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Music plays a vital part in most video productions, yet it is also an area that creates many headaches for producers – mainly because the legalities of copyright can be difficult to understand. Recently, an ‘easier’ way for videographers working on weddings and other private functions has emerged whereby a reasonably priced licence can be be obtained, and the Institute of Videographers has been a great source of lobbying for this!

However, in the corporate market things are still complicated; we’re often asked to use a client’s favourite bit of commercial music and have to explain that although they may have bought the disk they don’t own the right to use it, other than for personal use and that the agents and rights owners of the piece will require serious negotiation, and usually money, for permission to use it.

There are a few options, firstly you don’t use music at all, but that’s a bit silly because generally you do need music to support the video story, even if it’s just an underscore and opening fanfare. There are few occasions when music isn’t used, but then there are also some occasions when you’d perhaps rather it hadn’t been used too!

Secondly, you could ignore the rules – again rather silly as you will get found out eventually and expose both yourself and your client to great angst and pain in the pocket.

So, actually commissioning your own music can often be a good idea, and there are many talented musicians out there who can write ‘in the style’ of another composer without infringing copyright for you. But do remember to get written copyright assignment as you will often be asked by replication companies for proof of ownership and right to use music, as well as software or other elements of your production.

Then there’s production music and copyright free music, or royalty free music. This music is produced specifically for use in AV work and can be licensed at a reasonable cost for specific uses. However, though it’s easier to obtain the licence for use it can be quite expensive with each 30 second piece or part there of counting as a ‘cue’ for payment, and to be fair after awhile these pieces can all start to sound very similar. There is now a buy out licence available, but for some mini productions even that’s a big chunk out of the budget.

Our best resource at the moment is a company called Sky Rocket Music and AKM Music – both have been set up with a view to making it easier for producers to obtain and legally use music – they are both a breath of fresh air to the industry. You can choose and review tracks on line and speak to real people who understand production issues rather than someone just interested in the licence money.

Choosing music can be a very time consuming activity, and you know it’s always personal – what one person likes another hates, in fact we’ve learnt to ask our clients for samples of music styles they don’t like because at least then we know what to avoid at the outset!




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