Synch Licensing: Using a Song in a Film or Video

Synch Licensing: Using a Song in a Film or Video 
Most Basic Thing in Music Law #2
by Susan Basko, Esq.

You are making a film or video.  You want to use a song or part of a song, even a few seconds of a song, in the film or video.  To do this legally, you need a SYNCH license, or SYNCHRONIZATION LICENSE.  This is also often called a "Music Clearance."

A Synch License is not the same as a Mechanical license and you do not get it from the same place and it does not cost a similar price as the very inexpensive mechanical licenses.

WHAT YOU NEED to use a song in a film or video:

1) A SYNCH license.   This is a negotiated license between the filmmaker and the song publisher.  This is usually and best obtained by using a MUSIC CLEARANCE COMPANY.  The Music Clearance Company will charge a fee of anywhere between $600 - $2000  (more or less) for their work PLUS whatever amount the publishing company is demanding for your use of their song.  The publisher can deny you to use their song and can set any requirements on the use.  The publisher can charge you whatever amount they wish. A synch license is entirely negotiable and up to the whims or desires of the song publisher and/or the songwriter.   


2) A MASTER'S USE license to use the sound recording.  This is a negotiated license between the filmmaker and the record label or other owner of the sound recording copyright.  A Master's Use license is best obtained by using a MUSIC CLEARANCE COMPANY.  The company will charge you about $600 - $2000 to do the work, PLUS whatever amount the record label wants to charge for use of its recording.  The record label can deny you use of its recording and can charge whatever price it wants. 

If for some reason, you can get a Synch license from the publisher, but cannot get a Master's Use license from the record label, you may want to go on Itunes and find cover versions of the song and try to get a Master's Use license on one of the existing cover versions.  

To use a song in a film or video, you hire a Music Clearance company to get you a Synch License and a Master's Use license. The Music Clearance Company will probably charge a total of about $1200 - $4000 for this work and the publisher and record label can charge whatever amount they want.   Every film or video should have a music budget. The more money in your music budget, the more likely you are to be able to get the music you most want. 

 And keep in mind, if  the Music Clearance company has to go into extra difficulty to try to get the songs you desire, it will cost you more in fees for their service.  

 It is not a good idea to try to do this work on your own.  It is very complex work and the negotiations and contracts are nuanced.  In addition, there can be many publishers on a song, and many owners on a sound recording.  This is work best left to experts.  Many publishers and record labels will not even deal with a person trying to do it on their own as it presents the publisher and record label with too much risk.  In addition, most E&O (errors and omissions) insurance companies will only cover work by a reputable Music Clearance company, and most film festivals and film distributors require good E&O insurance. In other words, if you want to do anything with your film, you need to use a good Music Clearance company.  Another option is to use a Music Lawyer, but this will probably cost you more in fees, although a lawyer with independent music clients may be able to get you use of good music from one of their clients.

If you are on a very tight budget, you might want to use music from a pre-cleared royalty-free music library.  You may not get the exact song you hoped for, but you can get music in any genre or style from a music library.  If you use music from a music library, be sure to have a music lawyer read and analyze the contract.  Some libraries that advertise as being free music actually charge down the road for commercial use or distribution, and some have a time limit for use of the music so that your film or video will "expire" in a year (or whatever).  Just because a website says "Free Music," don't assume that to be fully true.  Have  a music lawyer check it out.

When a song is edited into a film or video, usually only a few seconds of a song are used.   When applying for a Synch License or Master's Use license, the publisher or record label will want to know how many seconds of the song you plan to use and which seconds.  Longer use of a song is usually for a credit roll at the ending, or sometimes the beginning, of a film.  

The publisher and record label will also want to know such things as what sort of film it is, where it will be shown, who you are and your track record, what company you are with and its track record, who are the cast and crew, the nature and genre of the film and of the scene in which the song will be used, the budget for the film, and other such factors. Sometimes a publisher, record label, or artist will want to see the completed scene or film before they give approval for their song to be used.  Using all those factors, the publisher and/or record label will decide if they want you to use their music and if so, how much they will charge. They will also determine other terms they may want in the contract. 

