The Art of Clearing a Song

While we think that the perfect song for any project lies within our carefully curated, hand selected catalog of music, occasionally, a certain project will call for a  song that’s more difficult to get your hands on. Maybe it is performed by a widely known pop artist, or it’s a rare, vintage recording that only exists on the dusty shelves of an iconic record label. Few people know that in addition to helping find the perfect song for your project within the Marmoset catalog, our Team of Music Supervisors can also connect you with that seemingly unattainable song you simply need to have for your project through music clearance.

The process of tracking down these rights holders and negotiating terms is referred to as “clearing a song." Clearing a song is a lot like following crumbs to a hidden treasure.

“It really is like solving a puzzle,” says Madeline Dowling, Marmoset Music Supervisor. “There are a lot of pieces to track down and assemble and once you have them all you can achieve something really wonderful.”

The key players in a clearance are the rights holders of a song -- publishers, songwriters and artists. A music supervisor’s role is to get in touch with all of these players, negotiate rates and terms for the use and hopefully settle on a deal that both parties are happy with.

You can see how this can be a challenge, especially if the artist or songwriter you need to get ahold of is a major celebrity, or a hermit with no web presence. PRO databases are a good place to start, but their information can be incomplete and out of date. In an ideal world, every PRO has a list of contact information for each song, but, sometimes, that isn’t the case. This is where the detective part comes in. Supervisors use their connections, hunches and, well, internet stalking abilities to track down the right person.

“Tracking down writers can be really tough,” Madeline says. "I actually once spent a week tweeting at a songwriter every day until he finally checked Twitter and responded with contact info to clear his portion of the song."

The result? A magical marriage of picture and sound and another artist who gets to reap the benefits of their art and keep doing what they love. Mind you, this is an arduous process and if you’re dealing with a high profile artist, you are probably going to be working with a healthy budget. This is something to keep in mind when deciding to start the clearance process, but remember, it never hurts to ask.

Here’s an example that Madeline worked on for Patron Tequila. The short film takes the viewer through the lifecycle of an agave plant, marked by the 62 hands that guide it along. “Blow Your Mind” by hip-hop artist Ohana Bam is the song of choice, serving as an energetic sonic pairing to the story of the makers behind everyone’s favorite shot and proving to be well worth the treasure hunt it took to get there.

Posted on February 6, 2017 .