• Randy McGravey

Music Used in TV Commercials (Music Licensing)

TV commercials have the potential to be some of the highest paying placements you can get. Not only do TV commercials usually receive a nice upfront sync fee (rather than blanket payments), but they typically air many times and therefore can get you a lot of backend royalties.


There is a service called Numerator (formerly Competitrack) that is responsible for dealing with commercials and advertising codes. The American PROs use Numerator to determine the necessary information needed to pay composers and publishers for placements in TV commercials.


If you find out that you've had your music on TV, here's what you can do to ensure that you get paid on time.

  • Contact the library that licensed the music and see if they have any more information about the use. If they are an exclusive library, they most likely worked out a custom deal for the commercial and should have everything under control. They have as much interest as you do in securing the ad codes and providing them to the PROs.

  • If you don't know which library placed the track (in the case of a non-exclusive track) try to narrow it down by seeing which libraries have the track live on their site. You can contact each library that has the track live, and hopefully they can share that information.

  • In the event of a library not being able to share the information about the commercial, you can try finding it on Numerator. Create a free account on Numerator and search their database using everything you know about the track (product name, TV channel, length, first air date, etc.). If you are unable to find it, you can contact someone on the Numerator team and they will likely be happy to help.

Side note: I've personally been in contact with a couple people from Numerator and they have been a pleasure to work with!


Assuming you are successful in finding the Numerator ad code, you can submit it through your PRO dashboard. They may also ask for the wav or mp3 file of the music track that was used. After submitting their required materials you should be all set.


International commercials often use services other than Numerator. Use the same methods as previously listed to find out anything you can about the commercial. Contact your PRO if you believe you've had music in an international commercial. Your PRO will most likely contact the appropriate society and have them handle the code acquisition or whatever else they may need.


How to increase your chances of landing TV commercial placements:

  • Create coherent cutdowns of your tracks (bumpers, stingers, 15 second edit, 30 second, 60 second). The most common commercial length is 30 seconds, and you want to get as close to the 30 second mark as possible (0:29 or 0:31).

  • Listen to commercials and write music in a similar style without completely copying it. Commercial music is constantly changing, so be sure to listen to ads that are as recent as possible.

  • Work with libraries that are known for placing music in commercials. If a library's site has their placements listed, look for major brands and clips of the commercials they have landed.


For most placements that I get, I trust the libraries to handle the acquisition of cue sheets and whatnot. When a commercial appears in my Tunesat account, I take the extra measure to track it down. It never hurts to be on the ball with these placements, because things can get lost in the shuffle. I've never had any problems getting paid on time from commercials, but of course it's better to be safe than sorry!


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