Thursday, December 23, 2010

New website feature: My Orders

Our new "My orders" page
Dear users,

This week we have launched a new website feature: "My orders". This new page allows you to get access to all your current and past orders - with download links for all your orders.

Our site has been online for almost 11 years now, and unlike many other sites, we have resisted the temptation to start with "user accounts". At, anybody can come in, place an order, get their product, and be on their way. We do not require people to sign up to a "user account", with validating your email address, registering all your personal details, coming up with a user name, then forgetting your password between each visit, thus having to use the "forgot your password" process to have the password emailed to you, only to find that the darn email with that password in it doesn't arrive, so you're unable to log in and unable to get on with your day.

None of this happens at, simply because we don't require people to sign up for an "account" with us before they can place an order. However, there is a flip side to this. Because you haven't registered a user account, all your past orders aren't "connected" to each other in the same way that they would have been if they had been attached to your user account. Each order is just a separate entity, without "belonging" to a particular user or identity in a database. And for this reason, there has not been any real way for customers to come back to our site later and get an overview of their past orders, with access to past invoices, license documents and download links.

We now feel that we've come up with a good solution for this. By going to the "My orders" page, you can input an email address and a date range. When you click "Submit", our entire order log is searched, and if any orders found to match that email address, an email is automatically sent out to that email address with a full order history, and access to download links.

For obvious reasons, the email with download links etc. can only be sent to the actual email address that the order was placed under. So if you placed an order 2 years ago under the email address, you have to type that exact email address into the form, and the order history is then emailed to that address. If you no longer have access to that email address, and you need to have the order history sent to a different address instead, then you have to ask us to help you with that.

We hope, and think, that this feature will be helpful to all of our customers, old and new. Let me also take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Artist feature: Pawel Blaszczak

Pawel Blaszczak is a composer who has been working with and our internal music publishing company Lynne Publishing, for a good few years now. He has been responsible for producing some of the best selling tracks at, including the track "Day After Day" which until recently held the position of the most often licensed track here in our music library. We decided to catch up with Pawel in his home city of Wroclaw, Poland, for an interview about composing music for a stock music library and about sound and music in general.

Click here to listen to some of Pawel's music while you are reading this interview:

Pawel, can you tell me a little bit about your background story as a composer and producer?
I started composing back when I was 15. I was really impressed by a good friend of mine who could play the piano. I genuinely liked it so I decided to give it a go too. My first compositions were done on a piano and Commodore 64. I’m basically a self-taught though I did take private lessons in composition. Later on I bought my first synthesizer and composed on Commodore Amiga. One of my concerts was held at the students festival in the old square in Poznan. In 1998 I received my first order to compose music for a video game developed by Techland, “Crime Cities”. I’ve been bound with the company ever since and I work at Techland not only as a composer but also the Audio Director. I’ve worked on almost all games developed by Techland with "Chrome", "Xpand Rally", Call of Juarez", "Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood", but also children game series "Pet Racer" and "Pet Soccer" among others. I’ve often been cooperating with Adam Skorupa with whom I worked „The Witcher” video game and various other projects. Since 2005 I’ve been bound with I’m currently working on a horror game “Dead Island”.
I’ve heard before that you played different instruments including guitar, but I’ve noticed in your latest tracks that you seem to concentrate a lot on the sound of the piano. Can you tell us a bit about which instruments you prefer, and how you feel that the different instruments work in different types of music?
The piano is my primary instrument. I love that sound and the possibilities it gives me. Currently I compose most of my tracks on the piano and it is my first choice. I used to compose a lot of music for synthesizers as well as electric-orchestral music. In the nineties I really enjoyed the sound of Limp Bizkit and Rammstein so I started to learn how to play the guitar. I’m doing best with the riffs on my 7-string Ibanez with the Mesa Boogie amplifier. Guitar, however, is my second favorite instrument.
I know that you have worked as a composer for several video games. In what way would you say that composing for a stock music library is different from composing music for a project like a video game?
Video games require composing the music in a certain specified style. For Call of Juarez, for instance, most of the compositions were guitar-based or orchestral in the styles of Ennio Morricone or Country, Blues or classical orchestra. For stock music I choose a specific overall style that suits me so, for example, light ambient and compose the entire track in this line. Or simply sit down on a given day and compose a track I’m in the mood for usually it’s in one of the styles of stock music. Such approach allows for a lot of freedom to compose a track that feels right for the inspiration and mood one has on that particular day. So if I’m in a good mood I will compose a light and pleasant track, if my mood is slightly off I’m inclined to compose a more dramatic and dark track. This is, of course, more in respect of the draft of a track. Afterwards the production process begins and that draft is polished to create a full-fledged work suitable for publication at
What is the latest piece of music production equipment, or instrument, that you bought yourself? And what is next on your wish-list?
One of my latest purchases is the sounds library, Audio Bro LASS Strings. Excellent sounding solo violin in the ensemble. Also, Evolve Mutations 2, an outstanding library of electronic sounds. My wish-list currently includes the tremendously interesting Korg SV1. At the moment I have Roland RD700SX for the main piano sound. However, I would like to add more variety to the piano sounds and Korg is significantly different from Roland in this respect. Moreover Korg has fantastically sounding electric pianos. It is very likely that I will also purchase the orchestra library, Symphobia 2, next year.
Which two of your tracks are the best-selling ones here at and do you have a theory on why those tracks sell more than others?
Day After Day and Running for Freedom. Truth be told, I have no idea why these two are the best-selling tracks. They definitely count among my favorite ones. When composing tracks I always try to make them as good and original as possible. But it’s the listeners who make the final decision. I’m always glad when I create music that I enjoy myself. I always try to give the best effort and don’t cut corners in this respect. Often before the final track is composed there are several earlier versions of it. On some occasions I discarded track arrangements because I believed I could do a better job. I don’t consider stock music to be some kind of additional less valuable music. I would gladly see many of my tracks included in my album that may see the day of light sometime in the future. I keep pushing my own limits.
Do you sometimes play live concerts, with a band or by yourself? Have you done so in the past?
For quite a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of live concerts. I’m constantly short on time to do that. I used to play concerts and I love it. Maybe I will finally manage to make that happen. Recently I’ve been trying to discipline myself to arrange for it. I have a simple ensemble in mind: a piano, solo violin and cello. Maybe a female vocalist, single synthesizer and small drum set. As soon as I’ve managed to organize it, I’m convinced that the first concerts would be held in Wroclaw where I currently live.
Which piece of work / project have you done, that you are most proud of? What is “your finest work” in your opinion?
I’m proud of most of my music currently posted at Shockwave-Sound.Com. There’s a lot of my personal style in them, especially in the lighter tracks, such as Day After Day, Waiting for Tomorrow and Dance with the Wind. The music from other projects I consider successful include the soundtrack for the “Call of Juarez” series and the music I co-composed with Adam Skorupa for The Witcher. I also think highly of the score for “The Kinematograph” directed by Tomasz Baginski and “The Ark” directed by Grzegorz Jonkajtys.
What music / composers / artists / bands do you like to listen to when you’re not working?
I generally like to listen to good music regardless of the style or composer. It would make a long list but I mostly focus on the tracks that I enjoy rather than composers, performers or entire albums. I like Harry Gregson-Williams for the first part of Narnia and Michal Lorenc for the “Bandyta”. I like the Kronos Quartet for the score for “Heat” and Lisa Gerrard. I love BT for the “Monster” OST (Editor's note; OST = Original Sound Track).

What advice would you give to somebody who is a home / amateur composer and would like to take the step up, to have their music sold as royalty-free music and make a living on it?
First of all not to treat this type of music as the kind one doesn’t have to try or make their best effort. This music has its listeners and they choose it according to their preferences. They will mostly select what they like and has music artistic value. Therefore there’s no space here to make compromises. It needs to be a very well composed music.
And with that we thank Pawel for his time, and thank him for being such a great contributor to our music library. If you're interested in hearing more of Pawel's music, then this link will bring up a list of all his tracks, of course all available to license and download as royalty free music.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Enhancing creative workflow with Sonar, Part 1

By Johan Hynynen


Making music with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) involves knowing both hardware and software very well -- you just can’t escape music technology. This can be a show stopper for our creativity when we need to write music. Many times we’re also working to match short deadlines, so with that in mind I will try to give you a few tips on how you easily can enhance your workflow and creative output working with Sonar. Even though this article is written with a regular song kind of project in mind, most ideas, tips or tricks can be implemented while working with voice talents making jingles and audio books, or even sound design for computer games. As other DAWs have similar functions as Sonar’s you might be able in applying some tips in other applications as well. The tips described in this article are straight forward to get around and can easily help you sorting things out so that you can spend more time making music and less time dabbling around your software.

Project Templates

Most of us come back to a certain frame work where we like to start making music. It could be a few channels loaded with guitar amp plug-ins or a sampler loaded with a good sounding grand piano. Instead of recreating all of these instances of soft synths, channels and effects you can make a template that will automatically recreate favorite your setup.

To create a project template, simply open up an empty project and start creating the channels, buses, effects and soft synths you want to include. Then go to the file menu and select "Save As" and then choose "Template" in the menu labeled "Save as type". In order for your templates to appear in the dialogue window at start up, you also need to save them down to the right folder. Which folder holds your templates can be set by going to the "Options" menu, then "Global" and finally, click the "Folders" tab. Your project templates are stored in the folder selected in the "Templates" menu.

Make a template for all the different kinds of music you usually record or produce. You may want to create one for rock band, another for ambient music and so on. Also create a template that uses smaller sample libraries and less CPU demanding soft synths. Depending on your computer’s specifications you could choose a setup that you can work with without freezing or bouncing tracks. While writing, an economy setup usually works well and you can always replace the temporary sounds with your best samples and soft synths during the mixdown of the song.

Track Templates

You may have been trying to figure out how you managed get that particular sound on a previous recording of yours? Of course, going back to that project and write down the settings and which plug-ins that where used does the trick, but with track templates you have access to all your favorite sounds in seconds. By saving a particular channel which includes, let’s say, a guitar amp plug-in, compressor, equalizer settings and sends as a track template, you can easily recall all the settings.

To save a track as a track template right click on any track in the track pane and choose "Save As Track Template". To load a template, simply right click in the tracks pane and choose "Insert From Track Template". Select your track template and it opens up all plug-ins together with parameters associated to the track including sends and all effects.

Of course, as you move along saving more and more of your golden settings you build quite a library of track templates. Listen back to your recordings and take notes on elements you find particularly appealing - then open up those projects and locate and save your channels as track templates. Your favorite sound is now only a couple of mouse clicks away.

Track Manager

When your track count gets high you might find it hard to navigate through them all. In most cases you aren’t working on all tracks at the same time and therefore, you can use the track manager to temporarily clean things up a little. What the track manager really does is to help you select the tracks you want to be visible and deselect the ones you want to hide. Once your selection has been made the track view in Sonar will only show the selected tracks.

If you arrange your tracks with the track manager you’ll want to check back to it time to time, otherwise you might start thinking there are tracks missing (which isn’t the case of course as they’ve only been hidden). Naming your tracks well is also crucial if you want to keep things tidy. Bring up the track manager by pressing "M".

Track Folders

Using track folders is a clever way in handling many tracks of the same sort. If, for example, the vocal arrangement of your song includes more than a few tracks (lead, harmonies, overdubs etc) then placing them in a track folder is an easy way in making them take up less screen space. Sometimes the vocals alone on a song can extend up to ten, and even more channels, and while you work on other elements of the same song you really don’t need to see the vocal tracks. To create a track folder, right click in the tracks pane to the right of the inspector field, and choose "Create Track Folder". Then drag the tracks you want to organize to the track folder. By clicking the plus sign you open the folder so that it reveals its contents, and by clicking the minus sign while the folder is open, it hides the tracks inside it.

Track folders that seem fairly obvious to create could be drum tracks, guitars or vocals but you can of course set up track folders as you like.


Use markers to point out certain sections in your arrangement that are particularly important. You may want to have a marker placed for each verse, chorus and bridge, but you can also use markers to point out a particular section you want to rework or change but have decided to do later. In order to add a marker, right click the time ruler and then choose "Insert Marker" (or press F11).


