Essential Tips: Pricing & Licensing Music for Film/TV
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Understand the Landscape of Music Licensing
  2. Research Market Rates
  3. Set Your Own Rates
  4. Consider the Scope of the Project
  5. Get Familiar with Standard Contract Terms
  6. Be Ready to Negotiate
  7. Protect Your Rights

As a creative mind in the music industry, one of your ultimate goals might be to have your masterpiece play in the background of a heart-stopping scene or a tear-jerking moment in a film or television show. But before that dream becomes a reality, it's crucial to grasp the fundamentals of pricing and licensing music for film and television. This guide will walk you through the essentials to help you navigate this complex process with confidence and smarts.

Understand the Landscape of Music Licensing

First things first, let's talk about the landscape of music licensing. Before you can even begin to think about pricing your music, you need to understand how the licensing process works. It's like knowing the rules of the game before you start playing — it will make your journey smoother and more successful.

Copyright laws are the backbone of music licensing. When you create a piece of music, you automatically own the copyright to that music. This means you have the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display your work. However, if a filmmaker wants to use your music in their production, they'll need to obtain a license from you.

Types of Licenses

There are two main types of licenses that filmmakers might need: synchronization and master use licenses. A synchronization license (or "sync" license) gives them the right to use your composition in timing with visual media, like a movie or TV show. A master use license gives them the right to use a specific recording of that composition. They might need one or both, depending on their project.


When it comes to pricing and licensing music for film and television, you also need to consider royalties. These are payments you receive when your music is used or performed. There are different types of royalties, such as mechanical royalties (from sales of physical or digital copies of your music), performance royalties (from broadcasts of your music), and sync royalties (from the use of your music in visual media). Being familiar with these will help you figure out your pricing strategy.

Music Rights Organizations

Finally, it's important to understand the role of music rights organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. These organizations collect performance royalties on behalf of songwriters and publishers and distribute them accordingly. They can be a valuable resource for you during the licensing process.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the music licensing landscape, you're ready to delve into researching market rates, setting your own rates, and negotiating contracts. Remember, knowledge is power, and the more you know about pricing and licensing music for film and television, the better positioned you'll be to succeed in this exciting industry.

Research Market Rates

After understanding the landscape of music licensing, the next step is to research the current market rates. Think of it as shopping around before buying that new guitar — you want to make sure you're getting a fair deal.

Online Research

The internet is your best friend when it comes to researching market rates. There are online platforms, such as Songtradr or Musicbed, that provide ballpark figures for different types of licenses. Remember, these are only guidelines, not set in stone, but they are a good starting point.


Never underestimate the power of networking. Connect with other artists, composers, and music supervisors in the industry. They can offer valuable insights into pricing and licensing music for film and television. Plus, they can share their personal experiences and tips, which are priceless.

Professional Associations

Joining professional associations for musicians or composers, like The Recording Academy or The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), can also be beneficial. These organizations often provide resources and information about market rates, as well as opportunities for networking and professional development.

By researching market rates, you can ensure you're pricing your music fairly and competitively. It's not about undercharging or overcharging, but about finding a price that reflects the value of your work and aligns with industry standards. Remember, your music is not just a product — it's a piece of art, and it deserves to be valued accordingly.

Set Your Own Rates

Now that you have a good idea of the market rates, it's time to set your own. This step can feel a bit like walking a tightrope, but don't worry, you've got this. Let's break it down.

Assess the Value of Your Work

Firstly, you need to assess the value of your work. This isn't just about how much time and effort you've put into creating your music, but also about the unique aspects that make your music special. Maybe it's your distinctive sound, your innovative compositions, or your attention to detail — whatever it is, it adds value to your work and should be reflected in your pricing.

Compare with Market Rates

Next, compare your assessed value with the market rates you researched. If your rates are significantly higher, you may need to reconsider. It's great to believe in the value of your work, but pricing too high might make it difficult to secure licenses. On the other hand, pricing too low could undervalue your work. The key is to find a balance.

Trial and Error

Setting your rates isn't a one-time thing. It's an ongoing process of trial and error. You may need to adjust your rates over time based on feedback, the success of your licensing deals, and changes in the market. Remember, it's okay to make adjustments — it's part of the process.

Setting your own rates is a crucial step in pricing and licensing music for film and television. It's about finding a price that fairly represents the value of your work, aligns with market rates, and ultimately, feels right to you. After all, you're the one who knows your music best.