 It will be your responsibility to have the song properly listed in the credits.  Filmmakers get E&O insurance (Errors and Omissions) to cover any unknown defects in the clearances and /or errors or omissions in the credits.   To qualify for such insurance coverage, you usually will have to use a good

Recording a Cover Song: Most Basic Things in Music Law #1

Recording a Cover Song: Most Basic Things in Music Law #1

It's easy to legally record a cover song.  A cover song is a song written by someone else.  Just go to and pay a $15 service fee and about 10 cents in songwriter royalties for each copy of the song that you wish to make.  Easy Song Licensing takes care of all the work for you. So, if you want to make 100 copies of a song you, will be paying  the $15 fee plus about $10, or $25 total.

UPDATE:  Limelight will stop taking new orders in March 2015, and the service will be closing.  There is a different company that would like your service, Easy Song Licensing, which you can find here:

You can also use a service by Harry Fox.  Or you can do it yourself, but that is complicated.

These kind of licenses are called mechanical licenses.  The royalties are called mechanical royalties.  Mechanical royalties are used to make CDs, internet downloads, vinyl (wax), etc.

The mechanical royalty fee is the same per copy for any song, whether it be by an incredibly famous artist or by a local songwriter.  The royalty rate has been set by law, or statute, and so is called a statutory royalty.  The royalty rate at this time is about 10 cents per song copy. 

The songwriter or publisher is compelled by law to allow you to record the song once you give notice of your intent to take a license on it.  That is why a mechanical license is called a compulsory license.  It is compulsory for the songwriter/ publisher to give you the license.  Easy Song Licensing and Harry Fox take care of the process of giving notice to the right people and paying the royalties.

In most other nations, the songwriter royalties are paid after a song copy is sold.  In the U.S., the royalties are paid upfront in advance, before the song copies are sold or distributed.

You owe song royalties for every copy you make, whether you give those away for free, sell them, or let them sit in a box collecting dust.

These rules apply if: 
1) You are recording and producing the recording in the U.S.; 
2) You are selling the recording in the U.S.;
3) The song is subject to the U.S. Copyright laws.  Songs from musicals or operas are not subject to this law.  To record those,  you must deal directly with the publisher.

 And .. that is all there is to it.  So, go record your favorite hit song.  Have fun.

Cover Songs:
Performing and Recording Them Legally

Cover Songs: Performing and Recording Them Legally
by Sue Basko

See also: Recording a Cover Song: Most Basic Things in Music Law #1

See also: Cover Songs on Youtube for information about doing a live performance of a cover song and putting it on Youtube.

See also: Limelight: Cover Song Licenses for information on how to get a cover song license easily and inexpensively through Limelight, a song clearance company. But please read the rest of the blog post below so you know what you are doing.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

If you read my last post about Music Samples - How to Use Them Legally, you saw how complicated that is! Recording cover songs is MUCH easier! You may wonder why it is so much easier to record a whole song than it is to simply use part of a song that is already recorded. The difference is that the U.S. Copyright law gives you a statutory right to record a cover song, while it does not give you a right to use samples. Samples came about after the law was written, and the law has to evolve around the new uses of music. Law moves much slower than do art or technology.

WHAT IS A COVER SONG? A cover song is the everyday term for a song that is being performed or recorded by a different artist(s) than the one that wrote it or the one that first made it famous. For example, if you record or perform a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, that is a cover. According to the law, once a song subject to U.S. Copyright has been recorded and distributed publicly, anyone can obtain a license and record the song, and pay statutory royalty rates.

WHY COVER SONGS ARE GOOD FOR ROCK BANDS OR SOLO PERFORMERS: A cover song gets you noticed. Often, a cover song is the biggest seller in a band's repertoire. Listeners will be attracted to your band because they hear the familiar song, and they may then want to hear your own songs. They may even buy your own songs.

Cover songs are also tributes to the music and musicians you admire. Cover songs also give you a way to be creative within constraints, causing newness within the familiar. Cover songs give you a way to be part of musical history. You, too, can be one of the dozens of famous and not-so-famous bands that have recorded Ca Plane Pour Moi. If you sell songs on Itunes, when a user searches by song name, your name will be in the list with all the famous people that have also recorded the song.

THE AMAZING THING ABOUT RECORDING COVER SONGS: The most amazing thing about recording cover songs is that the statutory royalty rate is exactly the same no matter whose song you cover. The rate is the same whether you are covering Dave Matthews or the guy who plays the local open mic. This rate is set by law.  (At this time, the rate is about 10 cents per copy you will make, give away, or sell.)

PERFORMING A COVER SONG LIVE: The rock band or solo performer does not need a license to perform a cover song live. It is the club, restaurant, or concert venue that is supposed to obtain a license or licenses for generally hosting music performances, which includes the live music as well as the recorded music they play over the sound system. These are licenses from PROs, or performing rights organizations, namely ASCAP, BMI, SESAC. These organizations sell licenses on their websites. They also send agents to clubs and restaurants to try to get them to buy a license.

Sometimes a venue or store will tell you that you cannot play any cover songs. This means they have opted not to buy any music performance licenses from the PROs. If you are told this, you must be very careful not to play those songs. Do not try to sneak them in.

If you are planning a residency or major tour where you will be renting venues, and you plan to play cover songs, part of the planning should be to be sure each venue has proper licensing.

Also, if you are planning a show or repertoire that is wholly or mainly cover songs, you should check with the applicable PRO to see if they insist you have a license. If the venues you play have licenses, you are covered. If you are producing your own shows at locations without licenses, you may need to obtain a license. Granted, most cover bands do not bother with any of this and simply forge ahead and play the cover songs.

If yours is a cover band, you will find some pertinent information at Picking a Name for Your Rock Band and Protecting Your Band Name or Singer Name with Trademark or Service Mark.

RECORDING A COVER SONG: If you want to record a song that falls under the jurisdiction of U.S. Copyright law, you have a statutory right to do so if it meets these requirements:  

  • 1) The song must be a non-dramatic musical work (not an opera or a musical play.)
  • 2) The musical composition must be already recorded.
  • 3) The previous recording has been distributed publicly in the U.S.; and
  • 4) The use of the recording will be in audio only (not videos or music videos).

5) ALSO -- this statutory right is ONLY for songs that will be recorded and sold in the U.S.

So.. what does this mean? For the most part, it means that if you hear a song on the radio or on Itunes or on a bought CD, and it is not an opera or musical, and you want to make a recording of it yourself, but not a video, you can do that. That means you cannot use the compulsory licensing system to make a "cover" of a song from Les Miserables, but you can use it to make a cover of a song by The Ramones, System of a Down, Neil Diamond, Ben Folds, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Simon and Garfunkel, etc. Note: If you want to cover a song from an opera or musical, contact the publisher directly and ask permission. It is not automatic and they have the right to say yes or no and to charge as they will.

COMPULSORY LICENSE: The compulsory license is compulsory for the songwriter/publisher, who MUST allow you to record the song, and you MUST pay the statutory royalty rate to the songwriter/publisher.

LIMITS: When recording someone else's song using a compulsory license, you do not have the right to change the lyrics or to change the basic character of the music. There have been lawsuits where a sedate or stuffy song was made raunchy or profane, or even lively. You have been given the right to make a "copy," but not to create a "derivative work." A new arrangement is a derivative work. You can and should "make it your own," but if you make a mess of it or make someone gasp, you might get a lawsuit.

MECHANICAL LICENSE: The license to record and sell a cover song is called a mechanical license. A mechanical is any song recording, including vinyl, CDs, or digital downloads.

MECHANICAL LICENSE AND ROYALTY RATE: A mechanical license is the compulsory license that allows you to record and sell someone else's song in the U.S., and in exchange you pay royalties to the songwriter at statutory rates, which is 9.1 cents per copy for songs 5 minutes and less. For songs longer than 5 minutes, it is 1.75 cents per minute, rounded up.

HOW TO GET THAT MECHANICAL LICENSE : Some songs are listed with the Harry Fox Agency, which is a non-profit agency established in 1927 by the National Music Publishers Association to handle mechanical licensing on songs. (NOTE: MANY songs are NOT listed with Harry Fox -- including songs by independent songwriters who are not signed with a publisher or who self-publish. But Limelight covers those.) Harry Fox will issue you a limited quantity license for song recordings that will be produced and distributed within the United States. This service is called "Song File." Harry Fox charges a $15.00 processing fee per song and the royalty fees for the number of copies you estimate you will sell. If you are making more copies, they have plans for that as well. This is a convenient way to get the mechanical license.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

The Harry Fox Songfile service can only be used for song recordings that will be produced and sold in the U.S. If the recording is going to be produced or sold outside the U.S., you need to contact the publisher directly. Songs produced or sold outside the U.S. are not subject to the statutory mandatory licensing, and the songwriter or publisher can deny you the right to record the song and can set any price.

LIMELIGHT: There is a new company called Limelight which sells cover song licenses on its easy-to-use website. Limelight charges $15 plus royalties. Limelight represents the musician seeking the license. You can read more at: Limelight: Cover Song Licenses. An advantage in using Limelight is that they can get you licenses from all the independent songwriters, not just those listed with Harry Fox. Limelight is designed by musicians for musicians and is very easy to use.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

If you are selling online, please note the reach of the online store you are using. For example, Itunes has online stores specifically for the U.S., UK, Japan, etc. Therefore, it seems safe to use Harry Fox or Limelight for the mechanical licenses for songs recorded in the U.S. that will be sold on Itunes U.S.

The music sold on Itunes UK is different than the music on Itunes US. Did you know this? Sometimes I have wanted to buy songs off Itunes UK and have not been able to access them from the U.S. Sometimes, the groups will then move their songs onto the Itunes US Store, but other times, I have to get the music a different way.

If your songs are all 100% originals, you do not need clearances and can sell on any Itunes store in the world. But if your songs include covers, you need to get international clearance from the publisher, or from the songwriter if the songwriter self-publishes.

(Royalties are handled differently in different countries. In many countries, with digital sales, the royalties will be deducted from the sale price, along with a service fee for the agency handling the royalties for that nation. If you are selling your own songs (where you own the songwriting copyright) overseas, you may have to apply to these different agencies to collect the amount that was deducted to cover your royalty. Practically speaking, you need a publishing administrator to do this, because of the complications of dealing with the foreign agencies. Unless you are selling a lot internationally, it will be hard to get any company to agree to exert this level of time. )

If you are planning to sell overseas, check with the aggregator or with Itunes and see if the international store where you are selling will collect directly or if you will need to prepay. ALSO -- Consult with a music lawyer! Itunes international stores each cover a group of nations. You need to find out about the ones where you are selling. Basically, unless you can reasonably expect significant sales of a cover song in any given foreign market, the expenditures of handling things correctly will overwhelm any profit.

If you plan to sell your recordings of cover songs internationally, you should work with an experienced music lawyer on this. The process will differ from nation to nation, on whether you are selling downloads or physical copies, on the publisher, and on your own track record . You should budget a significant amount for the legal work on this. It's only worth it if you can expect significant international sales. If you are on a budget, I suggest that you choose one song only to sell internationally, and carefully select your markets. If you pick a song that is 100% covered by one publisher, you've made the legal work that much less complex.

If the song is not listed with Harry Fox or Limelight (note: Limelight says it can get you the license on any song, even from an independent songwriter), or if it will be sold internationally, or if you prefer (I do not know why you would prefer to do this yourself when you can pay $15 and have it done for you by Limelight or Harry Fox), you can locate the publisher or copyright owner of the song yourself, or ask the Copyright Office to do this for you for a fee. You then serve a Notice of Intention to Obtain a Compulsory License on the copyright owner (song publisher or songwriter, usually) or authorized agent of the owner by certified or registered mail. You can find instructions on how to do this at the  this link for the Copyright Office.

You can contact the publisher directly. The major music publishers do licensing right on their websites. Some will not allow you to bargain for small numbers of recordings, in which case, you are better off using Limelight or Harry Fox SoundFile (if the song is available there, and the recording will be produced and sold in the U.S.) For example, some major publishers begin with a royalty fee of $200, which is for about 2200 copies. Most indie bands do a CD run of about 1,000 copies. At Limelight or Harry Fox, royalties for 1000 copies plus the $15.00 fee adds to $106.00.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

But remember -- if you are selling outside the U.S., you must get the mechanical license directly from the publisher. Why is this? Because the law that was created by the U.S. government can only cover transactions related to the U.S. music industry.

