Cue sheets are something that a lot of newer composers are curious about. While composers and libraries don't deal with cue sheets, they are essential to composers and publishers getting paid royalties through their performing rights organizations. Cue sheets are filed directly with the PRO's by the networks.
A cue sheet is basically a document that lists each piece of music (or cue) in an episode of a TV show or other production (such as a televised sporting event). If you are getting paid from a TV placement, it is because someone filed the cue sheet with the PRO's. Some PRO's allow their composers to see cue sheets (ASCAP) while others don't (BMI).
Here are the details that are included on a cue sheet.
Here is a recent example of part of my cue sheet for Fox NFL Sunday.
Now, here are some details that are included for each Cue Sequence.
Cue Sequence number
Performance Type (Feature, Background Instrumental, Logo Theme, etc.)
And here is the segment of the cue sheet where my track was used. I am crossing out the publisher name for their own sake (and mine), so that they aren't flooded with unsolicited emails.
If you are with a PRO that allows you to see your cue sheets, check them out! Viewing cue sheets can be a great way to see which publishers are working with which TV networks. You can also generally see which publishers are getting the most placements. Sometimes a library will score most or all of a TV show. Other times it is a completely mixed bag. I've also been on cue sheets with the likes of famous bands which can be entertaining!
Cue sheets are filed for TV shows, but not for commercials. See this post for information regarding commercial/advertising placements. When you get paid for your placements, you can check the payment amount against the duration of the cue to see how much you are getting paid per minute. I know that the performing rights organization PRS lists info such as pay per minute, but others you might need to calculate on your own (if you care to do so).
Lastly, cue sheets can be a good way to beef up your "resume" on IMDB. A cue sheet will give you all of the info you need to search for the episode on IMDB and add yourself as one of the show's composers. Check out this post to see how to use IMDB as a composer.
I hope this info is somewhat helpful in clearing up the mysteries of cue sheets. Best of luck to you and your career in this business!
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