Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mechanical Rights administration and stock music / production music

As I'm writing this article, my target audience is composers / musicians who would like to get into the business of writing music for stock music / production music, and who does not yet fully understand the way in which the administration of your Mechanical Rights through an organization such as GEMA, MCPS, STEMRA etc. basically prevents you from being able to sell / license your music as stock music.

To manufacture a disc that contains music, you need to obtain the Mechanical Rights.

First of all, what are Mechanical Rights administration organizations?

Many composers, at one time or another, decides to join one or more societies or organizations that help them to police and administer their rights as a composer. Such organizations include ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, PRS, MCPS, GEMA, SIAE, BUMA/STEMRA, TONO, APRA and many others.

Some of these organizations administer Performing Rights (meaning your right to some income when your music is performed in public or broadcast on TV/Radio), whilst other organizations administer Mechanical Rights (meaning your right to some income when your music is duplicated on physical media such as DVD, Blu-Ray, CD).

Then there are some organizations that administer both Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights.

Mechanical Rights is where the conflict with stock music / production music happens.Why? Because the license sold by the stock music website / production music library overlaps with the exclusive administration that you have assigned to the Mechanical Rights organization when you joined them as a member.

When a stock music site / production music library sells a track to a customer, they sell a license which allows the customer to put the music in a film/game, and then to go ahead and make physical copies of this film/game. For example, at when you buy the Standard License for a track, you may put the music to a film/game and then manufacture up to 5,000 copies of that product. For more than 5,000 copies, you need the Extended License. Most other stock music sites operate with something similar, although perhaps slightly different license configurations. The stock music site sells a license to the customer, which includes mechanical reproduction rights.

The issue here is that, if you are a member of an organization that administers your Mechanical Rights, then that organization has the exclusive administration of your Mechanical Rights, and that organization is the only one that can issue such a license.

With Performing rights this problem doesn't come up, because the stock music site doesn't get involved with the performing license. The License that the stock music site sells is a Sync License (the right to put your music to film or other media) and a Mechanical License (the right to reproduce physical copies of that film or other media).

If that film should end up being broadcast on TV or in a cinema, your Performing Rights organization should collect performing royalties for you and you will get these royalties from your Performing Rights organization -- but this doesn't really affect the stock music customer / user in any way, because these royalties come from annually paid blanket license fees that broadcasters pay to the Performing Rights organization in their own country.

To sum up, if you are a member of an organization that administers your Mechanical Rights, you cannot have your music sold as stock music / production music from or from other stock music sites. Any company that sells your track to a customer and thereby allows that customer to manufacture physical copies of your music, is doing so in violation of the exclusive Mechnical Rights administration that you have assigned to the Mechanical Rights organization when you signed the contract with them.

When I first started out in the stock music business, I was both the composer and also the stock music business owner. I was a member of PRS (Performing Rights Society) and MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) which are the UK organization for Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights respectively.

One day I got a telephone call from an Italian customer. She had licensed my music track from my website, used it in a film, had the film put to DVD, manufactured 10,000 copies of that film in a professional DVD pressing plant, and a few weeks later she received a huge invoice from SIAE, the Italian organization who looks after both Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights in Italy. The bill she got was for Mechanical Reproduction Rights for 10,000 copies of my music, and the bill was many times larger than the amount that she had paid me to license the music from my stock music site.

It was this episode that really made me sit up and force myself to learn about these different rights and organizations, and how they affected my ability to license my music as stock music. After a bit of to and from, I believe I managed to talk MCPS into letting the client off the hook so she didn't have to pay after I explained the whole thing as a misunderstanding to MCPS and SIAE, the Italian rights collections society.

I ended up quitting my MCPS membership but remaining a member PRS. Since then, I've had no problem. Since terminating my contract with MCPS, there is no longer any organization that has the exclusive administration of my Mechanical Rights.

