Business Insight - Using Music Legally.

music screen As photographers we are all very familiar with the ease with which our work can be taken by others and used without permission. This abuse of copyright is theft and takes money from the pockets of the creators of the work.
The misuse of imagery has taken-off because of the perfect digital copies of those images that the Internet makes available to anyone who decides they want to use photography without paying for it. Photographers are not alone in experiencing this problem. The makers of music also see their work easily copied and used without permission or renumeration. I would say that the creators of music have a more difficult time than photographers as itís harder to detect where their music is being used. Photographers can use tools like Tineye or the Google picture lookup to find copies of their work. As far as I know, there is no musical equivilant.

As photographers and filmmakers are very aware of copyright abuse, it always surprises me to see (or hear) video using music that is highly unlikely to be licenced for use with their work. Of course I can never be sure, but when I hear popular music from current artists being used I would be very surprised if permission was requested and granted before the creative used it to enhance their work.

So there we have an abuse of anotherís copyright protected material by the very people who really should know better. So what can we do to get around this? (For the purposes of this article Iím going to ignore the possibility that popular chart artists are going to allow the licence of their work although I expect this is technically possible).

1. Make your own music. Which can be surprisingly simple even for those who canít read a note of music, like me! There are software packages available that let you Ďconstructí music using snippets of sound that you put together on a timeline. The tunes you can make will depend on the sounds supplied with the software but there will be a large range to go at, from chilled to dance to classical. Something for every mood and situation. The header shot you see above is an example of one I put together. Each little box represents a different sound and instrument. Almost all sounds are available from a huge array of instruments and with a little practice itís very easy to put together something quite rythmic and enjoyable to listen to. Additional snippets are available to buy if those you get with the package arenít enough for you. Even with fairly modest packages you can make up your own sounds and write your own music using your keyboard as a piano for instance. So you can see here itís very easy to make music to accompany your visual-media that doesnít abuse anyone elseís copyright. You do though have to spend time learning how to use it and experimenting to get the sounds you want.

It should be noted that the software may come with restrictions on what you can do with the music you create. If for instance you find that your music is good enough to be licenced like any other piece of music, i.e. you wish to sell it, or you want to use it commercially, then you might have to pay the makers of the software an additional fee before you are allowed to do so. It's worth reading the licence terms of the software package you decide to buy before you start to make any music.

Here's a piece of music I created using the loops that came with Magix Music Maker. It's called 'My Own Destiny". Have a listen.

2. There are websites that offer music specifically for licencing. You simply find the music you want, ensure you can work with the terms of the licence, pay for it and away you go. Sites such as Musicbed (we have no affiliation) is one such company. This route to music is fast and gives you a huge variety of music to meet almost all moods and scenarios. It doesnít come cheap though. However, donít forget, you are paying for the use of a skilled creativeís copyright-protected work, in exactly the same way a photographer expects their work to be licenced. Most of the traditional stock-image libraries also offer music for licencing too. Much of it is royalty-free so a one-time payment means continual use as long as it's within the terms of their licence agreement.

3. There are artists online who sell licences to their own work via their own websites so you are working to a similar scenario to the big distribution sites like Musicbed but dealing with the artist directly. A licence still has to be obtained, paid for and licencing terms adhered to.

4. Creative Commons (CC) is a licencing arrangement but doesn't charge for use whilst certain criteria are adhered to. Some of these conditions may forbid commercial use or not allow any changes to the original material. There are various licences available depending on the type of restrictions the copyright owner wishes to apply to their Creative Commons-licenced material. This can be a little complicated so its worth a visit to the page to learn more. There are sites dedicated to offering music licenced via Creative Commons, here's one offering music for commercial use. Other websites are available. Note central to CC use is the specific contents of the credit to the copyright owner when the work is used. This will be one of those conditions of use we discussed earlier.

5. If your budget stretches to it, commission a writer to create new work specifically for your project. I've no experience of this but I've included it's an option. Would be happy to hear from anyone who has commissioned new music to find out how it turned out.

6. For creators with a Youtube channel there is an audio library of music and sound effects that can be used at no cost. There are a variety of music genres from rock and dance to classical. Some artists require that they are credited for the use of the music and include specific text to be displayed with the film. Some artists do not ask for credit. There are rules and guidelines within the audio library so these should be understood before making use of the music.

There may be other options to obtaining music through authorised channels that I havenít touched on here, but however music is found and used along with visual-media, itís important to ensure itís done legally.

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