How To Use Music Legally In Your Work

When do I need a license to use music in my work?
You need to acquire a license when you want to take music that you have not personally created and use it as background music soundtrack in your production.  Acquiring a license gives you the legal right to include someone else’s copyrighted work as a part of your own work.

What is a Copyright?
Copyright is a federal law that protects creators by giving them exclusive rights to their works for a period of time.  Once a work is under copyright, it is considered copyright infringement (illegal) to use the work without the permission of the copyright owner.

How does copyright affect my decision to use music?
Music that has been recorded and issued on CD is protected by 2 copyrights.  To use a recording of a musical composition in your work, you need to get permission from both copyright holders.

The first permission you need is from the music’s publisher.  The music publisher holds the copyright for the actual written music – the melody, the lyrics, the accompaniment, the actual music as it would appear in sheet music.  This copyright is shown by using the familiar © symbol.

The second permission is for the recording itself.  To get this, you would approach the record company that released the recording.  The record company holds the copyright for the actual performance of the song captured and mastered on tape and released on CD.  The symbol for this copyright is the letter (P) inside a circle. (look on the back of your own Cds, you will see these symbols in use)

The fact that music is protected by copyright doesn’t mean you cannot use it, it simply means you have to seek permission to use it.  To receive that permission you will typically have to pay a licensing fee.

What licenses do I need?
Here are the licenses you need for the right to use music in your media project:

Synchronization License – This license is issued by the music publisher.  The Synchronization License (often abbreviated as “sync” license) gives you the right to “synchronize” the copyrighted music with your images and dialogue.

Note: Having a sync license means you have permission from the publisher to use the music but it doesn’t give you the right to use a specific recording of the composition.  For that, you need the following…

Master Use License – This license is issued directly from the record company. Fees can range from several hundred dollars to millions of dollars depending on the popularity of the music.

Once you have paid the music publisher for a Sync License and the record company for a Master Use license, you have the legal right to use the music in your production within the terms of the license you negotiated.

Sidebar
This article is about music that is under copyright and NOT in the public domain.  In the United States, music written before 1933 is in the public domain and can be used without having to acquire a synchronization license.  However, you will still need a master use license if you use a recording of a piece in the public domain.  Music written after 1933 is still under copyright according to US law.  Public Domain is defined and interpreted differently in Canada, Europe, and the UK. Here is an article with more detail about using public domain music.

How do I find out who owns the song rights?
If you don’t know the publisher of the song you want to license, you should contact the major Performance Rights Organizations like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.  These groups have large databases of composer and associated publisher song titles.  Another place to try is The Harry Fox Agency. This company mainly grants mechanical rights (for recording and existing song), but their database is also huge.

Music Clearance
As you can see from the process described above, licensing music can be a time-intensive, form-laden, and expensive process.  There are companies that just specialize in finding and processing the paperwork to get you the rights to a song. If you enter the term “Music Clearance” in a search engine, many music clearance companies will appear.  If you have a music supervisor on your project, he or she will also be experienced in music clearance.

A Licensing Alternative – Production Music
Using Production Music (also referred to as Stock Music), is the easiest way to quickly license music to use legally in your work. Production Music fills a niche for producers who don’t have a million dollar music budget and can’t afford to license a major hit song.  Production Music gives the smaller, independent producer the ability to use music soundtracks in his or her production.

Is Production Music under copyright?
Production music is protected by both the (C) and (P) copyrights.  When you buy a track from a production music library, you’ll receive a license agreement which grants you both synchronization and master use rights. It’s simple and easy to do.  For instance, at the UniqueTracks Stock Music site, your license and recorded master track can be downloaded right to your computer upon purchase.

Stock Production Music is not copyright-free as some have termed it.  It is fully protected by copyright law. With production music, you get the ease of licensing.  You don’t have to contact several sources to seek sync and master use licenses.  These licenses come bundled together and the rights granted are very wide.  A typical stock music license grants you permission to use the music in TV broadcasts, TV & Radio advertising, Internet streaming (great for YouTube videos) music-on-hold, apps & video games, in-store broadcast, and as corporate trade show products and giveaways.  Here is an example of a typical stock music license agreement.

Can I license a famous song from a production music library?
There are no production music pop hits.  You won’t find an Eminem track in a royalty free production music library.  To use an Eminem cut you would have to negotiate a license with Interscope Records.  That’s not to say you can’t find Hip Hop tracks in production music libraries but you won’t find current or past pop hits.