You can use colors to separate tracks and sections from each other. One idea is to give the choruses, let’s say, color blue and the verses color red. Or, you could make certain instrument groups have a specific color.

Last Words

Getting things sorted out in your DAW is means a lot for your workflow -- but not everything. Try to keep things organized on your physical desk as well. Don’t leave things in mess, make sure you have note pads and working pens so that you’re always ready to take some notes or write down ideas. Some people like to use regular sketch pads for keeping track of thoughts and to do lists, some use a Wordpad document or similar, some use a white board while some prefer to use a PDA. Other things such as a good armchair can definitely make you feel more comfortable while working.

Deadlines can be extremely pressing if we can’t organize are daily work. Make sure you plan your day well and that you get things done. Losing work due to a failing disk can be disastrous but also unnecessary. There are plenty of backup tools out there and extra storage is cheap, so there is little excuse for not doing backups frequently. I’m using Acronis True Image which is scheduled to do a backup every day. Deadlines must be met, and losing a client due to a failing disk would be quite awkward - not to mention all the love and effort put in each piece of work. Therefore do your backups well, you will feel much safer knowing that you can’t lose too many hours of work no matter what.

Some of the tips above might seem obvious, but they’re very often overlooked, so I thought that a little reminder could be well in use.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New music highlights at

At we keep adding new Royalty Free Music tracks every week, sometimes several times per week, so we aren't going to write about it here every time we post some new music, but we've added a few tracks recently that I think are a bit special, so I wanted to give them an extra mention.

The highly talented Polish composer Pawel Blaszczak has contributed a new, really beautiful track called Waiting For Tomorrow. It's a light but emotional, sincere, piano based, semi-orchestral "ambient pop" track, full of wonder, beauty and amazement. It's a "must hear" track, really!

American Jazz bassist Patrick Prouty has sent in this really nice Christmas track, O Little Town of Bethlehem. It's a folky, earthy, slightly country inspired, and actually a bit "old sounding" rendition of this Christmas classic. It made me think of the music from the film "O Brother, Where Art Thou" with it's charming, imperfect vocals and it's subdued live guitar and bass.

Those were only two of the many new tracks we added yesterday. On the main front page for you can always hear the 30 latest tracks in a kind of "radio player" that plays one track after the other. We hope you'll like it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Christmas hand bells music

This week we've had the pleasure of adding some rather different and interesting music to Christmas is coming up and, like every year, the interest for royalty-free Christmas music is peaking around October/November time - I guess that's when everybody are working on their Christmas projects, interactive Christmas greeting cards, online Flash Christmas animations and so on.

This year the creative couple Gavin Courtie & Liz Radford have completed a whole collection of recordings of traditional Christmas melodies using antique church hand bells, like the ones seen on the image to the left.

Upon hearing these wonderful bells and how nice they sounded with Christmas melodies like "Jingle Bells", "Good King Wenceslas", "Silent Night", "Joy to the World", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and several other classics, we decided to catch Gavin for a quick interview:

How did this whole thing come about, Gavin?

"These hand bells belong to a friend of ours here in Wimborne, Dorset, England. He's now in his 70's and has been ringing both church bells and handbells for most of his life. This set of hand bells belonged to his father, who lived in Essex, and they are English bells dating to around 100 years ago. Although some of the leather handles are slightly past their best due to age, the bells themselves have a lovely tone, which is why we thought it would be good to record them. Liz is an experienced bell ringer (the big bells in church towers..) and she's also rung this set of hand bells with a band of ringers, in orchestral settings and Christmas performances.

The arrangements we sent you are all written for a band of ringers to play, and we recorded Liz playing the parts here in our studio. Actually, ringing them is quite a skill. Most players ring 2 bells at a time, one in each hand. The cleverer ones ring up to four at a time, holding two in each hand, the trick being to ring one bell in the vertical plane, the other in a horizontal. Difficult!"
So there you have it - a little bit of background on how this really nice royalty-free Christmas music was created, and here are the links to each of the tracks in our library, if you would like to have a listen:
And with that, we do indeed wish all our customers and visitors a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Each track now has its own URL / link

A small site improvement at We're occasionally asked if it's possible to email somebody a link to a specific track at Shockwave-Sound.