  • In USA, I believe all three societies: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are all Performing Rights based and do not administer Mechanical Rights (somebody correct me if I'm wrong?)
  • In the UK, the organization for Performing Rights is called PRS For Music and the organization for Mechanical Rights is called MCPS. If you are a member of PRS, you may want to check if you also joined MCPS at the same time.
  • In Italy you're dealing with SIAE and in Germany you have GEMA, and I believe both of these are organizations that take care of both Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights, so really if you are member of SIAE or GEMA, you can't have your music sold as stock music -- although you may be able to sign a special addendum to the Agreement that you have with them, which would make them administer only your Performing Rights, and not your Mechanical Rights - you need to contact GEMA/SIAE to inquire about this.
  • In the Netherlands, I believe BUMA is for the Performing Rights and STEMRA is for Mechanical Rights, so you may want to make sure that you have signed a contract only with BUMA, and not with STEMRA.
  • Sweden, Denmark and Norway each have their own organizations for Performing Rights (STIM, KODA and TONO respectively), but they share one Mechanical Rights organization called Ncb (Nordic Copyright Bureau) which administers Mechanical Rights. So if you want to try to sell your music as stock music, make sure you're not in Ncb.

If you have specific and confirmed information about similar situations with the organizations in other countries than the ones I have mentioned above, please feel free to comment below. If it's good info, I will include it here in the main article too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Using the "Advanced Browse" music search at

Here at we are proud to unveil what we believe is the most powerful, most flexible and most useful royalty free music search engine anywhere.

You can find the Advanced Browse by clicking the orange link in the left-hand menu of, just below "Artists".

The Advanced Browse page allows you to combine multiple search / browse criteria such as Music Genre, Moods/Emotions, Prominent Instruments, Classical or Non-Classical, Tempo Feel, BPM Tempo Range, Length (in seconds) and more, to find tracks specifically matching your needs.

The Advanced Browse page is also interconnected with the "Find Similar Tracks" function on our site. By clicking on "Find Similar Tracks" below any Track description, you are taken to the Advanced Browse page, which is then pre-filled for you, with multiple values from the track you were just listening to.

Multiple operators are combined with either AND or OR values, and note that you can Click on any AND / OR button to swap it between working as AND or OR.

Let's look at a few examples of how to use the Advanced Browse page:

Above, I have used the form to find Country/Bluegrass tracks that have either a Sad / Sorrowful  / Mournful, or a "Gloomy / Dark / Sinister" mood. This gave me a result of 7 tracks, all are kind of sparse country track with a doom laden feel, highly suitable for things like historical drama, westerns / modern westerns and more. Note that if I wish, I could click on the OR button between the two Moods settings, to change it to an AND operator instead.

In the above example I've quite simply found that my favorite artist is Dan Gautreau and I would like to browse all the Happy / Joyful / Positive tracks he has produced. This search result gave me 112 tracks, so I've got plenty of stuff to listen to.

Since I felt that the 112 tracks I got from my previous browse results was "too much", above I have added another criteria. This time I've gone for tracks by the artist Dan Gautreau, which are Happy / Joyful / Positive, and which features prominent use of Acoustic Piano. Now we're getting more precise, and this browse gave me a result of 26 tracks.

Above, I have decided to browse Vocal Pop tracks, which are either "Laidback / Easy-going / Chilled" OR "Happy / Joyful / Positive", and are sung by a Male vocalist. This gave me a result of 128 tracks.

If I wanted to, I could go back to the form and click on the OR button between the mood settings, and this would narrow the results to tracks that are both Laid back AND Happy - whilst still being in the Vocal Pop genre and being sung by a male vocalist. This would then give me 17 tracks.

Let's look at one more fun example. I wish to find jazz tracks performed by a traditional 3-piece jazz trio of Piano, Drums and Acoustic Bass. Here's how I would do it:

I've set the Music Genre setting to "Jazz: General & faster jazz" (I could change it to "Smooth jazz" if that's what I wanted), and I've selected Piano (Acoustic) AND Drums (Drum kit) AND Bass (Upright/Acoustic). Hit "Search" and I find 119 tracks. Nice result!

Let's just take one more example:

In the above case, I've decided to browse tracks in the Rock -> General Rock genre, which are between 8 and 15 seconds long. I needed this for a short on-screen presentation / intro screen.

Not many tracks are created to be only between 8 and 15 seconds long, but many of our composers create "Stinger" versions of their tracks, which often happen to be between 8 and 15 seconds, so in this case I get a result of 358 tracks. In this case, the resulting track listing doesn't show me the full length tracks - it shows me only the stinger versions that are between 8 and 15 seconds.

