Music In Advertising: Vocalist’s Right Of Privacy

Posted by Michael Welsh on November 17th, 2021

Just when I think this subject has been fully addressed and everyone knows what is required, I find some new incident of a singer suing a company because direct permission wasn’t granted by the “principal vocalist,” and the company didn’t realized that such permission was necessary. After all these years, many advertisers still think that all they need is a synch and master license; or they think that because their production is non-union, that union rules don’t apply to them; or they are unaware of International civil laws that pertain to this subject. 

A recording can have multiple “principal vocalists;” an obvious example being Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson’s recording of “Evergreen.” An advertiser’s non-union production will be subject to SAG-AFTRA rules and regulations, if they license a track in which the label’s master license specifies such jurisdiction. Certainly, any master that is controlled by the major labels – Sony, Warner, and Universal – will include such language in their licenses.

By signing the label’s master license, the advertiser must act “as if” their production is a union production. This begins by obtaining the “principal vocalist (s)” direct permission to use their voice in a commercial: “[No singer’s performance] shall be used in commercials without separately bargaining with the principal performance and reach an agreement regarding such use…” – Section 28 of the SAG-AFTRA Commercial Contract.

Over the years, this question has come up: Does the actual performer need to sign off of on the permission agreement, or can their representative sign on their behalf? Obviously, it’s better if the performer signs, but with big name performers, this can be difficult logistically and may slow down production of the commercial. For big name performance, I will accept their attorneys’ signature. However, for little-known performers, it’s best that they sign the agreement. Many times, lesser-known performers are managed by a friend or family member and that can be dubious.

Foreign and Domestic Civil Law Jurisdiction

As mentioned above, California and other States have specific laws in place to protect performers from exploitation. Similar laws exist around the world in many countries. Since most Internet advertising is world-wide, it becomes crucial to lock down these permissions. Remember, a performer’s voice being connected to a product or service implies their endorsement of that product or service.

This is all to say, regardless of a recordings union status, the performers union status, the recordings country of origin, the date of the original recording, etc. – Get the principal vocalist’s permissions.

Michael Welsh is founder/CEO of Michael Welsh Productions, Inc. - a company specializing in music licensing and supervision for advertising only, for over 30 years. Contact them for more info.

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Michael Welsh

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Michael Welsh
Joined: August 26th, 2020
Articles Posted: 13

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