Music licensing for games

Music clearance for game developers and gamemusic producers.  Music consulting, music legal advice  and music contracts.

Copyrights, publishing rights, master rights.

Master Use & Sync License


types of musicTypes of Music

Decisive for the amount of money that must be paid to obtain the necessary licenses is what specific types of music the game developer chooses for his game. We can distinguish 4 types of music that largely determine the level of compensation for its use in the game.

1. Existing (hit)repertoire: This refers to commercial music, often performed by famous artists, available in stores or on the internet. In most countries, the artist's PRO will approach the copyright owners after receiving a clearance request. The main advantage of choosing existing top-40 repertoire is that the music is recognizable to the public. Disadvantages are that there may be no consent or the license fee is exorbitant, even for a non-exclusive license (there are no standard rates to use this type of music in an audio visual media project). Also, the whole music clearance process can be time consuming and deadlines may be compromised. It is recommended to keep precleared alternatives on hand.

When using a cover song i.e. recording and using your own version of a particulair hitparade song, just a sync license is enough to clear the (publishing) rights on the underlying musical work. A master use license is not needed.

2. Library Music (or stock music / production music): Music specifically produced for use in audio visual productions such as games. The music is often not exclusive. This means that other game makers can also use a particular track, which might prejudice the originality of the game itself. In other words, using non-exclusive music in your game might not always be the best choice from an audio branding point of view. Important advantages are that there is clarity in advance about the costs and that permission is always given by the composer/producer or his performance rights organization. In that sense, library music gives certainty.

3. Custom Made Music (or commissioned music): music that is custom made for the game (commissioned by the game studio), handcrafted to fit your every need. In this case licensing agreements can be made directly with the composer/producer (being usually a single person). The producer generally owns both master and publishing rights which makes the licensing process a lot easier.

Depending on the producer's country of origin, and whether or not he is affiliated to a particular performance rights organization, performance rights royalties must be paid directly to the producer, or to his PRO.

4. Royalty Free Music: Finally, there is the possibility to use royalty-free music from composers who are not a member of Ascap, Gema, PRS, Sesac, Buma, Sacem and similair PRO's. The term royalty free implies one does not have to deal with record companies or PRO's but only with the composer himself. In other worlds, the music usage fee can be arranged directly with the composer, because he is not affiliated. It is advisable to draft a written agreement, such as a master and sync license, in which everyone's rights and obligations are clearly stated. Both the game studio and the composer have to sign this agreement.

Public domain music is usually royalty free, at least for the publishing part (the underlying music work copyrights). Note that a specific arrangement or a recording of a public domain piece can contain copyrights.

Here at you can find music contracts, advice and information on music clearance and contract negotiation strategy, contract options, legal disclaimers, copyrights registration, inter-territorial licensing, publishing rights, remixes, sample clearance, mechanical rights, master rights, audio branding, performance rights, covers, upc and isrc codes, performing rights associations, royalties, royalty claims, legal labelcoaching, artist representation, the music supervision process, how to secure your brandname and more.

For more information about the various types of music, our services and rates email


Legal news, views, updates and headlines: