Music Licensing Agreement?

A music license agreement is necessary whenever an individual or entity needs to use a musical composition owned by another party. There are many scenarios in which this type of agreement would be required, including for TV shows, music, marketing, advertisement, and stage performances. Anyone who needs someone else’s music for any purpose must sign a music license contract to legally use the song or composition without the risk of lawsuits. The parties may choose to ask a contract attorney to draft the contract, or they may use a sample music license agreement for negotiations. The music license agreement should be agreeable to both parties before any signatures are appended.

Common Use Cases

Below are a few of the most common use cases of a music license agreement:

  • Film and television: Producers of TV shows and movies regularly use music contracts to legally include songs and compositions in their productions.

  • Advertising: Companies behind ad campaigns must sign detailed agreements with copyright holders to use their music.

  • Live performances: The organizers or musicians for concerts, festivals, and other types of live music performances must obtain permission to use a song that is copyrighted by another party. 

  • Streaming platforms: Platforms that let users stream music must be permitted to do so by the copyright owners.

Since the agreement content may vary, licensors may use a sample license agreement template to draft multiple contracts depending on intended usage.

When Not To Use The Music Licensing Agreement

There are two scenarios in which a license contract or sample music license agreement template is unnecessary:

  1. When using free music or compositions that have no copyright restrictions from the owners.

  2. When using royalty-free music that only has a few guidelines for use and no other limitations.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is responsible for paying music license fees?

Usually, the individual or entity intending to use the copyrighted music must pay the music license fees. This cost forms part of the music license agreement along with any other distinct stipulations that may impact the calculation of fees due. Both parties must come to a consensus on a payment formula, which should cover the method of payment, initial expenses, royalties, publishing, methods of navigating payment discussions if terms need to be adjusted, and all other financial commitments. 

How do I license my music officially?

Secure your copyright through the U.S. Copyright Office. This process underpins your artistic rights and ensures your legal ownership. Then sign up with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) — ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC — who will collect royalties for you by tracking public performances of your music. 

Why should I license my music?

Licensing establishes your legal ownership, protecting your original work from unauthorized use or infringement. Beyond mere protection, licensing unlocks financial opportunities, enabling you to earn from your creativity. Every time your music plays publicly — in a club, on the radio, or in a film — you receive royalties.

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