How To License Music

About Universal Music Publishing Group

Universal Music Publishing is the world’s leading music publisher, with offices in 47 countries including the Netherlands, UK, US, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia, Italy, South Africa and throughout Asia.

The following FAQs explain a little more about licensing music through UMPG.


What rights do I need to clear to use a song in my video? Publishing vs Master

When you are looking to synchronise a song with any visuals there are two separate rights that you need to clear:

- The first are the Publishing Rights which are for the composition and lyrics and can be licensed from the music publisher(s) who represent the writer(s) of the song.

- The second set of rights you need to clear are the Master Rights which are for the actual sound recording and can be licensed from the record label who represent the artist who recorded the song.

Let's use the song 'White Christmas', written by Irving Berlin as an example. Universal Music Publishing control the publishing rights to this song but if you wanted to use the Bing Crosby recording of 'White Christmas', as well as approaching Universal Music Publishing, you would also need to clear this with Universal Records who own the master recording. Or if you were to you decide to use Michael Buble's version, then his recording is owned by Warner Records so you would need their permission. Whichever recording you used, you would always need the publishers permission i.e. UMPG in this case.

How can I check who owns Publishing and Master Rights for a song?

To check who holds publishing rights you can contact Buma/Stemra and for master rights you can check online with several streaming platforms like I-Tunes. Information may also be inside the CD cover which will often advise of publishers and the record label.

I’m based in the Netherlands and want to use a Universal Publishing song in my video, what happens next?

1. If the song is a Universal Music Publishing copyright then you will need to contact our licensing team via licensing.benelux@umusic.com, letting us know what song you are looking to use and a brief description of your project.

2. We will then be able to confirm our share of the publishing and send through the appropriate synchronisation form.

3. Based on the information that is provided, we will then send through a ballpark quote for the use which would be strictly subject to final writer approval.

4. If you would like to proceed to clearance based on the terms of our quote we will then send out for the relevant writer approvals.

5. If the request is approved we would then issue our formal approval along with a request for contracting and invoicing details. All approvals are subject to final contract so the use should only proceed once all paperwork is completed.

6. Please note, we cannot guarantee your request will be approved by our writers.

What if I’m not based in the Netherlands?

All requests will need to be handled by the local Universal Music Publishing (UMPG) office as the contracting party. Our office handles requests for the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. If you are unsure of your local office you can have a look at the map on our Contact page.

Master licensing requests for Belgium are handled by the Universal Music Belgium office. You can contact dirk.van.der.Auwera@umusic.com

I’m not sure if I will use the song yet but just want a quote?

Our fees are based on the terms that you request and so our synchronisation form will need to be completed before we are able to provide a ballpark quote. It is only once you accept the ballpark quote that we would proceed to clearance.

How long does it take to seek clearance?

As a rule of thumb we generally advise to allow a minimum of 2 weeks, although the vast majority of our catalogue can be cleared in a shorter time frame. This is only a guide and request times can vary depending on which song you are looking to use or even the type of request.

How can I speed up the process?

The main way to ensure your request isn’t delayed is by providing as much information as possible. If we need to go back and forth to confirm details this may slow the process down. So for films provide for example a Synopsis (in English) or a link to the scene and as much information how the track will be used. For commercials moodboards, link to edits etc are helpful. Please keep in mind that we need to contact the right owners for approval and we can not guarantee feedback in time.

In case the ballpark quote states the fee is MFN, what does that mean?

Generally songs can have more than one writer and we may not represent 100% of the writers. Our ballpark quote will outline the total percentage included the percentage that we control for the requested song. If it is specified that our quote is based on 100% then if approved by all parties (co publishers) our Dutch society Buma/Stemra will sent an invoice representing all publishers involved. They will make sure that all parties will get the right percentage.

The ballpark quote also states the fee is MFN, what does that mean?

Most Favoured Nations (MFN) ensures parity between the rights holders. If the specified rights holder (co-publisher and/or master) quote higher, then our fee should be raised to at least equal theirs. You will pay a fee for the use of the publishing (copyright) and a fee for the master.

A few other handy bits of information:

- Some songs can be more difficult to clear than others so it can also be a good idea to prepare an alternative song in the event that we are unable to secure approval for your request.

- When a copyright is controlled by different publishers, you will need to contact them yourself separately. You will need approval from all parties before use of the song in your project. You can contact Buma/Stemra for the right contact information.

- When you don’t have a big budget for music, then we advise you to have a look in the unippm catalogue.  You can contact mascha.cerfontaine@umusic.com for more information.

- If you are looking to use lyrics or music scores for one of our international songs then you can contact Music Sales who handle print requests on our behalf.

- Universal Music Publishing copyrights requests regarding adaptions, samples, remixes, lyrics and scores can be sent to licensing.benelux@umusic.com. Requests regarding Universal masters can be sent to Universal Music.

- Questions regarding straight covers, please contact our Dutch society Buma/Stemra.