To use any piece of music that is in copyright, you must first get permission. The type of permission required depends on how you wish to use the music. There are licenses granted when you hear music in film, TV, computer games and in advertising campaigns. These tend to be individual ‘non exclusive’ licenses but there are more long term ‘exclusive’ deals where an artist or label may grant rights to a third party e.g. a major label for a set period of time.


  • License - The right, granted by the copyright holder, for a given person or entity to broadcast, recreate, perform, or listen to a recorded copy of a copyrighted work.

  • Licensor - The owner of a licensed work will still own the rights to the work (the copyright) but will grant permission for someone else to use them.

  • Licensee -The person or entity to which the work is licensed.

License Vs Assignment

  • License – owner retains copyright but grants rights to licensee for set period

  • Assignment – all ownership and copyright transferred to assignee

Licensing Deal Terms

  • Exclusive – one owner e.g. record company

  • Duration - on exclusive 5 – 10 years but on non exclusive this is less relevant

  • Territory - worldwide or to particular countries

  • Non Exclusive – one off license for compilations, film / TV etc.

For more about licensing read - Music The Business: The Essential Guide To The Law And The Deals by Ann Harrison and see unit 4.4.12 about Synchronisation.