My friends, these are only a few examples of how you can use our Advanced Browse page to experiment with our catalog of stock music / royalty-free music and find exactly the tracks you need, with an amazing degree of flexibility and power in your searches. Experiment with it. Have fun with it. You can't break anything -- we hope! :-) You may find some combinations give you zero results, and you may find some combinations that give you too many results to make sense of it. If that happens, go back to the form and think of ways to tweak your settings to make your search more open, or more precise. In particular, keep track of those AND / OR buttons and click on them to change their functionality.

Have fun!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A video for the track "Rising Up" by Isha Erskine Project

We publish a lot of new music every week and we wouldn't have any chance of producing a video to promote every single track, but track #18,483 in our stock music catalog is Rising Up by the Isha Erskine Project, and we decided to spend some extra time on having a video done to this track.

The video itself isn't much to brag about, truth be told, but then we aren't video producers. It's just some stock video footage set to the music in an amateur way, but the music is superb. We hope you'll enjoy it. Here is the video (embedded from YouTube):

The music track is a vocal, somewhat mysterious, epic, but in an understated, elegant way. It's hard to explain exactly why this track is so atmospheric and vibrant. It has a timeless feel, and can work well in drama, as theme songs for films and much more. There is also an instrumental version. Here is a link to the track in our royalty-free music listing, showing all the different versions available and the licensing costs:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Copyrights and Wrongs

Is music plagiarism cut and dried or are there still ‘Blurred Lines’?

Throughout the history of music there have been melodies, rhythms and lyrics that closely resemble existing compositions. So is it clear in the eyes of the law when homage, inspiration or musical parody becomes outright musical theft?

History Repeats Itself

Despite the controversy surrounding the recent high profile case of the Thicke and Williams track ‘Blurred Lines’ and it’s legal dispute with the estate of Marvin Gaye, musical plagiarism is far from a new phenomenon.

In the early 1960’s The Beach Boys were forced to relinquish the publishing rights of their song ‘Surfin’ USA’ to Chuck Berry’s publisher due to its similarity to one of Berry’s compositions. Led Zeppelin got into hot water when there second album was found to have lyrics and riffs copied from early blues artists such as Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf.

Rod Stewart didn’t feel quite so horny when his song ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy’ was found to have a number of similarities to another composition, ‘Taj Mahal’ by Brazilian composer Jorge Ben Jor.

In the 1990’s, the Oasis hit ‘Whatever’ was forced to share songwriting credits with former Bonzo Dog & Python lyricist Neil Innes for its similarity with his song ‘How Sweet to be an Idiot’.

And the Manchester brothers were in trouble a second time when The New Seekers questioned the similarity between their hit ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’ and the Oasis song ‘Shakermaker’.

Plagiarism cases have continued throughout the 21st Century. Sam Smith’s Grammy nominated hit, ‘Stay With Me’ was the subject of an out-of-court settlement with Tom Petty and ELO’s Jeff Lynne, when it was decided the melody contained too many similarities to Petty’s hit ‘I Won’t Back Down’.

And UK producer Mark Ronson was forced to add writer’s credits to various members of The Gap Band for copying one of their hits on his multi million selling worldwide hit single ‘Uptown Funk’.

The latest high profile case concerns Jay Z and producer Timberland with their long running lawsuit defending their hit Big Pimpin’ and its interpolation of the Egyptian love ballad Khosara Khosara.
With these examples and many, many more besides, surely it’s clear that there must be very well defined rules to govern whether a song is copied or not. Or are there?

What exactly does the Law have to say about musical plagiarism?

The Law and How it Stands

Well, in many cases it seems to boil down to quantity. Exactly how much of the copyrighted material has been copied? Just a little, or is it a substantial amount?

If it’s more than what is considered to be paying homage to a particular artist or song, then the alarm bells of ‘infringement’ may begin to toll. And when an entire melody or motif is undeniably similar then the laws will irrefutably consider it as a copyright infringement.

And since the ‘Blurred Lines’ case, the substantiality clause has been extended. It’s not only a similar melody or copied lyric, but also the ‘feel’ of the composition. Its very ‘soul’. Its ‘mojo’ that may also be copied.

The second thing that the law considers is the ‘likelihood’ that the artist may have plagiarised the work. For example, someone who has gone on record as being the numero uno David Bowie fanatic all their life, is more likely to be under suspicion if they release a track based on the chord structure, lyrics and melody line of ‘Heroes’. It could indeed be presumed that they have copied the track from their ‘hero’ Mr. Bowie. Any similarities will certainly not work in their favour.

