Music, Money, Success & the Movies: Part Four
By Jeffrey Brabec and Todd Brabec
MUSIC CUE SHEETS AND THEIR IMPORTANCE
After a motion picture has been produced and a final version has been edited, the producer will prepare a music cue sheet.
The cue sheet lists:
- All of the music used in the film
- How the music was used
- Its timing in seconds
- The identity of the writers and music publishers
- Writers and publishers performing rights affiliation
- If pre-existing master recordings have been used, the identity of recording artists and record companies
The cue sheet is the cornerstone of all royalty payments for a film. Considering the amount of music used in most films, this cue sheet is usually completed within 30 days after theatrical release, but depending on the producer and available staff, it can be longer.
Some music cue sheets contain scene explanations and dialogue details, but most cue sheets do not have specific scene reference points as to how and when music is used in a motion picture. Most contain only chronological information on the titles, writers, publishers, performance right membership, master recording information, timing (20 seconds, two minutes, etc.) and generic usage (visual vocal, underscore, etc.) without detailed scene descriptions.
Since performing right organizations and other representatives of rights holders use music cue sheets to determine how music is used, who owns the music and how much in royalty payments are to be made when a film is aired on television or shown in a theater, it is essential that a cue sheet be completed accurately. Because a motion picture uses so much music in so many ways (underscore, visual vocals, background vocals, background instrumentals, opening and closing themes, etc.), it is not unusual for mistakes to be made on cue sheets, whether it be a false timing, a mislabeling of a songs use or an incorrect identification of the writer and publisher and their performance rights affiliation. By reviewing a copy of the cue sheet, the writer and publisher can correct any inaccuracies before the producer distributes the cue sheet to performance right and other organizations throughout the world. To this effect, many background composer contracts specifically state that the composer will be involved in the preparation of the cue sheet.
Scoring a film or having a song in a film can provide a lifetime of earnings to a composer or songwriter. In addition to the initial writing or synchronization fee, composers and songwriters can earn royalties from many sources including record, CD and tape sales (mechanicals), U.S. and foreign television, cable and radio performances, theater performances, downloads, streaming and artist and record producer royalties, among others. In order though to make sure you receive what you are due, you must know what is in the contracts you are signing, the many considerations involved, and the areas that are open for negotiation as well as those that are standard for everyone. Writing for film involves creativity but it also involves a multi-billion dollar worldwide business. Knowledge of how the business works is essential for success in this area.
© 2007 Todd Brabec, Jeff Brabec
For more information, check out the book Music, Money and Success: The Insider's Guide To Making Money In The Music Business (Schirmer Trade Books/Music Sales/502 pages) available for sale at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Music Sales Group and www.musicandmoney.com.