Multiple Publishers or PROs on Same Song or with same band. (Please note that PROs are not involved in publishing and not involved in issuing mechanical licenses. PROs are mentioned here because their listings can be a good source to help you track down which publisher represents a certain song or songwriter.) When you are looking for the songwriters of a particular song, you may find that the co-writers on a given song may be represented by different PROs, or may have different publishing companies. There may even be U.S. PROs and foreign PROs, and publishing companies scattered about the globe, all for one song. This is especially so for groups from the UK where one or more of the members now reside in the U.S.

But, even with an American rock band, you may see that some songs are with one PRO, perhaps the PRO the songwriters were with in their early days and later songs are with a different PRO. The songwriters may have since signed on to a new PRO, but the songs may not have followed them. Moving a song from one PRO to another takes some doing and some may find it is not worth the trouble. Likewise, a publisher may have signed one band member as a songwriter, but may not have signed all the band members. So, just because a song is by a given band does not necessarily mean that every song that group records is with the same publishing companies or that each songwriter on the song is with the same publisher.

Some publishers will tell you that they do not own 100% of the publishing on a given song; they usually do not actually know who owns the other pieces of the pie. That's why it is your best bet to pay professionals to do song clearance for you. It's also a good idea to carry E&O insurance.

HOW THE COMPULSORY LICENSING LAW CAME ABOUT: The compulsory licensing law was enacted back in the days when "songs" were popular and people bought their 78 rpm records more for the song than for the singer. This was way back in the days before rock bands existed. Back then, a song would become popular and all the singers would want to record it as soon as possible. Publishers started to hold onto songs so they would only be recorded by certain singers, who would make all the money. As a reaction to this, and to let songwriters bring their songs to the people, the compulsory license laws were enacted. The National Music Publishers Association created the Harry Fox Agency in 1927 to handle mechanical licensing. Limelight is a business that was recently formed to do the same work.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

Why they are called "mechanicals." Back when the law was established, and even now -- there were basically two ways to make music -- live performances, or by mechanical means. Back then, that meant player piano rolls and heavy, breakable records. Today, "mechanicals" include whatever technology brings about. Not long ag0, music was sold as records, 8-track tapes, and cassette tapes. Now it is sold as CDs and mp3s. Soon, it will be something else.

The royalties for performances are handled by PROS, namely ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Performances include playing live, and also songs played on the radio, over speaker systems at restaurants, bars, clubs, and stores, etc. These are not handled by Harry Fox. Harry Fox represents certain major music publishers in issuing mechanical licenses.

SONGWRITERS REGISTER WITH HARRY FOX AGENCY: Harry Fox allows any songwriter who has at least one song being recorded and sold by a third party to register their songs with the agency. If you are a songwriter and you want other musicians to be able to easily locate your song to obtain a mechanical license, apply to Harry Fox, and if you meet the requirements, register your songs. This is especially important if you self-publish your songs. How is anyone going to find you to get a license or pay you royalties? Please note, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are performing rights organizations and they do NOT handle mechanical licensing or mechanical royalties.

If you are a songwriter, ideally, you will register your songs three places: 1) with the U.S. Copyright Office; 2) with one of the PROs (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC); and 3) with Harry Fox. You may also want to try to get a publisher and/or a licensing company interested in your music. The easier you make it for people to locate who your song belongs to, the more likely you are to make money from your songwriting. Aside from this, of course, you need to promote your song so that the right people hear it.

HOW CAN I FIND OUT WHO IS THE PUBLISHER? Many songwriters register their songs with the U.S. Copyright Office, and/or with one of the PROs - performing rights organizations, namely ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. Below are links to those organizations, so you can search their databases. If a publishing company is not listed, the songwriter probably self-publishes. You can contact the PRO and ask for the publisher contact information.

At the Copyright Office, you can search online or you can pay the Copyright Office to search for you.

You then serve a Notice of Intention to Obtain a Compulsory License on the copyright owner (song publisher, usually) or authorized agent of the owner by certified or registered mail. You can find instructions on how to do this at the this link for the Copyright Office.

SONGWRITERS FROM OTHER NATIONS: There are PROs in other countries, too. If you know a songwriter is from the UK or Australia, for example, and you cannot find their songs in the U.S. databases, then check the PROs from their nations.

To perform a cover song, just be sure the venue has the PRO licensing (or perform the song and assume they are covered).

