Buying exclusive rights to a song

A good customer of ours asked me about something that’s very different to exclusive rights to using a backing track – he asked about obtaining sole rights to the use of a song from the original songwriter/author (i.e. so that no-one else can sing or perform that particular song). The process of doing this is a minefield and incredibly expensive and that’s if you can get a songwriter to sign away his rights to his song in the first place – getting a songwriter to sign away his songs is like asking him for his firstborn LOL…!

Hi Kenny,
after you have pointed out all the pitfalls I think we are going to have to make up our own songs. It is so expensive to get the rights! However I would like you to make the backing track. 

Hi Kola

No problem, we can make the backing track of the song for you and give you exclusive rights to use the backing track.

Regarding getting exclusive rights to the actual song itself, yes, obtaining exclusive copyrights to a song can be VERY expensive.

Music licensing is big business and a songwriter isn’t going to sell his song for pennies if it’s making him thousands in royalties.

Even a song which is not universally popular, doesn’t currently earn much in royalties, or wasn’t originally a particularly big seller when it was first written won’t come cheap. This is because it’s not uncommon for a song to become a big money spinner for the songwriter many, many years after he originally wrote the song.

An example of this is the song “Hey baby” written by Margaret Cobb and Bruce Channel. It was written in 1961 but it was 40 years later before it really became a worldwide smash hit and unexpectedly sold millions when it was covered by an Austrian singer called DJ Otzi (it was used in the closing credits of the 2001 movie “Kangaroo Jack”).

Just imagine if Margaret Cobb and Bruce Channel had sold the rights to that song in, say, the eighties, believing that 20 years after they’d wrote it it would probably never generate any revenue again – they’d be kicking themselves! Who would have thought that the song “Hey baby” would have sat around for 40 years doing very little and then in 2001 all of a sudden rocket to popularity again and make the songwriters millions.

That’s why songwriters are very unwilling to give away the rights to their songs.

It also lays bare one of the biggest secrets of the music business – the big money in music is in song writing.