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Just when I think this subject has been fully addressed and everyoneknows 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.
This issue of obtaining vocalist’s direct permission to use their performance in a commercial, goes beyond union (SAG-AFTRA) rules. Many States (like California), have “right of publicity” laws in place to protect performers from exploitation by advertisers. Advertisers should also be aware of similar civil laws that vary from country to country.
In terms of a master recording (with a vocal) being licensed to an advertiser, a “principal vocalist” is defined by SAG-AFTRA as a known singer in the role of a soloist, (as opposed to back-up or “Group” singers). A recording can have multiple “principal vocalists;”
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.
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.
In many cases, the label’s agreement with their artist doesn’t even require them to consult the artist. 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 written permission. It’s best to go by the SAG-AFTRA’s definition of a “principal vocalist” and ask these two questions:
1) How many singers are there?
2) Are they singing solo lines? For reasons stated above, it doesn’t even matter if they’re known or unknown. Just do it.
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.
For more information about Rights Clearance Advertising visit our website https://www.michaelwelshprods.com/
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