Cover That Song: One Way To Get Your Music Licensed For Film And Television

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Photo by Jeffrey


This Flavorwire article about the 20 Most Overused Songs in Movies and TV made me laugh this morning. As a former film and television music supervisor, I have been asked on multiple occasions to clear and license the below songs for projects.

In films, the songs don’t always end up making it into the final cut. Sometimes the director will decide that the well-known song is overused or, often, not worth price tag, and sometimes someone from the crew (i.e., the music supervisor) will gently suggest that perhaps a less overplayed song would be better for the scene. And sometimes there is a compromise: the song is licensed, but another recording of it is used.



In advertising, the search often is more focused on thematic elements. It’s not uncommon to get a brief that calls for something “quirky,” which could mean anything, but often means something happy/feel-good or driving, something catchy, and something positive that doesn’t sound like it came from the bottom shelf of a music library. Commonly requested themes include “brand new day” or “sweet and juicy,” and yes, the below songs do turn up on list in brainstorming sessions. In those cases, unless a client absolutely insists on paying for the original recording, which may well be unavailable because of exclusivity clauses from prior licensing activity, the music director will search for cover versions of the song. 


So why don’t music supervisors just license more original music from indie bands? To be very clear, my friends who work in music supervision are some of the most passionate supporters of independent music that I know. They care immensely about music and musicians, and often used to (or still do) play in bands themselves. However, the creative process calls multiple decision-makers, and the music supervisor is not the sole voice in the process. Moreover, the well-known song is a necessity for certain film/television scenes that rely on the song for a historical reference or draw on the song as a cultural touchpoint, or for certain advertisements where the brand wishes to benefit from the recognizability of an iconic song.

When a music supervisor is conducting a search in iTunes for “What A Wonderful World”, it might benefit you, the independent musician, to have your version come up in the results. Even if your version doesn’t end up being used, someone in charge of creative saw your name and probably listened to your music. If you end up in enough searches, get name-checked in enough articles and turn up in enough direct pitches, you will eventually find a way to cut through the noise. 

If I were an independent musician, I would consider listening to some of the versions of “What A Wonderful World” online and then, if there are no good versions available or no versions of a certain variety (e.g., female vocal), I would record my own version and put it out there.

If you’re a musician who is reluctant to record cover songs because of the licensing costs, it’s worth noting that you can do so for no upfront cost by uploading your music to Loudr for distribution on Loudr or other platforms like iTunes. We handle the licensing and clearance for purposes of digital distribution, and if/when you actually sell downloads of your music, we pay out the appropriate royalties to the music publishers that own the songs. And in the event that someone does stumble upon your version of “Fade Into You” and decides it’s good for the WB, they’ll contact you to license the master. 

Flavorwire’s 20 Most Overused Songs in Movies and TV

“Fade Into You”
“Carmina Burana”
“Gimme Shelter”
“Wolly Bully”
“London Calling”
“Sweet Home Alabama”
“For What It’s Worth”
“All Along the Watchtower”
“Bad Moon Rising”
“Angel”
“Have a Little Faith in Me”
“True”
“What a Wonderful World”
“You Make My Dreams”
“Oh Yeah”
“Born to Be Wild”
“Bad to the Bone”
“Low Rider”
“Kung Fu Fighting”
“Stayin’ Alive”

  1. fiddleabout reblogged this from loudrnotes
  2. stopbeforei reblogged this from loudrnotes
  3. laughingacademy reblogged this from julstorres and added:
    I am AMAZED that “Sympathy for the Devil” didn’t make that list.
  4. e-awai reblogged this from loudrnotes and added:
    Hmm. Cover writing is good arranging practice.
  5. julstorres reblogged this from helens78
  6. enterlinemedia reblogged this from loudrnotes
  7. helens78 reblogged this from peterhollens and added:
    Oh, man, I wish more music supervisors would license more indie music! Alternately, I would be happy if people would...
  8. rikonius reblogged this from peterhollens
  9. peterhollens reblogged this from loudrnotes
  10. rhondassongs reblogged this from loudrnotes
  11. music4robots reblogged this from annielin and added:
    Love this idea.
  12. garychou reblogged this from annielin
  13. annielin reblogged this from loudrnotes
  14. itsaversayce reblogged this from loudrnotes and added:
    Really interesting stuff!