It's no secret that licensing music by well known artists can be expensive. That doesn't mean rights to the music are always out of reach or unattainable.
If you have an independent project with at least a 5 figure budget that is commercial release quality and could benefit from having music by a popular artist in it, you should consider requesting pre-approval and a license quote from each music rights owner.
Here are a few factors that can make music by a well known artist affordable...
𝗥𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗴𝘆: if you have an independent film releasing to the film festival circuit initially, then it's possible to request festival only rights for a music license. This can drastically cut costs for even the most well known popular music if approved for use. Oftentimes these festival only licensing rates can be less than $2,000 USD for a 6 month or 1 year term.
I will typically negotiate options within these types of festival agreements that allow my clients the opportunity to pay a locked-in fee for larger distribution rights for use of the music once they plan to release it to theaters and streaming platforms.
Online only - if you plan to release your video, film or podcast only online (meaning sites like YouTube, podcast platforms etc.) music licensing rates can be less expensive vs larger distribution. I have personally secured music rights for these types of projects in the $4000 to $6000 range for 10 or more year terms.
𝗧𝗲𝗿𝗺 𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗴𝘁𝗵𝘀: the amount of time you license the music for can be a major factor in making well known music more affordable. If 12 years is over budget then 10 years could be just right or maybe 5 years is the sweet spot. Yes, you will have a shorter runway before having to purchase a new license. The film or project will have had time to earn revenue over that period of years which can help offset costs.
This is another area where I try to always negotiate a locked-in rate for my clients within the original licensing agreement. This way they know exactly what the cost will be to purchase a license for additional years without any fear of it changing during the initial agreement term.
𝗧𝗲𝗿𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆: if you are based in and created your film or project in the U.S. an additional way to keep things more affordable is releasing only in the U.S. to start. In music licensing this also helps cut down on potentially more complicated clearance hurdles considering oftentimes well known music can have sub-publishers in different territories around the world. This can delay the clearance process due to various factors like international copyright laws, language barriers etc.
Keep in mind every situation is different based on the project and the rights owners involved. Music licensing requests can be denied by just one rights owner and that will typically make the song unclearable.
A single rights owner can also demand a higher rate than all other rights owners involved and cause the overall cost to increase due to MFN which most music publishers and labels require these days.
The best way to know for sure is make contact with the rights owners, tell them about your project and ask for a quote. I do this daily for my clients and would be happy to help out with your project if needed.