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What is the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive deals with music library?

A music library is a company that sells and licenses music for TV shows, advertisements, movies, or games.

In recent years, it has become common practice for such licensing to be done through music libraries and publishers, making it difficult for individual artists and writers to create their own contracts.

Providing music to international music libraries

On the contrary, clients can use these music for their projects with a peace of mind - they can secure safety with the music and if anything does occur, the music library can intervene and help assist with the issues with rights.

In other words, registering in the music library can be a shortcut to obtain licensing.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of contracts with music libraries: exclusive and non-exclusive.

In many cases, the contract is created per song.

Here I would like to explain the difference between these two contracts.


Only companies that have signed a contract can sell songs for licensing.

It is not possible to ask other libraries, publishers, sync agencies, etc. to handle or sell contracted songs. Also, you cannot license songs directly to the media without going through a contract company.

*Usually, exclusive contracts do not include restrictions on so-called artist activities, such as releases, distribution, and posting on Youtube and other social media platforms.

(However, restrictions will depend on the actual contract, so please check directly with the library when signing a contract.)


It is possible to entrust songs to multiple library companies and request sales for licensing.

It is also possible for artists themselves to license songs directly to the media without going through a contract company.

Why and when it should be exclusive

When comparing the above two, I think there are many people who feel that the non-exclusive contract, which has more space for freedom, is more advantageous. However, we licensors are pushing for exclusive agreements to open up more licensing opportunities due to the following reasons:

1. Music can be included in the blanket contract that each TV station is doing, including Netflix.

A blanket contract is a contract in which the TV station pays a fixed annual amount to the library company, and can freely use the required number of songs from the provided catalog (blanket) when needed.

The songs that can be included in this blanket are basically only songs with exclusive contracts.

To understand this reason, it is important to look at it from the perspective of the TV station.

For example, a production company signs a non-exclusive blanket deal with a particular library company. Because the contract was non-exclusive, that song can be available to another library company for purchase even though the production company has already paid for it.

Such cases can cause trouble for both parties, which is why only exclusive contracts are covered to avoid such situations.

2. Contracts can be made with sub-publishers for each country around the world.

Each country or region has sub-publishers that are great in licensing.

For example, even major library companies that license a lot of Japanese TV shows find it very difficult to license songs for TV shows in Africa.

Therefore, the library company seeks opportunities for the songs to be used more often, and in many cases contracts and forms partnerships with sub-publishers in each region, such as company A in the United States, company B in Europe, and company C in Africa. Usually in these situations the sub-publisher only accepts exclusive deals.

This means that sales in that area should be left to a single contracted sub-publisher.

(If the song is covered by multiple libraries, it becomes difficult to deal with sub-publishers.)

3. You can keep the value of the song by eliminating conflicts with other libraries.

For library companies, songs not found in other libraries are valuable. For example, in an advertisement project, if the client is allowed to pitch or propose only 5 songs, the library will preferentially present exclusive songs.

About exclusive contract by area

As mentioned above, signing contracts with sub-publishers in each area will increase your chances of obtaining licensing.

However, what if, for example, your sales and licensing in Japan are going well and you want to increase your overseas-only licensing opportunities?

In this case, it seems the most realistic and effective way is to make an exclusive contract for each area. In other words, you are entrusting those contracted companies with sales outside of Japan.

Fundamentally, the concept of conducting sales activities in each area exists in the licensing business, so it is possible to proceed with this agreement very smoothly.

About the contract period

The industry standard is 2 to 5 years. Broadcast blanket deals like Netflix and NBC are also based on multi-year contracts.

In conclusion

In order to increase licensing opportunities, the contract with the library and the content of the contract that accompanies it are very important. Similarly, increasing the number of songs, understanding the demands of the target market, and striving to improve sound quality and originality are also important factors as a writer.

We strive for the day the works of more artists will be used in the media and listened to by audiences all over the world.


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