What You Absolutely Need to Know About Film & TV Music Licensing with Tanvi Patel
Part 2


TAXI Road Rally, 2010

Michael Laskow, Moderator

   Tanvi Patel
Tanvi having some fun taking music from TAXI members.

There’s been a backlash on blogs, forums—what have you—about, “Oh no, I don’t want to sign with a non-exclusive library,” because some music supervisors have been pretty vocal in saying that they will no longer work with any non-exclusive music. However, I still see plenty of credits for libraries that I know that are doing non-exclusive deals.

The exclusive libraries will often have a reversion clause that sometimes can be 18 months, or two years, and sometimes I’ve seen five years! I’ve also seen deals that lock the song or track up in perpetuity—meaning forever. I used to find it offensive that somebody would want you to sign a deal with them in perpetuity. For the rest of your life that song is signed to them. One day I was complaining to somebody about it saying, “Why do you do that?” And they said, “Well, because we still put our stuff on disks, and to some extent we put it on hard drives, and send it out to companies all over the world—post production companies, post production studios—to thousands of entities. And if something is not signed in perpetuity, and it comes up for its reversion 18 months down the road, we would have to call each of them up and tell them to scratch that one off the disks.” So that’s a problem.
We deal with it in a slightly different manner. We do have our deals for three years, and then they auto-renew for another three years. The only part that runs in perpetuity is the placement performance income, that’s the only part. If you decide to terminate with us, we take the tracks off of our drives immediately and we stop pitching it. But, in order to protect our clients so that they don’t have to chase you down—or your other five band members down—we have a clause in our termination agreement section that says if we place something after you’ve terminated because it’s been floating around there in the marketplace, we can still issue the license and collect the money and send it to you. So that’s one way we’ve gotten around owning or controlling it for perpetuity.

Define what a sample is. And I’m not talking about a string sample in a virtual instrument library. What’s a sample in your world?
An un-cleared sample is a piece of a sound recording that you’ve taken from somebody else’s work. Hip-hoppers do it a lot, and we get explicit instructions when we submit for hip-hop requests that they be sample-free. And that can get you into trouble, because even if you’ve cleared it for CD sales, it has to be cleared every time your song gets used on film and TV. So that is a copyrighted sample that typically almost all libraries or indie catalogs will not take on. It’s just cost-prohibitive, we’re one-stops. The network doesn’t want to get to Island Def Jam to clear something that they’re gonna use of ours.

What is quoting?
Quoting is done quite a bit in Jazz. It’s not a sample. It’s not like you’ve taken the sound recording. It’s maybe a piece of melody or any portion of a composition that is quoted in the song.

Typically a recognizable lick—maybe.
Yeah. Even though your whole composition is original, you may say, “Oh, you know, I really love those horns and that feel of kind of blue…,” and you pull a little bit of that into your song. And we stay away from that too, because that requires an extra clearance as well.

So that complicates your life, and you just move on to the next piece that’s easier to clear.

Public domain? Everybody should know that one, but it’s on the list.
It’s the trickiest. Everybody thinks that something is public domain, and it’s not. Like “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” is not public domain. “Little Drummer Boy” is not public domain. “Happy Birthday” is not public domain.

Last time I’m calling you and singin’ that over the phone…
[She laughs.] Those sisters [who wrote it], did a good job. The publisher is very happy.

In the United States, something is protected, the copyright is protected. Public domain comes in two ways: in the master and in the composition. Thanks to Disney, a lot of masters can stay copyright protected for years. But, in terms of music, typically, it’s public domain as a result of composition. So…you’ve written a composition, it will be copyright protected. It will be yours for your entire life, and then 70 years after your death. And that’s in the United States. Every country has its own rules. So, say for example, France, and I think, it’s Spain, they actually add 75 years, and then they actually add 14 more years for the world wars. So it’s like 70-75 years, plus 14, that your work will be protected. Once that amount of time has expired, then it goes into the public domain, which means it becomes the property of the world and anybody can make a recording of the song without having to pay for it. So that’s public domain. It’s tricky because from time to time countries like Mexico—which boggles my mind, because they don’t really protect copyrights down there on a practical basis.

