Texas Trademark Lawyer Tamera Bennett

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Music Pubishing and The Value of "Glee"

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Older pop hits are finding new life on the Fox TV series "Glee." Broadway show tunes, Journey, Madonna, and others are finding both "Glee" covers and originals of their songs selling at the top of  iTunes charts.   As of April 2010, three "Glee" cast albums were in the top 10 of iTunes charts and have sold more than one million units.

Music publishers' interest in "Glee" was skeptical at first (publishes for Bryan Adams and Coldplay both initially said no), but many are now seeing the potential exposure and monetary value of licensing to the hit show.

In the case of a show such as "Glee," a synchronization license would be negotiated between the music publisher and the producers of the show for the use.  On-camera performance, featured vocal performance, and beginning/end credits, are licensed for a higher fee than background uses.  With "Glee," there is often no need to secure master recording rights, as the songs are being re-recorded and performed by the "Glee" cast.  Publishers also receive public performance royalties as tracked by ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC for each airing in the U.S. (and by the related performance society in foreign countries).

Critics of the show have said "Glee" ignores music clearance in its story-lines.  In the real world, so long as the glee club is practicing and performing in class, there is an exemption of a public performance license for classroom instruction.  But, if the Glee club/band/chorus are putting on shows, they do need to get licenses. If it is a dramatic work, the schools should secure a license to put on the play, for musical performances, many times there is a purchase or rental of the sheet music.