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The Red Tape of Commercial Video Production


You might be surprised at how often clients can become frustrated with the legal red tape associated with commercial video projects. In this blog post we will address some of the common topics we encounter with licensing and permits.



One of the more simple challenges of commercial film making comes in the form of licensing. This can include music, photos, stock footage, news clips, articles, and more. The important thing to remember is that all of this costs money.


First let’s talk music. Everyone wants music in their videos. It keeps viewers interested, sets the pace of a video and we us it as a tool in our editing process. Unfortunately, you can’t just pick any song you like and toss it in your video. Even if you can afford the tens of thousands it would cost to license a popular song, you will still need to pay royalties for every play. We always use royalty free music in our projects. There are many sources for royalty free music, some better than others, that we browse for songs. You can find free options on YouTube, however they aren’t usually very good. We hold subscriptions to multiple music libraries, and often purchase per song. On average, expect a good royalty free song to cost about $50 for use online and social media. If you plan to broadcast your commercial on TV, expect $200 or more.


Stock Footage

The second largest licensing category we deal with is stock footage. Often times we use stock footage in our projects. The reasons vary greatly but include issues with permits (we will cover that later), weather, and location. Stock footage can be very expensive, particularly depending on the type of footage you are looking for. We spend between $80 and $200 per clip for licensing stock footage. This can add up quick depending on how many shots in your video might need to be stock. Like many things in life, you get what you pay for with stock footage. You also have to deal with increasing price points, based on your delivery method.


In the Gallatin Valley we are surrounded by beautiful places and fantastic recreation. At CoffeeBoys, we frequently try to incorporate these things into our projects. However it is very important to obtain the permissions required to film at certain locations. Want to grab a shot up at Bridger Bowl or Big Sky? Hoping to film in the park? Or what about on Main Street in Downtown Bozeman? All of these places require a permit process. The biggest thing to remember with location permits: they take time! On average, you will need at least three weeks to process a film permit, even longer if you are trying to access National Forest or recreation areas. If you are hoping to get some aerial footage from these locations, tack on an extra week of processing, and additional costs.

Insurance also plays a big role in the permit process. At CoffeeBoys we cover a fairly substantial liability insurance policy which we use on our clients behalf to receive approval for specific locations.


At CoffeeBoys we have tons of experience navigating the red tape associated with commercial filmmaking. It is important to address locations and licensing early on in a project. This allows us enough time to work through any location permits that might be necessary. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t own it, you will need to pay for access to it.

Reach out to us with any questions so we can help you through this process!

Duncan Williamson