Week 4 Blog: Moral rights, synchronization and licensing all in a publishers day’s work

As has been relayed before in my previous blogs that the MI is a business within the new music economy different from conventional business. In order for any musician to be successful or to earn a living, they must be able to understand, moral rights, synchronization and licensing relinquishing various aspects of those rights to Music Publishers (MP). MP role is to negotiate fair remuneration with licensees on behalf of musicians. However Rutter (2016) states not all songwriters need or want a music publisher as it dependent on the level they are working at.

Very often musician’s utopia is wrapped in the notion that “There is nothing to compare to the rush of standing onstage, sweaty, excited, bathed in hot colored lights and belting out your songs to an enthusiastic audience” (Davis and Laing, 2006, p.2). In this notion most musicians fail to realise that they a business and must see themselves as such.

Wikström (2013) argues, that music is an integral part of most media and the demand for music licensing has increased. Similarly, Biermans (2007) states synchronization, is a lucrative revenue stream of intellectual property (IP). Fees are paid to the copyright holder in various ways:

  • One-time buy-out in perpetuity and without restrictions
  • Limited buy-out fee with no further royalties for a specified time
  • Per-carrier sold basis often applied for home videos, tapes and DVDs
  • Per-episode basis used in television theme songs
  • Limited duration in time: used in commercials for either 1,3 or 5 years.

Musicians and songwriters as creators must view themselves as a product. They must be aware of moral rights that protect in a non-economic nature, keep an eye out for favorable terms after licensing of their music (Futureofmuisc, 2016). Bernstein et al, (2013) states that many recording and publishing contracts will include language that cleverly gets creators to waive their moral rights in a bid to exploit and may use vague language concerning consent for substantial adaptations.

“While mechanical royalties have diminished along with the physical sales of record music, both performance and synchronization royalties have increased since the turn of the millennium” (Wikström, 2013, p.94).


Bernstein, A., Sekine, N. and Weissman, D. (2013). The Global Music Industry. 1st ed. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Biermans, H. (2007). The music industry: The practical guide to understanding the essentials. 1st ed. London: DSS publishing.

Davis, S. and Laing, D. (2006). 2nd ed. London: The continuum international publishing group inc.

Futureofmusic.org. (2017). Moral Rights for Musicians: A Primer | Future of Music Coalition. [online] Available at: https://futureofmusic.org/blog/2016/05/10/moral-rights-musicians-primer [Accessed 13 Mar. 2017].

Rutter, P. (2016). The music industry handbook. 2nd ed. Oxon: Routledge.

Weissman, D. (2010). 1st ed. London: Prentice Hall.

Wikström, P. (2013). The music industry: Digital media and society series. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.



1 thought on “Week 4 Blog: Moral rights, synchronization and licensing all in a publishers day’s work

  1. I really found this post engaging. I like how you emphasise the idea of musicians needing to see themselves as a business, and how songwriters should see their work as a product. You also made an interesting point in regards to moral rights where artists should be able to use language concerning consent for substantial adaptations. I think it would be beneficial to find a current moral rights issue within the music industry and mention that in the post by linking it to some of your points.


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