Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quick explanation of terms relating to music copyrights, music licensing and royalty-free music

In the world of music rights and commercial or in-public music use, there are a lot of terms and expressions that may be confusing to non-musicians. In fact, some of these are confusing even to musicians. In this article I will try to explain some of these terms and what they mean.


Copyright Free Music


This is a frequently misused term. There is extremely little "copyright free" music around, if any. As soon as a composer has composed a piece of music, it is automatically copyrighted to him/her, regardless of whether the composer actually takes any practical steps to "copyright" the music. If the composer gives somebody permission to use the music in a project, that doesn't mean the music is copyright free. Even music that you obtain from free music web sites, from a music library, from a royalty-free music source, etc., none of this means that the music is "copyright free". You should never assume that a piece of music is "copyright free", because it almost certainly is not, even if somebody tries to tell you that it is.

Music Library


A Music Library, aka Stock Music Library, is simply a "collection of existing music". People who are in a hurry to obtain music for a project will often use a Music Library because the music is already composed and immediately available. This term says nothing about what costs are involved with using the music. It may be subject to a one-time license payment, a monthly license payment, a per-sale royalty payment, or a combination of these. All this term means, really, is that the music already exists and will not be composed especially for you.

Royalty-Free Music


Royalty Free music means that you will only pay a one-time fee to use the music, and you will not pay a per-use or a per-sale royalty to the composer and/or publisher.

License Free Music


This is a bad term, because it actually means that the music doesn't need a License for use. This is never the case, though, so when people say "License Free", usually what they really mean is "Royalty-Free".





Buyout Music


Buyout Music (or Buy Out music) is a term that usually describes when a company or person pays the composer, producer and/or publisher a one-off sum of money, and then obtains all rights to that music. A lot of the time, music buyout is misused or misplaced. For example, a company might think that they need a total buyout of the music, but all they really need is a License to use the music for whatever puposes they want, forever. This would serve the exact same purpose, but leave the composer with his basic rights intact. If you are looking to obtain buyout music, most likely you are really looking for Royalty-Free music.

Some web sites or music libraries claim to sell Buyout Music, but what they are really selling is royalty-free music. If what they really sold was Buyout Music, then they would sell the music to you, then delete it from their own harddisk, never use it for any other purpose or sell it to anybody else -- they they would sign the copyright of the tracks over to you and retract it from anybody else they have ever given the track to in the past. That is a buyout. So really, what they are selling isn't buyout music, but royalty-free music, or other forms of non-exclusive music licences.

Podcast Safe Music


Podcasts are audio recordings made available for individual downloads or subscriptions. Some podcasts are pay-to-listen but most podcasts today are free. Podcasts are a great way to download audio recordings made by other people, because you can "subscribe" to them so they are automatically downloaded to your computer or iPod, without you having to download each programme/episode individually. Podcasts can include talk shows, reports, music shows, news bulletins and basically anything that can be delivered as an audio file.

Lately, Video Podcasts are also on the rise - which is the same thing but includes video as well as audio.

Podcast Safe Music means music that you can safely and legally use in your Podcast, without having to worry about being sued by the music copyright holders. Bands and artists may give their music for free to use in Podcasts, just in return for some promotion in the hope of getting some new fans. More often, Podcast Safe Music is found in music libraries such as the Shockwave-Sound.Com stock music library.



Copyright Free Music


This is a frequently misused term. There is extremely little "copyright free" music around, if any. As soon as a composer has composed a piece of music, it is automatically copyrighted to him/her, regardless of whether the composer actually takes any practical steps to "copyright" the music. If the composer gives somebody permission to use the music in a project, that doesn't mean the music is copyright free. Even music that you obtain from free music web sites, from a music library, from a royalty-free music source, etc., none of this means that the music is "copyright free". You should never assume that a piece of music is "copyright free", because it almost certainly is not, even if somebody tries to tell you that it is.

Music Library


A Music Library, aka Stock Music Library, is simply a "collection of existing music". People who are in a hurry to obtain music for a project will often use a Music Library because the music is already composed and immediately available. This term says nothing about what costs are involved with using the music. It may be subject to a one-time license payment, a monthly license payment, a per-sale royalty payment, or a combination of these. All this term means, really, is that the music already exists and will not be composed especially for you.

Royalty-Free Music


Royalty Free music means that you will only pay a one-time fee to use the music, and you will not pay a per-use or a per-sale royalty to the composer and/or publisher.

License Free Music


This is a bad term, because it actually means that the music doesn't need a License for use. This is never the case, though, so when people say "License Free", usually what they really mean is "Royalty-Free".

