Friday 24 June 2011

What’s behind the weaving of a film song in the storyboard of an advertisement?

If you recall some of the television/radio advertisements, you would notice the usage/synchronization of film songs in the advertisements. Some examples from the recent past are:

Sr. No
Song Synchronized
Album Name
Maruti A-Star
Rock On
Rock On!
Kellogs Honey Loops
Love Mera Hit Hit
Billu Barber
Kellogs Honey Loops
Uff Teri Ada
Karthik Calling Karthik
Boro Plus Ice – Talcum Powder
All is Well
3 Idiots
Ponds White Beauty
Khuda Jaane
Bachna Ae Haseeno

What’s behind the weaving of a film song in the storyboard of an advertisement?
First, it’s the positive decision of the creative advertisement agency and approval of the same by the client, that a particular song is relevant to the brand, to the commercial, matches brand personality, and would help recall the brand and the advertisement.
Well, the second and the most important aspect of song synchronization is to avail the permission / license from the right’s holder of the song being synchronized in the ad.
This post will further elaborate the process of obtaining the necessary permissions from the right’s holder and different negotiation handles. Not to mention, content is a non-commoditized item and there is no Maximum Retail Price attached to it. The cost of the permission / license depends upon various parameters that you should know to negotiate the rate accordingly.
1)    Identify the Right’s Holder
The agency needs to find the Music Label which released the song that has to be incorporated in the brand commercial. Then the agency needs to contact the licensing / publishing cell of the Music Label and contact the person responsible for music licensing / music publishing or non-physical sales.  Once connected with the licensing department, the agency needs to tell the the purpose of the call, the name of the song and ask if they own 100% rights to the song selected for the commercial. 100% includes the sound recording and the publishing rights.

2)    Information required by the Music Label
These are the parameters basis which the Music Label will quote the price for granting the synchronization license. (Synchronization is the usage of the film song /tune / lyrics in the advertisement).

·         Name of the Product/Service
If the advertisement is for say Mahindra Verito, the name of the product will be Automobile / 4 Wheeler / Car etc.

·         Name of the Brand
If the advertisement is for say Mahindra Verito, the brand name will be Mahindra Verito.
Well, the Music Labels have their own reasons for enquiring the brand name, one it helps them to gauge the size of the brand that will enable them to understand how much they can charge to the brandJ, second the Music Label may not want to associate its song with a brand that connotes negative sentiments. This could affect the associated value of the song in the minds of the population thus affecting other revenue streams for the song.

·         Name of the Song to be Licensed
If the chosen song happens to be a popular number and a recent one, the cost of the synchronization license will be more as compared to a song that is say 2 – 3 years old.  Music Labels contend that they invest considerable monies to acquire the songs from the production studio and to make the song popular, the very reason for which the brand wants it in the advertisement.
So be prepared to shell a good amount for a popular and a recent number. Moreover if the commercial features a film star and the song chosen by the agency is filmed on the same film star, the Music Label will try to make utmost use of this opportunity and “co-incidence” and accordingly the charge will go up.

·         Usage Duration of the Song in the Said Advertisement
This refers to the synchronization duration of the film song in the said advertisement. This can be a continuous cut of 60 seconds from the soundtrack or 15 seconds looped 4 times or 6 pieces of 10 seconds cut from different parts of the soundtrack. For a Music Label, it’s 60 seconds of duration. Remember, lesser the duration, lesser the monies charged to the agency.

·         Usage Allowed - Only Audio of Original Sound Track
A song has many elements like, lyrics, tune, music (arrangement of instruments) and the final product that comes out as a sound recording. Sound recording is the one that we buy in a music store in the form CDs / DVDs. The price of the synchronization license therefore also depends on the element that the agency wants to incorporate in the advertisement.
E.g. The Agency may just want to use the song music and overlay it with their own lyrics, this is where the knowledge of whether the Music Label owns 100% rights or not kicks in. This is the license that falls under the realm of publishing rights. Only if the Music Label owns the publishing rights, they can extend it to the agency.

·         Campaign Duration
It is the duration for which the advertisement runs in the media. It has a positive relation with the price of the synchronization license. Usually the license duration equals the campaign duration.

·         Number of Media Vehicles
The number of media vehicles adopted for the campaign is positively related to the price of the synchronization license. Media vehicles could be Television, Radio, Internet, In-Cinema, Out of Home Digital Screens, Digital Signage etc. In the pegging order, Television occupies the highest place followed by Radio. Media vehicles apart from television and radio are treated at par.

·         Number of Advertisement Edits
Edits are commercials of lesser duration edited from a master commercial. For example if the original master commercial is of 60 seconds, it can have various edited versions of different duration say 15, 30, 45 seconds etc. The media agency may schedule different edits for different day parts / television channels / radio stations etc. The definition of edits also includes language translations. Numbers of edits are positively related to the price of the synchronization license.

·         Territory
Geo-regions covered by the campaign. Numbers of geo-regions are positively related to the price of the synchronization license.

These are some of the line items that determine the cost of a song for ad synchronization. Some line items may not picture in negotiations at all. Probably the Music Label may just quote a lump sum amount and give a free hand to the agency for using the song in the commercial.

The method outlined here is not a clinical formula. There could be different permutations and combinations of it and would also depend upon the persona of the people involved in the negotiations.

3)    Documentation to close the Loop
Generally in India, the entertainment industry works on the concept of advance payments. Once the agency has negotiated the price of the synchronization license with the Music Label, the Music Label will ask the agency to pay the negotiated license fee before the advertisement goes on-air. The Music Label will also issue a license to the agency / client printed on its letter head, stamped, and signed by the authorized signatory. Among other things, the license will mention most of the points covered in this post such as the purpose of the license, duration of the license, media vehicle covered, etc.
I wanted to share as much as possible with the readers of this post, however if you feel that I did not cover any specific point that you would like to be covered, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. As always, if you have time, please drop a line.


  1. Vivek Golani26 June, 2011

    Hey Himanshu, this is indeed valuable info.

  2. "Zandu balm" in Dabanng is also a good example.

  3. Hi Himanshu, i must commend your research, analysis and information provided on this blog. To deviate from the modus operandi of using film songs in TVCs, i would like to discuss on apparent ROI, this trend generates.

    To begin with, What is the first visual that comes to mind on hearing the song 'Kaate Nahi Kat te' and the song 'Kuch Khaas hain, Hum sabhi mein..' The former reminds of Sridevi & Anil Kapoor than of Kit Kat and the latter though a decade old still reminds of Cadbury Diary Milk. With popular songs, there are already lot of memories associated like actors, locations, film, etc. For a brand to become protagonist for the song, it has to replace/erase the visuals/memories already associated with the songs. The struggle for the brand increases. Looking at the investments involved in using a film song, it is better to create an original track that evokes the brand essence as effortlessly as the film songs are intended to do. Moreover, the usage of original track is multiple (corporate/brand theme music, etc.) Unless the original compositions cannot do justice for the brand and/or only film songs can convey brand feelings, you should opt for TVCs with film songs.

    To conclude, what defines coca cola.. The jingles, 'Always Cola Cola', 'Thanda matlab coca cola' or songs 'Aaj ki raat' or 'Tum Jo Mil gaye Ho'?

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