To record a cover song in the U.S. to be sold in the U.S., use the Limelight or Harry Fox Song File system or locate the publisher, serve them with proper notice, and pay the statutory royalty rate.

FOR INFO ON USING SAMPLES AND MAKING REMIXES, See Music Samples - How to Use Them Legally.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

FOR INFO ON LIMELIGHT, See: Limelight: Cover Song Licenses

Valentines - Free Cards

Valentines - Free Cards
By Sue Basko

Happy Valentines Day!  I designed these cards you can send to your online friends.  Just pull them off the page or click and download.  These don't have the blue border - that is just on the site. - -Sue   

Merry Christmas

Wishing your and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!
-- with love, from Susan

30 Ideas on Raising Children

The apple does not fall far from the tree.
30 Ideas on Raising Children
by Sue Basko 

As a little Christmas gift, I want to share my tips on raising children.  I raised children into happy adults.     Unlike most people, I sat down with a pen and notebook at the start of my child-raising career and made a list of how I wanted to do it.  And this, I share with you:

1. Think of raising your children as a career or job.  You are there to do a good job. To do that, you need to be in good shape physically and mentally.  You need to be ever-conscious of the goals, the process, and the success (or lack thereof) of your techniques.

2. Give your best to your family.  Use your best manners on your family.  Give your best efforts to your family.  Use your best furniture and dishes on your family.  Invest your money and time in your family.    Home should not be where you slack off and give your least; it is where you should be on your best and give your best.  Please, thank you, respecting privacy and property.

3. Don't tolerate a degradation of the family or home environment from anyone, including yourself.  "Sorry, we don't do that in our family" is legit.

4. Be sober and sane and healthy.  Drinking, using drugs, unchecked depression or mental problems, obesity --  all these are incompatible with parenting.  To be a good parent, you need to be in great shape physically and mentally.   Think of parenting like being a Marine or astronaut (or some such thing).  It takes all you've got to do the job right.

5. Every child is different.  They have different temperaments, different interests, different gifts. This is because God makes each person unique so we have a full society.  No child is made "wrong."  Your job is to watch and see what are your child's unique gifts, and then nurture those.   The things that a person is good at and that they enjoy are the things they are meant to do.

6. The more time and attention you put in while your child is a baby and preschool age, the easier your job is later.  Laying that solid foundation really pays off later.   

7. Think in terms of giving your children skills and experiences that will last a lifetime, rather than giving your child things.   Make a list of skills you want to help your child acquire: Play a musical instrument, sing, cook, hike, jumping rope, sew, draw, swim, doing math.   And so forth. Your child should leave home with a set of skills sufficiently developed that she or he could teach those skills to someone else.  

8. Prepare your children to be independent.  When my children were young, I made a list of skills I wanted to teach them so they would be able to leave the nest and be independent.   With each skill, I showed the children and then made them do it at least once.  That is enough for a skill set that lasts a lifetime.  I made a list and checked off each item as the lesson was completed.  The list included such skills as:
  • Making basic meals with simple foods, such as grilled cheese sandwich, an omelet, a casserole, bake a cake, bake a loaf of bread.
  • Sew by hand with a needle and thread.
  • Sew on a button.
  • Iron a shirt.
  • Clean a bathroom.
  • Wash a window.
  • Use basic handtools: screwdrivers, drill, hammer, saw, sandpaper.
  • How to shop for food: how to shop the perimeter, how to choose produce, how to pay.
  • How to do laundry at a laundromat.
  • How to write a thank you note.
  • How to use public transportation: reading maps and schedules, planning times and routes, paying, being alert.
  • How to fix a bike tire.    
I got some good laughs when my son called me from his first college apartment to say, "Apparently, I am the only person my age in all of New York who knows how to clean a bathroom."

9. Think of toys in terms of their play potential.  Spend more of your money on things with a lot of play potential.  How many hours of play will come from this?  Things with a lot of play potential include Legos, art supplies, a computer, a camera,  a bike, a skateboard.  Things with little play potential include action figures, gag gifts, single-purpose toys.  Of course, if a child has a dream toy and it is affordable and reasonable, you want to try to fulfill that dream.

