The music that’s used in a film can make or break said film. While most movie music that you think of comes from orchestral performances (think “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones”), there are plenty that have used previously licensed music. A Hollywood standard is that you use about two percent of the film’s budget on the soundtrack, but with a large budget for big action movies, you can be looking at millions in licensing fees.
Some of the movies that have spent millions of dollars have included “Spider-Man”, which was nearly $5 million. A single that artist writes a song specifically for a movie can also request seven figures. Among the particular artists that make big bucks from their songs being used include Kanye West and AC/DC. The Australian rock group in particular has made a half million from their hit song “Thunderstruck”.
The song was used in the 1990s film “Varsity Blues”, and the man (Thomas Golubic) who was in charge said he remembered “being absolutely horrified when I heard that number.” The production of the “Iron Man” films only helped to pad the net worth for AC/DC, and the group says that they want their songs to remain specifically for their fans and not over commercialized, so if the songs are getting used, studios are going to have to pay.
Another one of the most expensive songs to license is “I Will Always Love You”. The performance that typically gets used is the one from Whitney Houston, which was on the highest selling soundtrack of all-time, “The Bodyguard”. Not only would you have to pay Sony, the label that recorded the song, but also Houston’s estate. On top of that, Dolly Parton wrote the song, and she doesn’t come cheap.
That doesn’t stop films from ponying up the money. Many writers and directors are adamant about the use of certain songs, even including it in the script. This means that come hell or high water, that song will be heard in the movie and possibly increase the budget. Most songs won’t reach these types of prices, thankfully for producers. Your standard song will run a film about $30,000, depending on the film’s wide reach, and each song’s price has to be negotiated.
So the next time you’re watching a movie, you might be wondering how much a particular song from a scene that you like cost. For a lot of people, that one clip of a song could be more than a year’s salary for your average person.