By Jeffrey and Todd Brabec
After a television program has been produced and there is a final edited broadcast version, the producer will prepare what is known as a "music cue sheet," which lists all the music used in the show, including how each song was used, its timing in seconds (20 seconds, 2 minutes, etc.) and the identity of the writers and publishers as well as their performance rights affiliation.
Since ASCAP and BMI use the music cue sheets for each episode of a series to determine how music was used, who owns the music, and how royalty payments should be made, it is essential that the writer and publisher secure a copy for review.
Mistakes: Mistakes on cue sheets as to timing, whether a song is the theme, used as underscore or sung by an actor on camera, and writer and publisher identification as well as performance rights affiliation may occur and it is vital to correct any inaccuracies before the cue sheet is sent out by the producer. On rare occasions, a song may even be left off the cue sheet altogether.
Foreign Payments: Since a good publisher will forward all cue sheets of television shows to its foreign representatives subpublishers (who then register them with their local performing right society to ensure that royalty payments are made for foreign broadcasts of the programs), a correct cue sheet takes on added importance-especially since most foreign societies will not distribute royalties without proper ownership information, but will instead put the royalties in a suspense account or, in the worst-case scenario, distribute your money to someone else.
Double Checking Royalties: A final reason why it is important to have copies of cue sheets is that they indicate the original broadcast date of an episode, a fact that can be used to check whether or not the performance has been logged by ASCAP or BMI.
For example, if you know that the initial broadcast of a show containing your song was on ABC on January 14, you can look at the ASCAP or BMI royalty statement for the January through March quarterly period of that year to see if the network television performance showed up.
If the use did not appear on your royalty statement or the performance was not credited properly (for example, if monies were paid for a background instrumental use rather than a more profitable "on-camera song sung by an actor or singer"), you can contact the show's producer and ASCAP or BMI to rectify the mistake and make sure that you receive your correct royalties.
Cue Sheet Formats: Music cue sheets take a number of different formats, depending on the company preparing the cue sheet, with some indicating who sang the song, others giving brief scene descriptions, and some reflecting the mood of a scene. All, however, give the identity of the television network broadcasting the series, the first air date, the title of the compositions, how the music was used (background vocal, visual instrumental, etc.), the timing of the use, the number of uses during the episode, and complete writer and publisher information for each composition use in the particular episode including performance rights affiliation for each songwriter, composer, lyricist, and publisher.