Producing : Tips on licensing recorded music for film use? by Colin Rowntree

Colin Rowntree

Tips on licensing recorded music for film use?

We are in pre-production for a romantic comedy feature film, and the director REALLY wants to use a Frank Sinatra classic ("bewitched, bothered and bewildered") in an art gallery opening party scene as background music. I've spend the past several days trying to wade through this process with Sony/ATV, Warner/Chappell, ASCAP and others and hitting a brick wall. Does there exist a "song clearance for dummies" guide to this mysterious process? Thanks! Colin

Shaun O'Banion

It's really just about calling them and asking how much it'll cost on both sides (music/publishing). As an example though, and to prepare you for what you're up against: On my first indie feature, there was a moment in the script where, as the button to a scene, a character who was playing a guitar strummed the chorus (and was meant to sing) Tom Petty's 'Freefallin'. We were told it would cost $75k. Seventy-five thousand dollars... for our actor to sing, "...and I'm freeeeeeee... freefalllllinnnn." End scene. Cut. Basically the chunk Tom Cruise sang in JERRY MAGUIRE. Yeah. So. Obviously, we didn't get the song. Our entire budget (all-in) was $150k. We did, however, fall in love with a Joshua Radin song for the end of the film and HIS PEOPLE were incredibly kind and helpful. They initially gave us Festival Rights at a reduced rate, and then negotiated a very nice fee when we came back once we'd sold the film. I guess my point is that it can get done, but the odds - particularly with "old blue-eyes" - are NOT in your favor financially. Start coming up with alternatives you could present your director. Good luck!

Richard "RB" Botto

I can't add much to what Shaun laid out here...So I'll just second it.

Colin Rowntree

Thanks, Shaun (and Hi Rich!) I did stumble upon an agency that handles all of this in NYC. Barbara Zimmerman has been in biz for over 30 years and is VERY helpful and reasonably priced as far as her hourly fee. Here she is if anyone needs a hand with music: Barbara Zimmerman President BZ/Rights & Permissions, Inc. 145 West 86th St. New York, NY 10024 phone: 212-924-3000 fax: 212-924-2525 e-mail:

Richard "RB" Botto

Colin! Great to see you here, man. Thanks for the share!

Jason Kanjiro Howard

Talk to Erin Jacobsen the music industry lawyer, super knowledgeable and super nice 424 354 9364

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