Consider the Scope of the Project

When it comes to pricing and licensing music for film and television, one size does not fit all. Different projects have different scopes, and this should reflect in your pricing. Let's dive into how you can assess the scope of a project.

Size of the Project

First things first, consider the size of the project. Is it a small independent film or a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster? The larger the project, the higher the budget is likely to be, and this should be factored into your pricing. But remember, bigger doesn't always mean better. Smaller projects can offer other benefits, like more creative control or a chance to build relationships in the industry.


Next, consider how your music will be used. Will it be the main theme, background music, or just a brief snippet in one scene? The more prominently your music is featured, the more you should charge.


Finally, consider the distribution of the project. Will it be a local release or international? Will it be aired on TV, released in theaters, or streamed online? The wider the distribution, the more exposure your music gets, and this should be reflected in your pricing.

Considering the scope of the project is an integral part of pricing and licensing music for film and television. It helps you understand the value of the project and how your music fits into it, allowing you to price your work accordingly. So, always remember to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Get Familiar with Standard Contract Terms

Contracts can be a bit like a foreign language if you're not familiar with them. But when it comes to pricing and licensing music for film and television, they're your best friend. Let's get to grips with some of the standard terms you should know.


Licensing is where it all starts. It's the agreement that allows the film or TV show to use your music. There are different types of licenses, including synchronization licenses for pairing music with visual media, and master licenses for using a specific recording.


Royalties are your bread and butter. These are payments you receive for the use of your music. You could be paid upfront, or earn royalties every time the film or TV show is aired. Make sure you understand how and when you'll be paid.


Don't underestimate the power of a credit. Having your name in the credits can boost your reputation and help your music career. Check the contract to see how you'll be credited.

Getting familiar with these standard contract terms is a key step in pricing and licensing music for film and television. It can help you understand what you're signing up for and make sure you're getting a fair deal. So, next time you're faced with a contract, don't just skim over it. Take the time to understand what it means for you and your music.

Be Ready to Negotiate

When it comes to pricing and licensing music for film and television, negotiation is the name of the game. But don't worry, you don't have to be a seasoned dealmaker to get a fair shake. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

Understand Your Value

Knowing the worth of your music is the first step in any negotiation. This isn't just about how good your music is—it's about the value it brings to the project. Does it set the mood in a crucial scene? Does it help tell the story? Remember, your music is adding value to the film or TV show, and you should be compensated accordingly.


While it's important to know your worth, being flexible can help seal the deal. This doesn't mean you should sell yourself short. Instead, consider things like the project's budget, the potential exposure for your music, and the opportunity for future work. Weigh these factors against your desired rate to find a price that's fair for both parties.


Good negotiation is all about clear communication. Be upfront about your expectations, but also listen to what the other party has to say. Remember, negotiation is a two-way street. It's not just about getting what you want—it's about finding a solution that works for everyone.

So, the next time you're ready to license your music for a film or TV project, remember these tips. Knowing your value, being flexible, and communicating clearly can go a long way in helping you negotiate a fair price for your music. And remember, every negotiation is a learning experience, so don't be too hard on yourself if things don't go exactly as planned. Just keep refining your skills, and you'll get the hang of it in no time.

Protect Your Rights

While negotiating a fair price for your music is important, it's equally critical to protect your rights. When it comes to pricing and licensing music for film and television, this is a topic you can't afford to ignore. Here's what you need to know:

Before you license your music, make sure you understand copyright laws. Your music is your intellectual property, and copyright laws are designed to protect it. Simply put, these laws grant you exclusive rights to your music, allowing you to control how it's used and distributed. Knowledge is power, so make sure you understand these laws inside and out.

Read the Contract Carefully

When you're excited about a potential project, it's easy to skim over the contract and miss important details. But take it from me, you'll want to read every word. Pay special attention to terms like "exclusive" and "non-exclusive," as these will dictate how and where your music can be used. And if there's anything you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. After all, this is your music we're talking about.

If you're in over your head—or if the contract is particularly complex—consider seeking legal advice. A music attorney can help you navigate the tricky waters of music licensing, ensuring your rights are protected. Yes, it's an added expense, but it could save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out in the world of music licensing, protecting your rights should always be a top priority. So, take the time to understand copyright laws, read contracts carefully, and consider legal advice when needed. Your music is worth it.

If you're looking to further enhance your skills in pricing and licensing music for film and television, don't miss the workshop 'Indie Film Composing: Storytelling In Music' by Daisy Coole. This workshop will provide invaluable insights on how to create compelling music for indie films, and help you better understand the intricacies of pricing and licensing in the industry.