Unlike a pop song, production music is composed to be used specifically as background music. It is usually instrumental, with no vocals or lyrics, and is similar to a film soundtrack.

The simplicity of licensing makes it a perfect choice for corporate videos, Flash animations, Game apps, Music-On-Hold, PowerPoint presentations, independent film, multimedia applications, – virtually anywhere where music is helpful but where the project budget doesn’t include hundreds of thousands of dollars to license expensive songs.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results  UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.


Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, and Animated Video Backgrounds

DMCA needs to actually enter the millennium

The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) of 1998 sought to give Internet Service Providers legal protection (a “safe harbor”) against copyright infringement claims should one of their users upload copyrighted material. The act made sense at the early stages of the Internet before broadband expansion lead to companies like YouTube and sites like the Pirate Bay.

The DMCA puts the burden of enforcement squarely in the hands of content providers by way of the “takedown notice” which is essentially a form sent to the ISP owner stating that there is some type of media or software on their site which they do not have the rights to be hosting. The takedown notice informs the ISP owner that further legal action will be taken if they don’t comply by removing the sited item(s).

The problem with the DMCA today is that content owners can’t keep up with the volume of takedown notices they have to file. YouTube has received over 100 million DMCA notices from the recording industry in just the last few years. Google’s own statistics show that 97% of these claims are valid.

The DMCA’s safe harbor is also the main defense used by pirate sites like The Pirate Bay, KickAssTorrents and Torrentz. These sites have earned millions by illegally hosting content for which they have no rights or licenses.

Unfortunately, rather than manage copyright, it [the DMCA] has provided a huge loophole through which a number of online pirate entrepreneurs sail blissfully through. Known as the “safe harbor” provision, this oft-abused language has served to shelter digital thieves at the expense of rights holders. ”Safe Harbor” has enabled the growth of a criminal cancer and it’s a cancer–that as of now–cannot be beaten, only kept (marginally) at bay. – See more at VoxIndie.org

The DMCA is Broken from fastgirlfilms on Vimeo.

Musicians, Don’t Play For Free

Craiglist Ad originally posted in Vancouver, Canada

Nice response.

Don’t Play For Free!!!

and

Don’t write on spec  (if you can help it).


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.

Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business

In 2013, Digital Citizens Alliance set out to understand how content thieves operate and profit from the works of others. In an effort to determine how much bad actors earn through advertising, Digital Citizens commissioned MediaLink LLC to undertake a research project focused on the ecosystem’s revenues and profitability.

The findings, published in the report “Good Money Gone Bad: Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business” show that these sites are making incredible profits off of the works of others.

The highlights include:
• Content theft sites reaped an estimated quarter of a billion dollars in ad revenue alone in 2013.
• The 30 largest sites that make revenue exclusively through ads averaged $4.4 million in 2013.
• The most heavily trafficked BitTorrent and P2P sites, which rely exclusively on advertising revenue, averaged a projected $6 million per year in 2013.
• 30% of the most heavily trafficked content theft sites carried premium brand advertising and 40% carried secondary brand advertising
• The sites studied in the sample had a estimated profit margin of 80-94%.
This presentation includes screenshots from many of the sites reviewed by MediaLink.

Download Digital Citizens Alliance Report

Download More information (Media Packet)
mediapacket

digitalcitizensalliance-infographic

How Is Music Clearance Different from Music Licensing?

Every few weeks or so I’ll get a phone call with an inquiry that goes something like this…

I’d like to use Elvis Presley’s recording of ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ as background music in my film. Can you help me do that?

Regretfully, beyond recommending some other companies to investigate, I am not much help in this regard.  Though music licensing is our core business, UniqueTracks only licenses recordings that we have created in-house or that we control the publishing rights to.

What these folks are looking for is a firm that will do “music clearance” work for them.  Yes, there are companies you can turn to when you are looking to obtain music licensing rights but have no idea where to turn.  These companies will help you acquire the rights to use famous songs but they are even better at finding the rights for obscure songs.  Music clearance companies are experts at finding the needle-in-the-haystack information that will eventually track down the song you’re interested in.  They will then act as your advocate with the publisher and record company to try and get you the best license pricing available.

What is Music Clearance?

