How To License Music

Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) is a leading global music publisher with 47 offices in 45 countries. Headquartered in Los Angeles, UMPG represents music across every genre from some of the world’s most important songwriters and catalogues.

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.
When and if the use of the song is fully approved, and you are going to put the video on your own company website then you must also contact STIM (SE) TONO (NO) KODA (DK) TEOSTO (FI) STEF (IS) and separately for a performance license to cover any online uses. 

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

To check who holds publishing rights you can contact your local Performing Rights Organization, for example STIM (SE), TONO (NO), KODA (DK), TEOSTO (FI), STEF (IS) and for master rights you can check with IFPI, (SE), (NO), (DK), (FI), (IS). Information may also be inside the CD cover, on Spotify or iTunes which will often advise of publishers and the record label.

I’m based in the Nordic Countries or Baltic Countries and want to use a Universal Music Publishing song in my film/commercial, what happens next?

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

2. We will then be able to confirm our share of the publishing and send through the appropriate synchronization form. 
Or download forms for local version, sample and synch requests here:
Local version request form
Sample request form
Sync request form (TV, Film etc.)
Sync request form (Grand Rights)
Sync request form (Commercial)
To download the documents, click file → download as and choose preferred format.

3. Based on the information that is provided, we will then send through a ballpark quote (an estimated usage fee) for the use which would be strictly subject to final writer approval. 
Please note that our approval is based on 100% of the publishing share only. 
The master may be separately negotiated.

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/agreement 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.

Is the end client based in the Nordic Countries or Baltic Countries?

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

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

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.

The ballpark quote states the fee is “based on 100%”, 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 percentage that we control for the requested song. If it is specified that our quote is based on 100% then if approved we would only invoice for the percentage that we control.

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 or master) quote higher, then our fee should be raised to at least equal theirs.

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.

- Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) and Universal Records (UMG) operate independently from each other. If the publishing and master rights are Universal Publishing and also Universal Records you will still need to contact each company separately.

- If you are looking to release a cover song on CD or digitally then this can generally be licensed through NCB.

- If you are looking to use lyrics or music scores for one of our songs then you can contact Hal Leonard who handle print requests on our behalf for the World excluding Sweden/Norway/Finland/Iceland.
For the Nordic countries mentioned above, please contact our local print agency Gehrmans.  

Back to Film & TV