Q1: I want to use a musical work, for example, “Yellow” performed and recorded by Coldplay, for a television commercial for a household paint advertisement. What do I do and how should I start?
A1: First, if you can, it is always best to get your hands on the CD and check the album sleeves or CD inlays for publishing credits. This is set out in the fine print that usually appears under each song title. It will tell you who wrote the song. In the case of "Yellow", it is written by four songwriters "Berry / Buckland / Champion / Martin". The sleeve will usually also show the name of the publishing company that represents that work. If such information is available, forward your request to the appropriate music publisher to obtain clearance for your intended use of the musical work. Alternatively, you can also forward your query to the MPS email address.
If you cannot obtain information on the songwriters, you can still forward your query to MPS for assistance. However, there are many songs with similar titles, and it may therefore be difficult to identify the right song unless full information on the songwriter's details are furnished.
Q2: Assuming that I have found the music publishing company that represents the musical work that I intend to use, what information should I include in my music usage request to the music publishing company?
A2: You should try to submit complete information of the intended usage. For example, in the case of a television commercial usage request, please include information like:-
1. Product name
2. Media (TV, radio, cinema, etc)
3. Territory of broadcast
4. Duration / Version (e.g. 30sec/ 60sec)
5. Term (e.g. one year, one month)
6. Intended commencement date
7. Music to be used (Re-recording or Original Sound Recording)
You can also provide the storyboard or concept/synopsis. With these complete usage details duly furnished, the music publisher who represents that musical work will revert to you with a cost estimate. Once the budgets are agreed upon, the music publisher will then seek clearance from the songwriters and/or owner of that song concerned; and will advise you accordingly if your request has been approved or denied.
Q3: What happens when my music usage request gets denied by the songwriters and/or copyright owners of that selected musical composition?
A3: Unfortunately such denials do happen and for various reasons. But whatever the case may be, the final decision for any approval or denial lies with the songwriter and/or copyright owner. Such decisions must be respected. Any usage without permission constitutes copyright infringement.
(For more information, please see page 3, under "How Does Copyright Work?")
Q4: In the above point (A2vii), why does MPS need to know whether the music to be used in the TV commercial will be an original sound recording, or re-recording? For that matter, what does this all mean and how does it affect my request?
A4: Firstly, when music publishers grant you a license for a musical composition, it is only in respect of copyright in the musical work and the literary work, which are protected under the Copyright Act as "original works". However, apart from "original works", the subject matter in which copyright subsists also includes "Sound Recordings". The rights that may be granted by the music publishers in respect of musical compositions DO NOT include the bundle of rights which subsist in "Sound Recordings". Take the above example of Coldplay's "Yellow" again. Coldplay, as a recording artiste, is represented by EMI Records (Parlophone label). But as songwriters, they are represented by BMG Music Publishing.
So, when BMG Music Publishing licenses the publishing rights for "Yellow", it is only for the rights in the song "Yellow" as a musical composition. Having obtained the publishing clearance to use the song, you will have to decide if you are re-recording your own cover version or using the original sound recording, ie. Coldplay's actual recording.
If you want to use the actual original sound recording as performed by Coldplay, then on top of obtaining approval from the music publishers, you will also need to obtain clearance with the record company representing the artiste. If you intend to re-record, then clearance from the music publisher will suffice.
Remember this simple rule:-
Music Publishers > Songwriters > Publishing Rights
Record Company > Artistes > Master Sound Recording Rights
Q5: If I want to use a musical composition for say a TV ad or TV drama series or movie film, can't I just deal with COMPASS (Composers & Authors Society of Singapore) and obtain rights from them directly for such usage.
A5: No you cannot. COMPASS essentially is a performance society. In other words, the licenses which it offers generally pertain only to PUBLIC PERFORMANCE and BROADCAST rights in respect of musical compositions. All other rights existing in musical compositions remains under the administration of the music publishers themselves. Therefore obtaining a license just from one party, for example COMPASS, does not automatically absolve you as the music user, from the responsibility of obtaining other rights from the music publishers.
It is important to remember and understand that different kinds of rights are involved depending on the nature of the music usage, e.g. ringtones, TV advertisements, movies, song books, cover version recordings or original sound recordings, etc. As such, depending on the manner of usage, you sometimes need to obtain clearances from COMPASS and/or MPS/music publishers, and/or the recording companies.
Remember this simple rule:-
COMPASS > Public Performance & Broadcast Rights in musical compositions.
Music Publishers > All other music rights (eg. Mechanical, print, reproduction, etc) in musical compositions.
If in doubt, just contact MPS via e-mail and someone will revert to you in due course.
Q6: I notice that sometimes I have to deal with more than one publisher for a song. Why is that so?
A6: This is because there could be more than one songwriter, who may be represented by different music publishing companies. The above example of Coldplay's "Yellow" has four songwriters. But in this case, they are all represented by the same music publishing company. So your contact point is just one publisher.
It is common to have songs that are written by several songwriters, each represented by a different music publishing company. For example, "My Love" recorded by Westlife is written by the following songwriters as per the following
Jorgen Elofsson 37.5% Published by Zomba Music Publishers
Per Magnusson 18.75% Published by BMG Music Publishing Scandinavia
David Kreuger 18.75% Published by BMG Music Publishing Scandinavia
Pelle Nylen 25% Published by Warner/Chappell Music (WCM)
In the above scenario, WCM controls 25% of the song. As BMG administers all works for the Zomba Publishing catalog, BMG therefore controls a total of 75% for the above song. You, as a music user, will therefore need to contact the two music publishers, WCM and BMG, with regard to this usage request.
Q7 : In the above scenario of Westlife's "My Love", what happens after I contact the two publishers for clearance, if for example, BMG approves their 75% while WCM denies approval for their 25%? Can I still proceed with use?
A7: No, you cannot. In order to proceed with music usage, all parties have to grant their approval for their share of ownership.
Q8: If I need to include music for my client's wedding videos, what do I need to do?
A8: Enquiry on application and licence for reproduction of musical works as background music for Wedding Videography or Photo Montage, kindly email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org