Music Clearance is the process of obtaining the permissions necessary to include a music recording in a production.  The music clearance process should encompass all music used in the production.  This means every music cue, not just the soundtrack but also any source or background music.

For instance, if a film includes a scene where the characters are listening to music on the radio, the song being broadcast from the radio will need to be “cleared” –  you will need to get permission to use the song.  If the characters are at a bar and live music is being performed in the background, you will need to obtain the permissions necessary to use the song in that way.

The act of “clearing” these music cues involves obtaining the necessary licenses needed to use the music in the production.  You will need a synchronization license and a master use license.

Licensing is priced based on the type of project.  For instance, with a film, a festival rights license will be cheaper than a general release license.  Licensing music for use in a TV commercial will cost whatever the market will bear.  A famous recording of a song will command a much higher rate than an undiscovered or unknown song.

Performance Rights Organizations

If you are doing music clearance yourself, the best place to start is with the major performance rights organizations (PROs).  ASCAP, Broadcast Music (BMI) and SESAC are the major PROs in the United States.  Chances are the song you are looking for is registered with one of these organizations and you can obtain valuable publisher and writer information from them for free.

Note: You will still have to track down the owner of the recording rights (usually the record company) to get permission to use a recording of the song you’re interested in.  Hint: A great way to find the name of the record company is to use Amazon.com’s search function.

Most nations have their own performance rights organizations. In the United Kingdom, the performance rights organization is PRS. In Canada it is SOCAN, in Australia it is APRA, Germany has GEMA.  These groups link their database of songs so they are aware of each other’s listings. If a song registered with ASCAP and created by an American composer is played on the radio in England, PRS, the UK performance rights organization, will log that performance in their database and send ASCAP a report of all performances of that song (usually on a quarterly basis).

Music Clearance Companies

The links below are to some notable companies that handle music clearance and music licensing.  I’ve linked to informational articles on their sites so you can get more information on this subject.

EMG Music Clearance – Do It Yourself Music Clearance (good article)

The Music Bridge LLC – A Music Clearance Primer

Parker Music Group – A good FAQ

The Rights Workshop – Licensing & Music Clearance

One of the reasons stock music companies like UniqueTracks exist is because we can license music quickly and easily without having to seek a third-party company to negotiate licensing for you.  We are a one-stop shop.  When you purchase a stock music track on the UniqueTracks site, you are immediately issued a synchronization and a master use license to use the music in your production.

The trade-off, of course, is that UniqueTracks cannot license a Beatles or Led Zepplin song to you. We can, however, license famous classical production music like this piece by Tchaikovsky.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.

Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

The most famous piece of classical music in the world

Antonio Vivaldi’s best-known composition is a set of violin concertos composed in 1723 entitled the Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni). The Four Seasons is actually four individual violin concertos that have been grouped together, each labeled for one of the seasons of the year. Each concerto (each season) is in three movements with a slow movement set between two faster ones.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has become arguably the most popular piece of classical music in the world with more performances and recordings than even Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. This achievement is further magnified when you consider that this music lay forgotten on a library shelf for two hundred years. It was not until 1950, when a recording of the Four Seasons appeared, that the piece gained notice. The success of The Four Seasons is an extraordinary journey for a piece of music that had lived so long in utter oblivion.

The popularity of The Four Seasons also points out how much Antonio Vivaldi’s music owes it’s current acclaim to the world of technology for without audio recordings, it is doubtful that Vivaldi’s music would have gained its current wide renown.

By now everyone has heard at least one of the movements from The Four Seasons. You may not have known the piece’s title but its most popular movements, especially the “Spring” Allegros, are quite ubiquitous in our culture having been used hundreds of times in national and regional commercials, movies, TV shows, as background music in restaurants, music-on-hold messages, not to mention constant radio play on classical music stations.

The addictive rhythmic vitality of so much of Antonio Vivaldi’s music has led to its rebirth and great popularity amongst classical music lovers and the general public as well. Much like the music of today, Vivaldi’s music, especially his opening movement Allegros, have a driving rhythmic vitality and are brimming with energy (The Italian word “Allegro” is a tempo indication meaning “lively” or “fast”). Vivaldi’s melodies are simple and easy to listen to. The tempo Adagio slow movements evoke a warm and beautiful sensibility (“Adagio” means slowly).

Vivaldi was a master violinist and it is thought that he wrote the Four Seasons as a performance vehicle to showcase his own virtuosity. The violin part is quite challenging indeed even by today’s standards.