Children do not need new toys every week.  It is perfectly reasonable to have gift-giving limited to birthdays and holidays.  Children who are given toys with a lot of play potential can always do something new with those toys. Children who are given toys with little or no play potential will always want new toys, since there is nothing to do with their toys other than possess them.  Such a pattern of toy ownership sets kids up for a lifetime of dissatisfaction with what they own.

10. What goes into our heads manifests itself in attitudes and actions.  Thus, we did not watch any violent or horror movies or television shows.  Actually, we did not watch any TV until the children were about 10 years old, and then only 2 hours one evening a week.  Teach your kids that they control what they put into their heads and that what goes in is important.  What manifests from a brain filled with violence and horror?  There are now many families that avoid TV and carefully choose movies and video games.  It feels joyful to consciously pick good entertainment.

11. Eat healthily.  Plan and make good meals with high nutritional content.  That means you are not buying junk food.  Just don't have it in your home.  If you don't buy it, you can't eat it.  Skip the soda, sugared "fruit" drinks, candy, chips, cheetos, white bread, fried foods.  Almost anything that comes in a package or can is not going to be as healthy as something from the fresh aisles of a grocery.  Childhood obesity is rampant and those foods cause it.  Raise healthy kids.

12. Eat meals together.  Set the table nicely every day, with napkins, flowers, candles.  TV, radio, or phones should not be at your meal.  It is time for you to be together.

13. Communicate.  Talk with your kids. Listen.  Listen. Listen. Be trustworthy.  Don't repeat to others what your children say.  Respect the communications.  If your kids are not sharing with you, it may be that you have not respected or valued their communications in the past.

14.  Don't snoop.  Period.  Of course, be aware and take action if your child seems to be acquiring weapons, drugs, stolen goods, etc.  But other than the obvious, don't snoop.  Respect your child's privacy and rely on communication with them.

15. Don't be afraid to tell your children that you have expectations.   Tell them you expect them to do well in school, keep out of trouble, go to college.  Or whatever you expect.  Tell them why you don't want them to do certain things or hang around with certain people.  Tell your children fact-specific things to do to handle certain situations.  For example, one of my children had some friends who were into shoplifting.  I told my child I would prefer he not hang around with those people, but that if he was going to be with them anyway, if they started to shoplift when he was with them, to immediately walk out of the store and leave them behind.  Do not discuss with them, just leave.  Not long after I explained this to him, he had the occasion to leave a store when his friends started shoplifting, and then to watch his friends taken out in handcuffs and put in a police car.  Whew, what a sad lesson.

16.  Share your faith and beliefs.  Wherever it is you draw your strength, share that with your children. I have a prayer-based faith, so I prayed with my children every day.   I also take a lot of joy and strength in nature and wanted to share that, too.  We often visited the beach, listening to the surf as the sun set.  We went hiking in the woods, pretending to be little Native children, trying to be silent in our footsteps.  Whatever is your source of strength, share it with your children.

17. Value education.  Spend your time and efforts helping your children learn.  Get them to bed on time so they have enough rest.  Give them a good breakfast and send them to school ready to learn.  Participate in the parent groups.  Get your kids plenty of books from the library or book store or yard sales.  Keep your home clean, non-chaotic, and quiet, so your kids have time and place to learn.  Bring your kids to museums, galleries, parks, plays, concerts, and other cultural activities.

18. Sing together.  Sing together as a family.  Make holiday videos or perform a family show where you sing together.  Nicer still if your family plays musical instruments.  Dance together.

19. Tell your children, "I love you," every day. Or several times each day.

20. Praise your children every day.  Tell your children they are good, smart, pretty, handsome, good artists, clever, good cooks, handy.  Laugh at their jokes, listen to their stories, tell them thank you.

21.  Be grateful and teach your children to be grateful.  Talk about how you are lucky to have each other, to have a home, food to eat, health.  Thank people. Teach your children to say "Thank you."  Thank your children.

22. If you are ever feeling bossy or on a power trip, stop and calculate the time until your child turns 18 and can be on her own and do whatever she pleases. The purpose of raising children is to let them learn how to make decisions for themselves.  A 16 or 17 year old should be making all their decisions on their own, with you there as guidance.  If not, how will they be ready to be 18?  A child should be allowed to make some of their own decisions, from a very early age.  Give children choices, where each choice is acceptable.  A 14 year old should be able to pick their own classes and activities, choose their own meals, choose their own friends, do their own schoolwork, choose their own clothes and hair style, set their own schedule.  If you want to control those things for your child, then don't be surprised if your child is not "ready to launch" when it is time.  Learning comes from making some mistakes.

