Delivery Requirements – Music Cue Sheets and Royalties

   By Sarah C   Categories: Career AdviceRecording

The last document that the music editor is responsible for is the music cue sheet, which is a document listing of all of the music in the film or TV show. Once completed, it is how composers, artists, songwriters, and music libraries receive performance royalties for the broadcast, cablecast, or Internet VOD programming, etc., of their music. Note that in North America, theatrical (movie theater) performances and exhibitions of a movie’s soundtrack do not pay these kinds of royalties.

Picture by Flickr user by Charlie Chaplin: du muet au parlant.

Picture by Flickr user by Charlie Chaplin: du muet au parlant.

First, it is important to note that because these cue sheets become legal documents, the music editor should title the music cue sheet as Preliminary Music Cue Sheet—the music editor is not an attorney and should not be responsible for claiming the information in the cue sheet as legally binding. The music editor simply gives their information to the legal department, which in turn compiles the legal music cue sheet. This is then distributed to all the pertinent performance rights organizations (PROs), such as BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, and many others around the world. Many of these organizations have a web presence describing their individual style of collections, payments, and cue sheet information. The cue sheet can be delivered to the film’s postproduction company and directed specifically to their attorney or legal affairs agent. Common document formats are created as Microsoft Word or Excel documents, or possibly a PDF file. Each film company may have its own template that it requests the music editor fill in with pertinent information. It is a good idea for the music editor to retain copies of the music cue sheets, in both paper form and digitally, for any future questions. In addition, it is a good idea to keep the master Pro Tools sessions.

On the final dub, the music re-recording mixer often fades in and fades out music, occasionally editing as needed in the movie. In this case, the music editor acquires the mixer’s final session with the music, and uses that material, comparing it to the final printmaster stems to determine the correct information for the music cue sheet. If the music editor cannot gain access to the mixer’s session, they must still use the final music printmaster stems, along with their music “stage” session, to determine individual cue information, such as accurate length, usage, and timing of all the music. The music editor is actually one of the few and sometimes the only person with access to the Pro Tools session containing the final usages and lengths of the music cues, these being the two major parts of the cue sheet that determine the amount of money paid to the composers and publishers.

Excerpt from Music Editing for Film and Television by Steven Saltzman © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author

Steven Saltzman, MPSE is a music editor and composer based in Los Angeles, CA. He received his Bachelors of Music in composition and film scoring from Berklee College of Music and is a certified Avid Pro Tools instructor. He has been editing music for film and television for the past eighteen years. In addition, Steven has lectured nationally, and he has created and taught numerous music editing courses. A recipient of a Golden Reel Award for music editing, Saltzman is also a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, the Society of Composers and Lyricists, and he sits on the board of the Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild.


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