Interestingly, Bowie has often described himself as a musical magpie. Citing in one interview that it’s knowing ‘what to steal and when to steal it’ that is the trick to good songwriting.

But then again his remarkable genius elevates any would-be homage into an entirely new stratosphere. Quantum Plagiarism if you like. Yes, there may be an essence of the Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground in Aladdin Sane. But could either of those artists have written such songs or created such an album?

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Plagiarism or copying music also includes the actual physical audio. Sampling has notoriously been responsible for a number of plagiarism court cases since affordable digital samplers were introduced in the 1980s.

An early example of problems arising from digital sampling was on a record by UK chillout producers, The Orb. Their 1990 release ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld’ featured a big slice of the song ‘Loving You’ by Minnie Ripperton. It floated into the track as if in a dream. Panning around the stereo field, bathed in delay and reverb. A very pleasant effect that enhanced the Orb’s live DJ shows at the time. But including it on a published release was to land them in a great deal of trouble with Minnie Ripperton’s publishers and pretty soon after the release, the record was withdrawn. Only to appear later with the Ripperton version replaced by a hastily recorded sound-alike.

Another high profile case was a little known record by Rap artist Biz Markie. The track was called ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ and featured a 10 second loop from the Gilbert O’Sullivan track of the same name. This became a test case for digital sampling when it was taken to court in 1991. O’Sullivan’s publishers won the case with the judge in summing up, quoting from the Ten Commandments. ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’.

Pretty soon after this case, publishers and record companies became aware of this new phenomenon and clauses began to appear in every new contract that was issued to bands, DJs and artists. The record companies were keen to take no responsibility for the content of the record and to ensure that the artist cleared any samples that appeared on recordings prior to their release.
But even with these clauses in place, there were still outstanding issues to resolve. Records by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Doctor Dre would simply not exist were it not for the God-like genius of legendary producer George Clinton, who is still fighting to contest royalties from a number of artists that sampled P-Funk riffs from Funkadelic & Parliament.

Making A Mockery

So what help does the Law offer to struggling composers keen to make a living from what is after all a somewhat restrictive 12 note scale?

Recent updates include a law that recognises ‘parody’.

A work that evokes an existing work while being noticeably different from it and constituting an expression of humour and mockery.

This is clearly aimed at the YouTuber generation, but it does offer a glimmer of hope that satire and parody may be recognised as a reason for plagiarism, rather than the obvious lack of originality.
However, this Law may be more help to the likes of Weird Al Yankovic or Flight of the Conchords-type parodies. Or the ancient art of musical imitation made popular in the 60’s and 70’s by artists like The Baron Knights, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and the Not The Nine O’clock News team’s musical sketches. Of little use perhaps to today’s more serious musicians, producers and songwriters who are less inclined to include humerous parody in their songwriting.

In Summing Up

Hard as it may seem, the obvious thing for songwriters to do is to never copy other artists when creating music or composing songs. But this just isn’t feasible. And as these examples prove, plagiarism is almost a necessary tool, some may say an integral part of the musical process. But it’s knowing the point where enthusiastic inspiration has spilt over into the realms of forgery. Then having the musical ability to pull back from that abyss and taking another route. Investing some pure originality into a composition. And only using other people’s work as a springboard to something new may be the key to original composition. After all, it seems that songwriting and music making owes as much to its rich, dynamic history as it does to it’s as yet unwritten future.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Focus on classical music this week

Good quality, royalty free classical music, is hard to come by. That's just a fact.

Why? Because hiring an orchestra, with studio time and engineer, is extremely costly and time consuming. It's a process that requires meticulous planning and preparation and costs "a small fortune" to get it done.

In the "stock music scene" there have been various sources of so-called royalty free classical music, of dubious origin. On some "free for all, self-uploading" websites, you can find classical music recordings that almost certainly don't actually belong to the person who uploaded them, but rather sourced from some published CD, and belonging to another company.

If "some guy" is uploading fully orchestrated recordings of classical masterpieces, you need to ask yourself if that guy really spent the time, effort and money (possibly several hundreds of thousands of dollars) on getting that music recorded, so that he could sell it for $15 at a stock media site that allows a free-for-all self-uploading of content for sale. It goes without saying, that recording is not going to be safe, copyright wise.