An often-overlooked compositional force in The Four Seasons is its programmatic basis. In music, the term “programmatic” refers to a composer consciously trying to represent something non-musical, like a story or an image, in the composition. This type of writing is called tone-painting; the composition is a tone poem.

In the Four Seasons, Vivaldi takes four poems titled Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and transforms various passages directly into music. He is quite literal. When the poem speaks of birds, we hear bird calls in the music. Throughout the movements, you can hear musical depictions of streams, thunder, lightning, a dog barking, even drunkards that have fallen asleep. These images can be found painted musically throughout the piece.

Here is a translation of the first poem Spring. It is now believed that Vivaldi himself wrote the poems.

Spring has come and with it gaiety,
The birds salute it with joyous song,
And the brooks, caressed by Zephyr’s breath,
Flow meanwhile with sweet murmurings:
The sky is covered with dark clouds,
Announced by lightning and thunder.
But when they are silenced, the little birds
Return to fill the air with their song:
Then does the meadow, in full flower,
Ripple with its leafy plants.
The goat-herd dozes, guarded by his faithful dog.
Rejoicing in the pastoral bagpipes,
Nymphs and Shepherds dance, in love,
Their faces glowing with Springtime’s brilliance.

Believe it or not, these poetic images are literally “painted” throughout the Spring movements of The Four Seasons. The bird calls can be heard in the Allegro, First movement from the Spring concerto. They appear right when the violin solos begin (about 30 seconds into the piece). This gives way to the undulating sounds of a rushing brook. Next lightning and thunder are heard only to subside as the bird calls return.

It’s hard to believe today that Vivaldi’s music would be destined to lie dormant for 200 years. Vivaldi himself had fallen into obscurity by the end of his lifetime. He died penniless in Vienna in 1741. His music virtually disappeared until just after World War 2. Since then, its popularity has exploded. The Four Seasons concertos are now regularly performed concert pieces and are among the most famous pieces of music in the world. Whether it is the appealing rhythmic drive or the beautiful warmth of the baroque violins, people are just naturally drawn to this music.

Poem translation from Landon, H. C. Robbins “Vivaldi, Voice of the Baroque” Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1993

There is no stronger piece of classical stock music than Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It is music that is recognized the world over which means when you use it as background music, you pull all of that recognition into your own production. The mood of the music is upbeat, buoyant and immensely positive. This has contributed much to its success as one of the most licensed pieces in our music library.

If you’d like to license Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to use as background soundtrack in your video or media project, visit this classical stock music page.


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results. UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.


Royalty Free Music, Sound Effects, and Animated Video Backgrounds

In love with Vinyl LPs? You’re not alone

Frank Zappa’ s Freak Out

Don Was co-founded the eclectic ’80s band Was (not Was) (hit single – Spy in the House of Love) before becoming a highly regarded record producer having produced Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones.  Mr. Was has been writing a blog for MetroTimes in Detroit amongst other things.

Was’s blog post celebrates records.  Vinyl LPs. He celebrates not only the fidelity of LPs but also their artwork and the space they allowed for the artist to give credit to those involved in the making of the record.  He uses Frank Zappa’s 1966 release of the Freak Out! LP as an example.

It was a double album with an amazing gatefold jacket that retailed for $4.99. Inside there were extensive liner notes written by Frank Zappa that changed my life. In a subsequent interview, Frank said that the Freak Out! album package was designed to be “as accessible as possible to the people who wanted to take the time to make it accessible. That list of names in there, if anybody were to research it, would probably help them a great deal.” He was right: The first time I heard of Charles Ives, Willie Dixon, Captain Beefheart, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Eric Dolphy was when I read that list of 150 random notables.

The article underlines what recording used to be at its best – what records used to be at their best. How an album could be its own art form, not just a loss leader or a promo to get you to go to the live show and buy t-shirts. The album – the music, the artwork/design and packaging – could be its own artistic experience.

Was celebrates how albums of the past listed all the people that worked to create the project. Much like a movie that lists its credits at the story’s end, the LP had the room to print not only song lyrics but also the recording studio and engineer, the mastering studio engineer.  I can remember reading the names, Hit Factory, Record Plant, Power Station, as a kid.  They seemed like far-away temples to me.