That’s alright. They laugh at us for not protecting our borders. [laughter]
Funny thing. There was a flurry of activity about six months ago because, thanks to Google, somebody was Googling a piece of music and it showed up copyright protected in Mexico. Before Google, I don’t know how we figured out these things. And the funny thing was like six months ago, it was like, “Oh, this law was passed in 2003, so how are we just now finding out about it.” So what Mexico did was extend their copyrights to 100 years. So that means even if your public domain in the United States, you have to pay the Mexican PROs if you want to air it in Mexico, because now that song that could have been public domain in the United States  is no longer public domain in Mexico. So it’s a bit tricky, and this usually comes in with Christmas songs, classical pieces and children’s songs—nursery rhymes, that sort of thing. So if you’re gonna submit something that’s public domain, be sure you know who the composer was and when he died…’cause I’m gonna ask that. [laughter]

Tanvi Patel   

Tanvi is well-known for her warm personality by musicians
and industry colleagues alike.

She’s also going to ask you if your stuff was a union recording, had anything to do with the AFofM. Here’s why: Many of our members will go to online production companies, or will go to Nashville production companies—like Nashville Demo Studio out in the hallway, or Studio Pros. I know that both of those companies don’t present this problem for you. But if you use union players… like, if you go to Nashville, because that’s a really strong union town—and I’m not saying anything positively or negatively, I’m remaining neutral on the subject of unions. However, be aware that if you use union guys on a demo scale for something than you submit to TAXI, then we submit it to Tanvi, she’s gonna ask you, “Do have any union people on this, and what scale were they paid?” Because if they were paid demo rate and she puts it in a major motion picture, and the bass player is sitting in the theater with his wife and goes, “Honey, I played on that, and I got paid demo scale.” There is hell to pay for that, right?

Did I explain it correctly?
You did. No pros or cons to the unions at all. It is what it is. For film and TV—especially television—they will not license tracks that are union. And if they do, it is your responsibility to pay those union fees. Here’s how it works: You’re in Nashville and you go into the studio. You’ve hired a bunch of session players, you’ve paid them union for your recording of a thousand CDs. You got a really great rate, more power to you. You’ve got the best players in town and you can put out a thousand CDs.

OK, what happens when you decide to put that on to television? There’s something called the new-use fee. You paid for the session players to play on your record for a thousand CDs; you did not pay them to have song aired on television. So now there’s a little thing that comes into play called the new-use fee that the studio is obligated to pay. In my agreements with the studio, that means I’m obligated to pay. And in my agreements with you, that means you’re obligated to pay. Here’s a perfect example. We had bit the bullet on a recording. The fee was only $2,500 that we got for the use. The bill from the union came in at $13,000. Now, who’s responsible for that?

I’m not gonna be very happy if I get a call from a studio that says, “You told us there wasn’t any union, and we just got this bill from a session in 1963.” So, no, just because the players have died, it doesn’t mean that you don’t owe it. You still owe it and I will make you pay for it. But in certain situations the independent artist doesn’t have any money, so then, who has to pay for it? The studio’s not going to pay for it, and the independent artist is poor and broke and trying to pay his bills, I pay for it. And if I pay for it, I’m dropping you.

And the studio or the music supervisor if they ever see your name again ever in their lifetime—it may not come through you, but through somebody else—they’re never gonna touch that writer again.
So there are pros and cons to working with unions. It all just depends on how you want to structure your music, and how you want to exploit it.

I think we’ve covered most of the biggies, so let’s take some audience questions and I want to start with the gentleman out there who had his hand up first. Come out to the center aisle, please.

“If youíre gonna submit something thatís public domain, be sure you know who the composer was and when he diedÖícause Iím gonna ask that.”

