Our staff sometimes get asked from overseas composers/artists about the possibilities of submitting their existing tracks to our library in terms of music licensing. As written on Contact page, unfortunately we don’t have a plan to accept them for the moment. While we’ve been exploring the possibilities of working relationship which makes both composers and us happy, it’s still on the way. There are several reasons for that, but the most important one is that there is a big difference about the way of handling synchronization (sync) licenses between Japan and other countries, especially the United States.
First of all, regarding music licensing operated domestically and internally within Japan, it is almost impossible for both composers and publishers to earn money from sync licensing unless the publishers represent the publishing rights of the composers’ tracks directly and exclusively. Unlike the US, There is little room for middlemen or agencies such as non-exclusive licensing companies or re-titling publishers to come into the media and music industries in Japan. While we still can have options of sub-publishing, becoming a sub-publisher only for sync licensing wouldn’t be so smart for both of us. That is because what you can expect to get would not be “up-front” fees generated per one placement but “back-end” royalties. You would know how much patience is required for you to receive them and sometimes they even vanish away during long-term international operations.
I wouldn’t argue here which is better (actually both have pros and cons), but I’d like to explain closely why and how things are different. If you’re not familiar with general/standard definition of several copyrights and royalties, I’d suggest you to glance over Music Publishing Glossary by Songtrust and How Music Royalties Work on HowStuffWorks beforehand.
Japanese copyright organization (what we usually call “PRO“, though not limited to “P”=Performance Rights in this case) JASRAC can cover and control a large portion of Synchronization rights in addition to Performing & Mechanical rights. This one-stop/centralized/comprehensive method of publishing administration is completely different from more divisional/individually-specified one in the US as written in the reference above. (Note: this is pertaining to DOMESTIC/INTERNAL publishing operation within Japan, NOT INTERNATIONAL/EXTERNAL Sync licensing outside Japan. For example, cases of sync license-OUT from Japan to the US are excluded).
While there are several other copyright organizations such as e-License or JRC (Japan Rights Clearance), most publishers in Japan have JASRAC administrate all these rights, so do I and my company at the moment. About ten years ago publishers became able to opt-in/out which rights they would leave to JASRAC and which rights they would administrate by themselves, but as far as I know, few publishers actually exercised this option. I guess it’s because there were not so many merits or motives of self-administration and negotiating directly/independently with clients in terms of DOMESTIC music licensing. Originally, very few of them eye the possibilities of international licensing positively, though I wouldn’t dwell on psychological analysis of their reluctance because it’s beyond my interest.
At the next post I’ll elaborate how JASRAC interprets and covers these copyrights including Sync rights and how these rights actually work in the music/media industries.