A few times a year I get a request from a client about licensing a popular music track for their video.  It usually comes about because they say "we're just doing a sizzle video, let's use X from Y artist I heard on the radio".  I say "to do that properly you need to license the track, which will cost 10's of thousands of dollars at a minimum".  Usually at that point I can convince them to go to stock music.  Sometimes they still want to explore the commercial track at which point I make them sign an agreement saying they'll handle all licensing (and any legal situation coming from their not securing the appropriate licensing) on their end.

So just what does it cost? 

I was talking with a former colleague over the weekend and we both shared some stories.  So while these are not steadfast guides, they're good indicators of what licensing tracks cost.

I discussed licensing recently with an extremely well known artist's estate.  They handle licensing requests as he's, obviously, passed away.  You'd know the name and the song instantly if you heard it.  My client wanted to have an artist record a cover and we'd license the rights to use that in a video for a meeting and posting on YouTube.  Maybe getting 2,000 views based on last year's video we did for them.  The artist representative said they start licensing at 6 figures and it goes up from there depending on many factors.  A lot of cash, but a very well known artist and song.

My colleague got a similar response when trying to license a song from a well known current rock band that headlines festivals.  His client wanted to use the song in a video on their app.  The client is well known, but it's not like a TV spot or anything.  The cost... $250,000.  A quarter mil for a video that wouldn't even be posted online, only in an app.

So what about smaller bands?  They're certainly less expensive, but still not $100.  I heard of a smaller band with a decent following making low six figures to license a music track for a movie trailer.  Even a no name band I heard a story about made $6,000 to license a track for a reality TV show at the end of an episode.  It was one of 10 songs by a variety of artists in the episode.

Then what are the options?

Most videos don't have the budget for those kinds of songs.  And that's fine.  Typically they don't need them and these days there are tons of affordable options.  If you've got some budget (a couple thousand dollars), your best bet is a custom composition.  We work with musicians who create great original pieces that can be tailored exactly to your video.  Want it to build at an exact moment, they can do that.  Need it to change the tempo after the intro, they can do that to.  Plus it's unique to your content.

After that are the royalty free/rights managed sites.  The best is MusicBed.com  They license tracks on behalf of the artists that submit songs on their site.  There is some great stuff on there and you won't hear it everywhere else.  The down side is that depending on the use and size of your company the licensing gets convoluted.  I just got a custom quote from them for a client that's about 4,000 people.  They wanted $1500 for a year, $2000 for 2 years, $3700 for perptuity.  I think they need to switch to a percentage of the budget based on the size of the company, but that's just my opinion.

Then you have your more traditional royalty free music options with PremiumBeat.com Pond5.com GettyImages.com etc.  They're good options and you're not going to pay out the nose for tracks.  Typically $25-100 per track.  The down side is anyone can license the tracks and you'll hear them in a lot of places.  Premium Beat specifically has some great stuff but you'll hear the same track you use in different places.

So there you go.  LOTS of options and my company AVCollective.com can help you find a great track, get the licensing squared away, and build your video for you.  Whether it's a traditional royalty free track or the top hit on the Billboard list.