-Tanvi Patel

Audience Member: My husband and I are both union players. We’re both coming off of careers as professional side players, now doing an independent project. At this point we are the sum total of the Panache Orchestra, but we’ve got bartering agreements with other really expensive union session players to record on each other albums and stuff. And now with the remark about not using union players in music that can be placed, so for the purposes of what we’re doing as indie artists building a fan base with radio play, that’s OK. But that would make our music 100% useless in terms of getting placed in TV and film?

Tanvi: Well, you actually have to file the paperwork for the session. So if you file the paperwork with the AFofM—and you paid the AFofM to pay your players—that is what is key. So whatever side agreement you have with your friends and you pay them out of your pocket, that is—shall I say—OK. It has to be filed with the union to make it ineffectual for film and television.

I think the solution of the whole issue… I don’t want to tell anybody not to use union players. I think the union needs to update its stuff for where we are at in modern times with film and TV placements.
With the proliferation of independent artists, it’s a little outdated. It really is.

I would love to see union players be able to get those gigs and not have this be an issue. It needs an update.

Audience Member: In regards to union players—because I know my wife has gone to Nashville quite a bit and has used studios and union players—but I remember in some of our contracts with regard to union players that we’ve had in regards to usage, that they would release it, and we would make sure that was in our contracts, especially if we’re using session players. And I found that to be the case, because we knew… What happens if this thing gets over here to a film? What about these union players? We were aware of it, and I have looked back in some of our contracts again, and we had them released so we can get it into film and TV.

One more thing I want to talk about real quick is retitling. I’ve heard that some have retitled to avoid the PROs, or that you’re not aware because the song was in a different name.

Tanvi: Why would you do that? There’s no reason to retitle if you’re avoiding the PROs.

Audience Member: Why would they retitle to keep us from getting…?

Tanvi: If somebody’s doing that, it’s not cool. You’re not getting paid; that means they’re not getting paid either. If they’re avoiding the PROs, they’re not getting paid on the back end. That doesn’t make sense. [Inaudible from audience.] Well, I would stay away from that library.

That’s exactly what I was talking about earlier when I mentioned the “trailer park” libraries. Tanvi is a consummate professional that doesn’t do stuff like that. Some of these newer libraries go, “Oh yeah, TAXI is way too picky,” or “Tanvi’s way too picky.” We are picky for a reason, and we operate our businesses in a legitimate and ethical way. These other guys may not even be unethical, or they just may be uneducated, and you may open yourself up to getting hurt by working with some of them—not all of them.
In our contracts we tell you what your catalog number plus title is. And when you go to our website and go into your account, it tells you what it is. I’m not changing that number; I’m not arbitrarily moving it. Sometimes in a registration I have made this mistake with the CMI, because the I looks like a 1, and sometimes it’ll be CM111, whatever, So we’ll just add that as an alternate title, because it’s a lot easier to add it as an alternate title on the registration then it is to bother the network to change that and send it back to us. But that’s the only situation in where the number isn’t an exact match. The original registration is going to be exactly what we have on our contract with you. So there’s no line moving here, and if you’ve come across catalogs that are doing that just so you won’t get your writer’s share, run very fast. If they can’t explain the contract to you, run very fast. I mean, a company shouldn’t be in business if they don’t know what they are getting you to sign.

I’ve seen bits and pieces of your contract on some of the smaller library sites because they do Frankenstein contracts, where they cut and paste sections of several of them together so they don’t have to pay an attorney.

We’ve got to wrap this up, but I want to say one last thing about the union issue. I go to Nashville a lot. Those are the best studio cats in the world, and many of them, if not most of them, are union guys. The union issue—as it relates to film and TV—I believe is a solvable issue. Those of you who have connections to the unions, need to speak up and say, “Let’s find a modern way to make this work so that everybody wins.” Because I don’t think union guys should be ignored because they are union guys, because you’d be missing out on some great players. However, people do tend to shy away from using a union studio because of this issue, and it shouldn’t have to be that way. So, just my own personal opinion, if you’ve got a connection to a union, speak up and ask for this problem to be solved.

Was this panel helpful to you guys? Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Tanvi Patel! [applause]

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