IN THE CLEAR(ANCE) – DEBORAH MANNIS-GARDNER ON LICENSING MUSIC IN THE METAVERSE
written by Emma Griffiths for SyncTank –May 11, 2022 (Edited)
Deborah Mannis-Gardner, Owner/President of DMG Clearances, talks us through the unique obstacles she faces when clearing music for platforms like Roblox and Meta, and her mission to future-proof music licensing for new technologies.
Q – What makes clearing something for the metaverse more
challenging than traditional media?
With the metaverse, sometimes the artist is performing in a live
environment, for example Meta is actively involved in doing stuff
like that, versus Roblox, which is an animated character with the
So, the question that comes into play from the copyright holders,
besides us trying to clear it as a synchronization use, is what other
revenue is being derived that goes to the artist and label and any
In the world of film, video games and TV, we get perpetuity, but in
the world of audio books, podcasts, and the metaverse, we are
forced into limited terms.
Q – But let’s talk about the internet – when something’s up there,
it’s always out there.
‘I think the biggest obstacle is defining these parameters to work
within the budgets that these platforms have.Other difficulties are the
PRO licenses and which platforms have established those and which
haven’t. One of the things I have to constantly advise these clients that
have these new platforms in the metaverse is you need to get PRO
licenses in place.
The biggest gap is between music licensing and new technology. There
is no bridge. And whenever people were talking on the tech side, they
would use the word organic meaning they really wanted the music for
On the crypto side and what’s going on now, they’re not
looking for free. There’s a lot of money. So, we need to make sure
that we create that bridge.
“There’s a lot of money. So, we need to make sure that we create that
bridge [between music licensing and new technology].”
Q – Hopefully there’s an opportunity to establish better income
structures for creators
We need to make sure it doesn’t turn into another streaming situation
where people really get the short end of the stick. We need to make
sure we establish something, and it can be done.
I did it with sample clearances back in 1990. There wasn’t an
established way of doing clearances and it’s been evolving and
evolving. We need to establish the same thing with the metaverse and
NFTs with the ability to evolve as technology changes to make sure that
people are paid properly.
Q – You recently handled the music clearance for the Song Breaker
Awards on Roblox, which featured live performances from Lizzo
and GAYLE. What were the main challenges you faced?
I think the biggest one was the budgetary constrictions. This is a
fairly new awards show, and we have to remember these are really
important and relevant to this younger generation using TikTok,
Roblox and Twitch and these other platforms for musical
We have to respect and recognize these platforms, but then make sure
that the music clearances are done correctly so that revenue is
We were really fortunate we had artists that wanted to participate and
relay that to their copyright administrators. So that they played ball
and it wasn’t painful at all. When you deal with really cooperative
copyright holders, then we all can reach the same goal.
Those that were difficult, we didn’t use their music and we pulled
it. That’s the only way to handle that stuff right now.
Q – You also gave guidance on performance deals, what did that look
With performance deals, even if an artist is performing their song,
usually the labels require a waiver or blocking rights. A lot of
people on the production side don’t realize that. They think that if
an artist is performing a song, that their issue is just getting the
I’ve been trying to educate people that you have to go to the label
and you have to get consent. And sometimes the labels are
cooperative and sometimes they aren’t, it really depends on who the
artist is and what you’re dealing with.
With Roblox they create these avatars and they pre-record the
music, which redefines it as a master use. So, you have to analyze
and evaluate how everything is done to make sure that you cover all those
Q – You’ve been consulting with companies looking to enter the
metaverse. What kind of conversations are you having?
As we know, Snoop is in the forefront of doing this and he really set
everything up properly. We have other artists like Warren G who re-
recorded “Regulate” to sell as NFTs so he didn’t have the master side to
We have to guide our clients, because people come up with these ideas
and then we’ll say, well, how many NFTs? What are your intentions?
Everyone has fabulous ideas, but you have to make sure those ideas
are defined so you can then explain it to the other people you need to
get consent from and stay within that budget that you’re limited to.
We’re doing a lot of consultation, even with festivals that want to enter
into this world. We see that people aren’t necessarily going back to
concerts and they need to earn that revenue. So, they’re looking at
the metaverse as a platform and I think Meta are really out there
strong. I have so much props and respect for them going out and
trying to do more of these metaverse concerts. I think it’s brilliant.
“I think the world is shrinking and that we have ways to entertain and still
see revenue and utilize this new technology.”
Q – Through all of the work that you’re doing, what excites you the
most in terms of the potential for music?
I would love to see more of these concerts where people have the
ability to attend through the metaverse and not necessarily be there
live. If you think about Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda did it with
Hamilton becoming a Disney release.
If theaters don’t go back to full capacity, maybe they need to look into
recording shows and making them available for people to pay to
watch. I think the world is shrinking and that we have ways to entertain
and still see revenue and utilize this new technology. I’m sure we’re
going to see a lot of that popping up.
Q – What advice would you give music rights holders wanting to do
business in the metaverse?
I’d like to see publishers sit down and make a list of the information
they think they need in order to grant the quote. For the consortium
I’m involved with, I put together a boilerplate NFT request and a
boilerplate metaverse request hoping that it includes everything that
they could possibly need and all the rights that we need to cover and
all the people that would be eating from that pie, if you will.
The more information they have, the more they can get the clearance
in place. I think there’s so much hesitation with metaverse NFTs. We
should try to find out,
- What do you the copyright holder need to make sure that you can get
- that consent?
- What are your concerns?
- What are your questions?
So as a clearance person, we can make sure that we touch on all those
points and we can facilitate things quickly. That’s what I want to see
come to the table.