- Look at the label copy for the song and get the names
of the songwriters. You can also frequently get songwriter
information at the All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com) or
- With the songwriters noted, take the EMG research link
to ASCAP and/or BMI and enter the song title. You may find
that there are many songs with the same title, but using
the writers will help you zero in on your title. If the
song is not found at ASCAP, try BMI next, or vice versa.
- ASCAP and BMI will provide information on the publisher
owning the song. Copy the address information for the publisher.
- Prepare a brief letter or fax (1 to 1 ½ pages maximum)
to the publisher - be sure to say Independent Film Request
or Low Budget Film at the top of the letter. Reference the
title of the song and songwriters, then the name of your
production. Tell them briefly about the production how the
song fits in, as well as:
- The timing or duration of the song;
- The visuals accompanying the song;
- Where your production will be seen and for how long
(1-time, 1 year, etc)
- The titles of other songs you plan to use, particularly
if you have already gotten permission.
- If you have no budget for clearance, say so in your
letter. However, publishers will often give priority
to requests that offer a token fee ($25.00 to $100.00
per song) because it shows respect for the value of
- Provide the publisher with an address, phone fax or
e-mail so they can reply quickly.
- Remember, student requests will only be considered
as such if they remain in the realm of the school, or
school-related exhibitions. Productions for sale are
NOT student films.
- Fax or mail your request to the publisher. Wait at
least 10 days before following up.
To contact the record label:
- Find the name and address of the record company on a copy
of the CD or recording you plan to use. If you don't have
a copy, try to find the recording on www.cdnow.com www.amg.com,
or at your local record store. Most record stores keep a
copy of Phonolog, which lists all records in release and
has addresses of most current record labels.
- Prepare a brief letter similar to the publisher letter
A few things to keep in mind:
- Music belongs to the publishers and labels and they have
no obligation to give you permission, or even respond to
your request (although most do).
- If someone doesn't respond, it doesn't mean you've been
- In most cases, you cannot change a song's lyrics for
use in production without permission. In other words, you
can't clear the melody and substitute your own words with
the publisher's OK.
- Permissions take time (especially those being sought for
free). Be sure you allow at least a few weeks for copyright
owners to respond.
- Finally, only the owners of the music copyrights you are
seeking can grant you a license. Receipt of this reply does
not in any way constitute a clearance or agreement by our
firm to represent you in getting rights for this music use.
For more information check out our resources