The digitization of audio was originally lauded and welcomed by musicians and audio engineers alike. It seemed to make the work of recording so much easier.  But today, 25 years into digital audio, there is a different perspective amongst many musicians and audio engineers.  There is an on-going argument about the fidelity of digital recording and the use or over-use of digital audio techniques (i.e. brick wall mastering). Most devastating to the actual commerce of the recording industry, digitization has allowed exact copies of recordings to be freely copied and the Internet has made those copies available to millions.

Downloading music has also affected the album as an artistic entity. Here’s Dan Was again.

If Zappa released that same music today, we’d browse the 30-second samples on the iTunes store without the benefit of reading those mind-blowing liner notes. There’d be no context or depth to the whole experience. It’s no wonder that kids don’t wanna pay for music anymore – downloading a file of zeroes and ones for 99 cents has the same cultural allure as ordering a Ronco Veg-O-Matic from an 800 number.

It’s tough to find out who produced and engineered the music and you can forget about finding out who did the cover art (that cover art having now been reduced to 2 inches square at a resolution of 72 dpi)

Digital audio and electronic delivery have transformed how we consume music.  There are great benefits to digital.  Ease of storage is one.  But we have traded a lot for that.  Sound fidelity has been cheapened along with the whole experience of what an album is.

I had a talk with a young man recently and he was telling me about the 1000s of songs and albums he had downloaded mostly through file-sharing sites.  These included several modern classical albums like performances of Steve Reich’s “Music for Eighteen Musicians” and some Philip Glass instrumental works.  I thought to myself, yes, but how well do you know this music. How many times have you listened to it?

In fact, it takes time to really listen to music.  Especially challenging music.  It’s an investment of time.  Really digesting 1000 recordings should take years.  We seem to have become very good aggregators of music but we have forgotten or we simply don’t have the time to be good listeners.  For me, it’s more important that someone really know the music on 25 albums than to sport a library of thousands of recordings.


“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” – Hebert Simon – Recipient of Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics and the A.M. Turing Award, the “Nobel Prize of Computer Science”

(I took a cognitive psychology class with Prof. Simon while at Carnegie Mellon in 1978)


I have a slight connection to Mr. Was in that I am originally from Windsor, Ontario (Canada) just across the river from Detroit. It was a cool place to live in the early-1970s. That area of the country now gets a lot of bad press, even from its own local media, but it has a great history and, to me, is one of the hidden gems in North America (the Detroit River!) – but that’s another story.

UniqueTracks stock music in action

Eric Wyatt and the video production creatives at e-media, in Ft. Myers Florida recently produced a promo spot for Bedslide which featured some tracks from the UniqueTracks Production Music Library.

Bedslide makes a unique sliding utility for loading and unloading trucks. Basically, it turns your truck bed into a sliding drawer.

As Eric told me recently,

“The marketing department [at Bedslide] wanted to use something with a hard rock sound for music. Thankfully we had your stock rock music tracks.”

Here is the spot, shot for under $3000. Neat product.

The songs licensed in this video are:


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results.  UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.

Postcards to Defend Copyright

We at UniqueTracks want to pass along this link to a very smart messaging program from copylike.org (Defend Copyright). These are online postcards displaying easy to understand statements about the damage to artists caused by piracy and file-sharing. The postcards can be sent directly from the copylike.org site.

See some examples below…

copylike.org_postcard_rightsandtheft

copylike.org_postcard_money

copylike.org_postcard_musicisfree

 

Spread the word at
http://copylike.org

Retro Hollywood Movie Soundtracks – New Stock Music

UniqueTracks has just released new stock music soundtracks written in the style of the grand Hollywood films of the past. This collection was composed by Emmy Award-winning film composer Misha Segal.

Included in this set are grand orchestral fanfares, underscores for suspense thrillers, film noir themes, a good helping of early Dixieland jazz, action adventure, and cowboy western scores, spy movie themes and romantic comedy cues, all performed in a retro orchestral style from Hollywood’s glorious past.

Retro Hollywood Movie Soundtracks is a collection of film scores that captures the Hollywood of bygone eras from pre-war black-and-white movies up to the movies of the 1970s.

Highlight Stock Music Tracks include:


Premium Stock Music for Film, TV, Advertising and Interactive. Editor-selected, Easy Search, Fast Results.  UniqueTracks has a vast library of music loops and grooves plus a large selection of classical production music available for licensing into your production.