A company trying to use popular music or lyrics, either for commercial advertising or for an in-house corporate video, will have to get permission to do so.

Obtaining music permissions can be done effectively by purchasing music that comes with an automatic license for use, but the choice of music available will be significantly limited. On the other hand, obtaining permission to use protected music, which includes just about any song currently available in local music stores, can be costly and lead to extensive litigation since the copyright law protecting the use of current, popular music is very strict.

When choosing protected music, it is best to get a lawyer or an expert to help determine the appropriate legal procedures, and to keep the following information in mind.

To use music that is protected by copyright in any way, it is necessary to obtain permission from the copyright owners in writing. These include the music publisher who represents the composer and the lyricist, and the record company that owns the recording and represents the performer who made the recording.

A fee is generally charged by the copyright owners for permission, and the amount varies depending upon how it is used. Using a piece of protected music for a television or radio commercial is the most expensive. For a commercial in one state or city, the fees may be in the low thousands. For a national television commercial fees for one year can range from $40,000 to $200,000 each to the music publisher and the record company.

Once a piece of music has been chosen, a company may either use an already recorded piece of music by a known artist or obtain the rights to use the music and re-record it with other artists.

In the case of a performance by a known artist, for example, it may be necessary to pay various fees such as union new-use fees, which can increase costs. On the other hand, hiring unknowns to perform a hit song will still require obtaining permission from the music publisher, who then pays the original talent. Union fees may be incurred, depending upon the arrangements made with the talent.

If using protected music seems too expensive or too complicated, the alternative may be to use a stock music library or similar music service. These services provide hundreds of CDs containing appropriate background music recorded by professional musicians.

The cost of purchasing these CDs averages around $20 per CD. Additional licensing fees are also nominal, depending upon use. A company may pay a blanket fee of several hundred dollars to cover the music used throughout a video, or what's called a "needle drop" fee for each use of a piece of music within a video. These fees generally range from $15 to $75 per needle drop.

The following is a listing of music permissions and stock music libraries.

Barbara Zimmerman
BZ Rights and Permissions
125 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10023
(212) 580-0615

BMI 320 West 57th Street New York, NY 10019 (212) 586-2000
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) 1 Lincoln Plaza New York, NY 10023 (212) 621-6000
Associated Production Music 6255 Sunset Boulevard, #820 Hollywood, CA 90026 (800) 543-4276
Chameleon Music Production Library P.O. Box 243 Agawam, MA 01001 (413) 789-1917
Firstcom 13747 Montfort Drive, Suite 220 Dallas, TX 75240 (800) 858-8880
De Wolfe Music Library 25 West 45th Street, 8th Floor New York, NY 10036 (800) 221-6713 or (212) 382-0220
TRF Production Music Libraries 747 Chestnut Ridge Road, Suite 301 Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977 (800) 899-6874