Music can make or break a film. Most people underestimate the impact a soundtrack can have on a movie, but you’ve only got to think about the iconic sounds in films like Psycho and Titanic and you’ll start to see just how important this is. If you’re lucky enough to be making music for movies you’ll be doing one of two deals – the use of your music in the soundtrack, which is most likely, or your performance in the film, which is probably only relevant if you’re a huge star. Here’s those two options in more detail.
This might seem straight forward at first. If a movie wants you to perform in a film you get a flat fee. Easy, right? Well, not really, not when you consider that your record label owns all of your performances. Your record label is not about to let you have all of that fee to yourself. Unfortunately, you can’t make this deal without your label’s consent, as per the terms of your contract. If you’re working for a major motion picture they will know this and they’ll deal with your record company, not you, but if it’s an independent film things could get complex. Basically, remember, if a film company approaches you and not your record company, and you do a deal with them, you still have to pay your label their share. The other thing to bear in mind is your credit. If your song is played in one scene or even at the end of the film, you’ll most likely get a mention in those end credits that whizz by, but if your song is the title song of the film, you want that upfront where everyone can see your name.
This is the other possible deal you’ll do, and this is when a film company wants to simply licence one of your records for use in their movies. Your royalty for this will be around 12% and you need to cover all your costs out of this. Again, if the film company deals with your record label direct you don’t need to worry about this, but if it’s between you and them, you have to figure in your label’s cut, producer etc. Ideally you don’t want to be giving a film company more than the right to use your music in the film and on the soundtrack. Anything else should be held by you and your record label and should be negotiated separately. This includes use of the song on adverts and other future films. If you’ve recorded a song specifically for the film there are some restrictions on what you can then do with this song. You might not be able to re-record this song for a set period after the film has aired, because the film company wants this to be exclusive to their film. This is called a holdback and quite usual when dealing with movie companies.
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