Music Synchronization License: What is it & When Do I Need One?

Music synchronization is when you hear a particular song featured in a form of visual media, such as a film or advertisement. Oftentimes, those songs are then associated with the visual media, which can boost both the movie and the song’s popularity. As it stands though, there is a process to obtaining such songs or compositions to be used as copyright law protects them.


Recording copyrights have two components to them. There is a copyright over the “master” sound recording, the actual studio recording of the song, most often owned by a record label, as well as the composition, written by a songwriter and administered by a music publisher.


What is a Music Synchronization License?

A music synchronization license, as the name implies, is a license an audio/visual producer must obtain from a music publisher in order to have a song played during any form of visual media without violating its copyright.

The license, often called a sync license, requires one flat fee. As long as the producers do not violate the boundaries stipulated in the license, the song may be used as many times as mentioned in the license for its specific license period.

However, the license must be obtained for each copyright on the song. A music synchronization license only allows a producer to sync the song with the visual media, while a Master use license obtains the rights to reproduce the song on air.

The cost of the license also varies. Producers do not always need the entire song, just snippets long enough to warrant a sync license. However, there are also cases when an entire song is used, most often for a film, and there is a special license that may be used in those cases.

Audio producers will use a hybrid license that allows the company first usage of the song, in return for covering all costs. Once the license expires, the rights to the music return to the record labels and songwriters. Costs for these hybrid licenses also varies, as they depend on what context the song is being used for.

If songs are to be used in the opening or ending sequences of a visual media, then the license will be sold at a higher price due to their importance relative to a song that is inserted in the middle of a visual media.


Why Are Sync Licenses Important?

Music synchronization licenses are important for a few reasons. For the producer, these licenses ensure that whatever form of visual media they are creating will not violate copyright law.

For musicians and composers, sync licenses are important because it allows them to be properly compensated for the work they have created. On top of that, additional performance royalties will be paid even after the license expires, when the song is aired, ensuring visibility and awareness for the music.



When Do I Need a Sync License?

For producers, music synchronization licenses should be obtained before the first screening of any visual media, particularly for films. If it is screened before the license is obtained, it will be in violation of copyright and therefore breaching the law. 


Need a music sync license? Music lawyer, Sam Mollaei, Esq., from Mollaei Law can be reached @ (818) 925-0002 or by visiting


This post is written by Maggie Pa, a UCLA Class of 2017 student with vast experience in social media and marketing.