Buyout Music


Buyout Music (or Buy Out music) is a term that usually describes when a company or person pays the composer, producer and/or publisher a one-off sum of money, and then obtains all rights to that music. A lot of the time, music buyout is misused or misplaced. For example, a company might think that they need a total buyout of the music, but all they really need is a License to use the music for whatever puposes they want, forever. This would serve the exact same purpose, but leave the composer with his basic rights intact. If you are looking to obtain buyout music, most likely you are really looking for Royalty-Free music.

Some web sites or music libraries claim to sell Buyout Music, but what they are really selling is royalty-free music. If what they really sold was Buyout Music, then they would sell the music to you, then delete it from their own harddisk, never use it for any other purpose or sell it to anybody else -- they they would sign the copyright of the tracks over to you and retract it from anybody else they have ever given the track to in the past. That is a buyout. So really, what they are selling isn't buyout music, but royalty-free music, or other forms of non-exclusive music licences.

Podcast Safe Music


Podcasts are audio recordings made available for individual downloads or subscriptions. Some podcasts are pay-to-listen but most podcasts today are free. Podcasts are a great way to download audio recordings made by other people, because you can "subscribe" to them so they are automatically downloaded to your computer or iPod, without you having to download each programme/episode individually. Podcasts can include talk shows, reports, music shows, news bulletins and basically anything that can be delivered as an audio file.

Lately, Video Podcasts are also on the rise - which is the same thing but includes video as well as audio.

Podcast Safe Music means music that you can safely and legally use in your Podcast, without having to worry about being sued by the music copyright holders. Bands and artists may give their music for free to use in Podcasts, just in return for some promotion in the hope of getting some new fans. More often, Podcast Safe Music is found in music libraries such as the Shockwave-Sound.Com stock music library.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"General Royalty-Free" vs "Completely Royalty-Free" music

We would like to try to explain some of the complexities of music use and royalty-free music. We've tried to make this as short as we could:


General royalty-free music (PRO Tracks):

 

Most music composers and publishers are members of various composers' rights societies. Some societies oversee and look after the composers' works with regards to physical manufacturing of products that contain their music. These rights are called "Mechanical rights". Other societies oversee and look after the composers' works with regards to broadcasting and public performance of their music. These rights are called "Performance rights".

When you find music listed as "royalty-free" on this web site and other web sites, it usually means that the composer and publisher of the music are not members of any society that oversees their mechanical rights. This means that you can freely use their music on DVD, CDROM and any other physical object that contains their music, and you can have these CD/DVD's manufactured in a factory, without paying any fee to any collection society for that.

At Shockwave-Sound.com ALL music is FREE of mechanical rights. We do not work with any composers who are members of any mechanical rights society. This means that ALL the music on our site is royalty-free for use on DVD, CDROM etc.

But many composers are members of a Performing Rights Organization (PRO). These PRO's look after the composers and publishers rights to receive royalties when their music is broadcast or played in public. It means that anybody who broadcasts their music, or plays it in public (for example, at a trade show, or in a sports arena), need to obtain a license from their country's performance royalty collection society. In most cases, this does not affect you (our customer) in any way, because the broadcasters already have this license and therefore no additional fees are actually payable by anybody.

For example, you buy a track from us by a composer who is a PRO member. You use the music on a DVD film and manufacture 5,000 copies of that film. No problem, the composer isn't member of any mechanical rights society, so there are no fees to pay for this. A year later, your film ends up getting broadcast on BBC, or perhaps on YouTube. Now, the composer will receive a small payment for this. This payment is however just taken from the already paid, annual license that the BBC and YouTube pays to the performance rights organization. No extra money is payable by anybody. Nobody has incurred any extra expenses, because the license money was already paid by the broadcaster, as a large annual fee.

So, whilst the music is not entirely free of all strings, it is still fair to call it royalty-free because neither the producer, nor the broadcaster (who already has an annual license) has to pay any royalties.

The only time an actual additional expense would come into this situation would be if you decide to broadcast the music yourself, and you don't already have a broadcasting license. For example, at a concert or at some kind of venue that doesn't already have a PRO license. Some countries also consider telephone music-on-hold to be a "broadcast" - other countries do not.

As far as trade shows or sports events, here you would expect the venue/hall to already have a license from their country's performance royalty organization, but you may want to check that.

Recently, the PRS in the United Kingdom have deemed that a person or company in the UK that uses music on a UK web site is classed as a 'broadcaster'. And, as a broadcaster of music, if you want to use any music that is composed by a composer who is a member of a performance rights society, you need a license from the PRS. The license typically costs £50 per year. This applies only to UK persons and companies with UK web sites.

Wherever you look for "royalty-free music", be it on the internet or in traditional production music libraries, most of the music you'll find is in this category. The composers are not members of any mechanical rights society, but they are members of a performance rights society, and it would be fair to call their music "general royalty-free".