23. Teach your children compassion. Teach them not to bully, to be kind to the underdog, to respect people of all races and religions. Take them on cultural excursions to meet different kinds of people and share in different cultures.

24. Teach your kids to be part of a community.  Take them with you as you volunteer.  Bring them with you while you give food to the homeless, go to protests, work on a community garden.  Teach your kids how to pass a petition, form an organization, stand up for what is right.

25. Let kids play outside.  Every day.

26. Teach your kids how to choose friends and how to be a friend.  When one of my children started at a big high school in seventh grade, he was concerned about having friends.  He had the lead role in the school play, so he was popular, but needed close friends at this new school.  I told him to look for people who shared his same interests and values and to make best friends with those people. I told him that anyone that has one or two best friends is automatically popular because they feel happy and secure.  Others will gather around that core of two or three close friends.

27. Laugh a lot.  Joyful laughter, not mean laughter.  Don't mock, tease, or taunt.  Have a lot of fun laughing with your kids.  Have family in-jokes.   We had a joke that ran for many years, where whenever we just missed a bus or train, we would say we did not miss "our bus," that the next one was "our bus." This extended to anything we missed: it was not ours, ours was the next one.

28. Teach your kids about sex. Teach them that their bodies are sacred. Teach them to respect others. Don't sexualize your children.  Dress your kids as kids, not as sexy little adults.  Give your kids a simple rule: Don't have sex till they are in college.  In California, it is illegal for anyone under age 18 to have sex.  That makes this an easy rule to explain and insist upon.  The legal age is lower in some states, but it is rarely conducive to getting an education and good start in life to have sex younger than age 18.

29. Have open communication with your children about the internet.  Talk to them about sexting, revenge porn, bullying.  Let them know the internet is wonderful, but is also a playground for predators.  Teach them that not everything is as it seems.  Teach your children to respect others on the internet, and not to engage in hacking, bullying, or posting sex photos.  Teach them to keep their computer cameras covered, except when in use. Teach them never to agree to meet anyone from the internet unless they run it by you.  Tell them that many sex predators meet victims this way.  Yes, this means you need to explain to your kids about sex predators.

30. Take pictures often.  Children grow up quickly.


What is a Booking Agent?

What is a Booking Agent?
by Sue Basko

The answer to this question differs from state to state, depending on the Talent Agency law of that state.  In the two states in which I am licensed, California and Illinois, the laws are quite similar to each other, though California enforces and publicizes the law much more rigorously. California is much better at protecting actors, musicians, and other talent from unscrupulous people who claim to be agents or bookers. 

A booking agent is a talent agent that works on behalf of venues to book talent for them. A booking agent is required to be licensed as a Talent Agent.  To get such a license, a person must apply to the state and must meet requirements such as a background check, testing, insurance, an in-state place of business, and other requirements.  It is not cheap or easy to become a talent agent.  

The purpose of licensing of talent agents is to protect actors, musicians, and other entertainers, as well as the venues that book them.  The talent agent is required to make sure the whole deal meets the requirements of the law so that people get paid and safety and decency laws are met.  Working with a non-licensed talent agent or booking agent is terribly risky.  Many people that call themselves booker or booking agents are actually operating without a license.  Before doing business with them, you should ask if they are licensed and check it out.

There are two other types of people that might be booking talent for shows.  One is called a Talent Buyer.  A Talent Buyer is an employee of a venue or of a company that owns numerous venues.  A Talent Buyer books talent for a venue and usually deals with the licensed agent that represents the talent, or with the manager or talent directly, if the talent has no agent.  It will be the duty of the licensed Talent Agent to be sure the contract offered by the Talent Buyer meets the requirements of the law as well as the needs of the Talent. 

The other type of person that might be booking a show is called a Producer. The producer is a person who takes financial and legal responsibility for creating a show.  Like a Talent Buyer, a Producer will work with the licensed Talent Agent that represents the talent.   If the talent does not have an agent, a lawyer should be engaged for and by the talent to be sure the contract and deal are acceptable.