Here at we have also been exposed to these "unsafe" recordings, likely to be copyrighted to some company who doesn't know that their recordings are being uploaded to stock music sites.

Instead, we focus on getting a smaller volume of recordings done, but to have them done from scratch, exclusively for our company. At the time of writing, we have 74 such exclusive classical recordings that we ourselves have organized and got recorded for us on a work-for-hire basis. We are adding to that regularly, so by the time you read this, we may have many more. These recordings are not for sale through any other stock music / royalty-free music website.

This week we decided to put some of these tracks together onto CD-collections. We have released 4 new Royalty-Free Classical Music albums this week, with the following track listings:

Classical Favorites Vol 1:
  • Bach: Prelude No 1
  • Beethoven: Für Elise
  • Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata Movement 1
  • Delibes: Sylvia Pizzicato
  • Grieg: In The Hall of the Mountain King
  • Grieg: Morning Mood from Peer Gynt
  • Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Allegro
  • Mozart: K545 Sonata in C Major Movement 1
  • Rossini: William Tell Overture
  • Purcell: Trumpet Tune for String Quartet
  • Satie: Gnossiene No 1
  • Satie: Gymnopedie No 1
  • Sousa: Semper Fidelis
  • Tchaikovsky: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Chinese Tea Dance
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Dance of the Mirlitons
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker March
  • Händel: Sarabande
  • Purcell: Trumpet Tune
  • Schubert: Ave Maria
  • Vivaldi: Four Seasons Spring RV269 Movement 1 Allegro
  • Vivaldi: Four Seasons Spring RV269 Movement 3 Allegro pastorale
  • Vivaldi: Four Seasons Winter RV297 Movement 1 Allegro non molto
  • Vivaldi: Four Seasons Winter RV297 Movement 2 Largo
  • Chopin: Minute Waltz
  • Holst: Saturn from The Planets Suite
  • Sousa: Liberty Bell
  • Sousa: The Thunderer
  • Scott Joplin: The Entertainer
  • Saint-Saens: Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals
  • Strauss: The Blue Danube
  • Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake Act 1 Finale
  • Bach: Air On the G String
  • Bach: Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring
  • Bach: Wachet Auf aka Sleepers Awake BWV 140
  • Beethoven: Symphony 5 Movement 1
  • Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March 1
  • Händel: Entrance of The Queen of Sheba
  • Händel: Hornpipe from Water Music
  • Holst: Jupiter from the Planets suite

Those were the 4 new releases we've put together this week. We already had the individual tracks in our catalog and have been acquiring them over a longer period of time, but it was only this week that we put them together into "CD-collections".

From previously, we also have these two:

  • Lanner Steyrische Tanze
  • Strauss An Der Schonen Blauen Donau
  • Strauss Annen Polka
  • Strauss Der Zigeunerbaron Overture
  • Strauss Die Fledermaus Overture
  • Strauss Dorfschwalben aus Osterreich
  • Strauss Gschichten aus dem Wienerwald
  • Strauss Kaiser Waltzer
  • Strauss Pizzicato Polka
  • Strauss Radetzky Marsch
  • Strauss Tritsch-Tratsch Polka
  • Strauss Unter Donner und Blitz 

  • Bach Prelude in C major BWV846
  • Beethoven Pathetique Sonata 2nd movement Adagio cantabile
  • Chopin Mazurka in A minor op. 17 no. 4
  • Chopin Mazurka in C sharp minor op. 63 no. 3
  • Chopin Nocturne in E flat major op. 9 no. 2
  • Chopin Nocturne no. 20 in C sharp minor op posth
  • Chopin Prelude in E minor op. 28 no. 4
  • Chopin Raindrops Prelude op. 28 no. 15
  • Liszt Consolation no. 3 in D flat major S.172
  • Mendelssohn Song Without Words in E major op. 19 no. 1
  • Mozart Piano Sonata no. 12 K332 2nd movement Adagio
  • Schubert Impromptu in G-flat major op. 90 no. 3 D899
  • Schubert Moment musicaux in F minor no. 3 op. 94 D780
  • Schumann Dreaming from Scenes from Childhood op. 15 no. 7
  • Scriabin Etude in C sharp minor op. 2 no. 1
  • Tchaikovsky June (Barcarolle) from The Seasons op. 37a no. 6
We hope you enjoy the music, safe in the knowledge that they can be licensed for use in media and in public, without fear of copyright infringement.