Music Glossary: Production Music Uncovered


Licensing music can often be a confusing labyrinth of terms and restrictions. We're going to unravel some of the jargon here so that next time you need to clear music rights, you will hopefully find it less daunting.


What We'll Cover

Available Music Types             Musical Rights             Copyright Jargon             Musical Terms             Acronym Corner
Production (Library) Music             Synchronisation Rights             Cue Sheets             Stems/Stings             PRS
Commercial Music             Dubbing (Master) Rights             Incidental Inclusion             Underscore             MCPS
Specially Composed Music             Public Performance Rights             Parodies                           PPL
Royalty Free Music             Performing Rights                            


Let's start by looking at some of the music options available to you and your production, and then we'll start to examine the more specific aspects of production music.


Available Music Types

Production (Library) Music

Production music (also known as library or stock music) is written especially for use with a film or picture. The library selling the music will usually own all of the rights, meaning no further permission is required from its composer or other publishers and record labels.

With most libraries you will need to know where the music is going to be used, to ensure your licence covers all the rights you need. Make sure you read carefully where you can use the music and understand exactly what your licence covers.

Audio Network differs from most libraries in that it issues one central licence which covers all the music you use for global multi-platform use and distribution in perpetuity. Contact us for more information.

Commercial Music

This term covers all kinds of commercially available music, from Rolling Stones to Coldplay, Ed Sheeran to Michael Jackson. This music would have been written primarily to be listened to, rather than synchronised with picture.

Generally speaking the better-known the performer and track, the more it will cost. There are no set fees for commercial music, and all rates are negotiable.

Under current EU Law, if the composer(s) died more than 70 years ago, then the music is usually no longer in copyright and you won't need a synch license, though sound copyright may still need clearing. (Always check to confirm)

Specially Composed Music

This is music scored especially and exclusively for your production. It can be expensive and there are no fixed rates so it's a question of agreeing a fee.

Audio Network provides this service and can advise on the costs, best composers to work with and the different ways of approaching the project.

Contact us for more details and assistance.

Buyout Music/Royalty Free Music

This term Royalty Free Music is used to describe the type of library which allows you to buy music and then use it as much as you like in productions.

It is important to read the small print to know the limits of where the production can be used and distributed.

Audio Network does not offer Royalty-Free Music.


Musical Rights


Synchronisation (Synch) Rights

These give you the right to synchronise a musical composition with your film. A ‘synch’ licence is usually obtained from the publisher of the music you wish to use, and is required whatever the type of music you are using.

The only exception to this is music which is public domain (usually where the composer has died more than 70 years ago). Even when you have secured a synch licence you will still require a dubbing/master licence covering the sound recording of the musical composition you wish to use.

Dubbing (Master) Rights

Dubbing, or Master Rights give you the right to dub (or use) the sound recording of a musical work onto your film. The sound recording copyright is usually owned by the record company that released the recording, and the owner can usually be identified from a ℗ symbol in the sleeve notes.

It's important to clear both the dubbing and synch rights to the piece of music you want to use. Most music will have rights in the composition and separate rights in the sound recording.

Public Performance Rights

The right to make a public performance of the music in your film is usually the responsibility of the broadcaster in each territory. The broadcaster will negotiate a blanket licence with the collection societies responsible for the composition and sound recording in their territory.

In the UK PRS for Music licenses the public performance of musical compositions, and PPL sound recordings. Public performance licences are also required for web sites, trade fairs etc., and these are the responsibility of the web site owner or venue.

Both the sound recording and the musical work are automatically cleared as part of our general licence.


Copyright Jargon


Cue Sheets

A cue sheet is a record of every piece of music used in your production, and includes details of the title, composer, publisher, record label and duration to enable the broadcaster to report the music use to PRS and PPL.

It is the producer's responsibility to deliver full cue sheets for each programme, as part of their broadcasting licence agreement. If you don't complete the cue sheets there can be penalty payments which the broadcaster may want to pass to the producer to pay.

Contact us for more details.

Incidental Inclusion

You have to clear every second of music on your production, including music that is playing in shot.

Make sure you've covered every bit of music that is audible on the soundtrack, even 'incidental' music such as playing from a radio in shot.


When a piece of music is created, the composer automatically has control over how the work is used - the 'copyright'.

Parodies are often considered derogatory, and therefore if they are done without the publisher or composer's approval, legal action can follow swiftly.


Musical Terms



Stems are provided so that editors can create their own mixes. For orchestral music we generally make stems of strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion so you can use whichever elements you need.

Stings, bumpers and hits are very short (8 seconds or less) edits of a track for use as alternative endings or as the ‘bits’ for an editor to have.


This is a track with the melody/tune taken out so it can be used to sit quietly under voice over or effects without distracting.

You will see that almost all Audio Network tracks have an underscore version available.

Acronym Corner


The Performing Rights Society (now PRS for Music) is the UK royalty collection society responsible for licensing the public performance of musical compositions, on television, online, in shops, pubs, clubs and concert venues.

Other societies known collectively as Performing Rights Organisations (PROs) collect in other territories:

  • ASCAP or BMI in the US
  • SACEM in France
  • GEMA in Germany


The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society is the UK royalty collection society responsible for licensing the copying of musical compositions onto CDs, DVDs and via online downloads.

You’ll usually need a licence from MCPS if you’re selling copies of your production or a soundtrack album.


Phonographic Performance Limited is the UK royalty collection society that licenses public performances of sound recordings. Broadcasters license this right from PPL. Shops and offices also have a licence to cover playing music in public.

DISCLAIMER: this information is intended as a guide. Always obtain independent legal advice if you are in any doubt about using music with your production.

See also:
Copyright free music
Library music
License free music
Music copyright
Music licensing
Music rights
Needle drop music
Non-copyrighted music
Royalty free music explained
Stock music


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