What does Facebook’s music licensing mean for brands?

30 : 07 : 2018 Music : Branding : Facebook

While Facebook’s new music licences mean more creativity for users of its platforms, Alex Brammer, a lawyer at a UK record label, says brands must treat them with respect.

Urbanears, Stockholm Urbanears, Stockholm

What is the position if a famous athlete uploads an Instagram Story at the gym, while drinking Lucozade and listening to Drake?

Alex Brammer, UK music lawyer

Since late 2017, Facebook has been signing licensing deals with record labels and key rights holders in the music industry. For brands that are unaware, this allows the social media giant and its subsidiaries, including Instagram, to host licensed music on their platforms.

The most recent evidence of this deal was Instagram’s announcement that users can now add music to soundtrack their Stories. This revelation came just a week after Instagram declared the app now has 1bn users, with 400m of them using the Stories function.

Until recently, music on Facebook and Instagram was automatically blocked by the sites’ content ID systems unless songs had been specifically whitelisted by the appropriate rights holder. So what does this change in dynamic mean for brands and creators?

In the music industry, the new licences have been cautiously welcomed. They generate income where previously there was none, and provide exciting promotional potential for musicians.

The key point to raise from a brand’s perspective is that, despite all of the fanfare, these licences do not change the process with regard to the use of music in advertisements and branded content. Facebook’s music licences are designed to stop regular users from having their content blocked due to the inclusion of music, while providing an additional revenue stream for artists and songwriters.

In the music industry, the new licences have been cautiously welcomed. On the one hand, they generate income where previously there was none and provide exciting promotional potential for musicians – for example, Jaden Smith releasing his recent EP, SYRE: The Electric Album, exclusively on Instagram. On the other hand, it creates a conundrum for synchronisation and licensing teams, namely: at what point does user-uploaded content stray into branded content?

If Nike adds music to an advert for its new trainers, everyone is clear that this song should be licensed. But what is the position if a famous athlete, such as the boxer Anthony Joshua, who is sponsored by Lucozade, uploads an Instagram Story at the gym drinking Lucozade while listening to Drake? What is the position if lifestyle and beauty blogger Desi Perkins, with 3.7m followers on Instagram, posts a video with Beyoncé playing in the background? Is Desi Perkins a brand herself? Should such incidental music be licensed? The answers to these questions are not as clear-cut and will depend largely on the context, the number of viewers, and the rightsholders and artists involved.

The right song in an advert or video can generate massive brand value.

Crucially for brands, these licences do not give carte blanche to use music to promote their products on social media. The use of music in branded content and commercial tie-ups must still be licensed in the same way, by clearing it with the relevant rightsholder (usually the record label, publisher or artist). But once the appropriate permissions have been granted, the new licences should allow the content to be shared more freely without the risk of it being automatically blocked by Facebook’s content ID software – a problem that many brands will be acutely familiar with.

One thing is clear, however: the synchronisation of music with branded content is big business. In 2016, the UK synchronisation market was estimated to be worth £80m ($105m, €89.7m), according to the British Phonographic Industry. This is because the right song in an advert or video can generate massive value for a brand. In turn, musicians should be appropriately compensated for this. So while Facebook’s new licences create great opportunities for musicians and brands alike, they should be used carefully and, as ever, with the appropriate consent.

For more on the future marketing tactics of brands, explore our Beyond Product Placement microtrend.