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While playing to Fifa, it occurred to me that there is probably a license that EA pay to musicians to play their songs in their game.

Does anyone know if there is a standard license for indie games, to be able to play commercial songs in the game? Either for the intro and for the game itself, like FIFA does.

I did a brief search and the suggestion is to contact the publisher of the specific group/singer; but 90% of the time they probably won't even read such email. Is this the only way?

Of course this won't apply for free music that is distributed to be freely used for any use; my question is specifically for commercial music from decently known artists.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ When you are an independent developer you might consider working together with independent artists. There are countless relatively unknown but skilled amateur musicians in the world which would gladly license their music in exchange for a modest fee and some exposure. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Apr 14 '16 at 7:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agree; my question was more aimed at figure out how EA and other publisher does that; instead than just find someone for a collaboration. Indie artists for sure ask less than a worldwide known artist; but you also have the downside that since they are unknown, you can't use their name as hook to gather more customers. There was a game that was absolutely horrible, called "rise of the robots"; but many did purchase it, because Brian May did lend the music for the game. \$\endgroup\$ – rataplan Apr 16 '16 at 1:21
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Usually "decently known" musicians sell all their copyrights to the record label. So these are the people you need to contract when you want a license. Such record deals are usually exclusive, so the artist themselves could not sell you the rights even if they want to. Unless it's a lesser known artist, expect to pay a very large amount of cash for the rights to their music.

You should also definitely get a lawyer for the license negotiation to make sure you are buying exactly the rights you need.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, so all the negotiations are always done through the record label/publisher. From the sound of it, I assume it cost a lot of money; which is why only companies like EA can afford to do that. Thanks for the hint. \$\endgroup\$ – rataplan Apr 14 '16 at 3:52
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Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not valid legal advice. Do not quote me on this please.

If you are developing a game you can use some commercial music but there are conditions. First off, you have to credit the artist, then you have to protect the content enough to prevent it being re-distributed by your game players. All this is on condition that your game is non-commercial and you are making no money at all from it.

If you plan to go the legal commercial route then you need to contact the person who composed the music, their record label and the company that distributed the music. It is never one person.

If you do get the rights to use the music then you may have to pay a huge load of cash for it depending on the companies. Some might let you use it for free. Depending on the company that is.

Honestly you'd be better off just composing your own or using Royalty free assets. With content, even if you modify it and the owners take you to court they could be able to prove you plagiarized their content.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "you can use some commercial music but there are conditions" - IANAL, but I highly doubt that \$\endgroup\$ – Kromster Apr 13 '16 at 8:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. The term to focus on is commercial and the interpretation varies really. Also, this license can be revoked by the copyright owner. \$\endgroup\$ – zimspy Apr 13 '16 at 10:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your reply; I know you said don't quote me, but that statement about crediting the artist, is almost never an option, unless it is an indie artist that actively put his music out for others to use it (like in the CC license that you mention above), so that should be noted to not confuse anyone. Regarding protection; I have no control on that; once you build, the song become part of the coded assets in the data file of the application; I believe you mean "protect the song to avoid that it is easily extracted"; that is in fact true, for almost any asset :) \$\endgroup\$ – rataplan Apr 14 '16 at 3:55

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