Now you can do this. When you are looking at a track listing, click on the actual (blue) track title. That takes you to a page which specifically displays only that track. The URL to that page looks something like this . You can copy this URL from your web browser's address bar and email that link to somebody you want to share that track with.

You can also bookmark this page, if you want to come directly back to this track later.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shockwave-Sound Team launching Workout Music Series

The Workout Music Series is a new product from Lynne Publishing, the company behind and the royalty free sound effects site,

Unlike most of our music which is available only as royalty-free licensed music, the Workout Music Series is also available to buy for just personal use. Through the dedicated website Workout Music Series, you can preview each of the three albums released so far under this label, and there are further links to purchase the albums, either for personal use only (prices around $10 per album) or for in-public or commercial use licensing, royalty-free, via (prices around $49 per album).

The Workout Music Series features music that is especially made for use with exercise, workout, aerobics, and other fitness activities such as running, spinning, dancercise / boxercise, cardio workouts and more. Each CD contains 10-12 tracks which have been cleverly mixed and re-mixed into a non-stop, gapless, stopless motivating music collection that plays for one hour continuously. Each track follows naturally into the next one without any stop or pause, similar to how a DJ mixes the music at a dance club, for example.

Even though it is now possible, via WorkoutMusicSeries.Com to obtain this music for as little as $9.99 for a whole album digital download, we ask you to please keep in mind that this price gives you the personal use rights only. If you want to use the music in a fitness class, a group workout, in an exercise instruction video or anything like that, you need to buy the music from which costs more but gives you a royalty-free usage license. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cue the Music, Part 3: Royalty Free Music Under the Microscope

by Simon Power

 Cue The Music is a three part series examining the options available to amateur and semi-pro audio/visual producers who wish to incorporate music in their productions. In Part One, we examined the process of clearing copyrighted music. In Part Two, we offered some alternatives to using copyrighted music. And in this Part Three, we will be examining the process of using royalty free music.

In part two, royalty free music scored high on convenience, expense and usability when searching for a music resource. But what exactly is royalty free music and what does the process of buying and using royalty free music really entail?

Royalty Free Music under the microscope

Let’s start with a definition. royalty free music describes a composition that you may use as many times as you like and for whatever purpose after paying just a one time license fee. So, you could simply purchase a suitable piece of music for a one-off payment and include it in our small budget, short run audio/visual project with no further costs incurred to you, the producer.

Within that definition there are a number of stipulations. You can’t just buy a load of royalty free music and release it on a CD, and you can’t alter the composition by for instance, adding lyrics or a rap and releasing it as your own. But other than that you’re pretty free to do with it what you want.

Our catwalk footage features some published music

One other point. As with any music, performance details would be noted if your project were to be ever broadcasted by a third party. But this is the responsibility of the broadcaster and not the producer, whose commitment to the project would have been fulfilled prior to broadcast. To the producer, the music remains entirely free from royalty payments.

How To Access Royalty Free Music

That’s a brief outline or definition. So how does the process work?

Let’s go back to our original brief in ‘Cue The Music - Part One’. We were toying with the idea of seeking permission to use the track ‘Still D.R.E.’ by Dr. Dre, the original background music on our fashion show footage.

Let’s suppose that there were too many obstacles and expenses and the process of clearing the track for copyright became counter productive as a result.

We decide instead to remove the audio track from the original footage and replace it with a sound alike track (we can always add some crowd atmosphere and applause to give the event a live feel and make it sound realistic).

So what we need is a sound alike piece of music to replace the original music bed, ‘Still D.R.E.’ by Dr. Dre.

First of all it’s useful to know the tempo, key and genre of the track. Far from being random elements, they could hold the key to finding a suitable sound-alike. So our track, ‘Still D.R.E.’ comes in at 93bpm in A minor and is rooted in the category of Hip-Hop.

Armed with this info we approach a royalty free music website.

Visiting A Royalty Free Music Site

Many of the sites have a variety of ways we could now precede. We could check out their ready-made collections. These are normally available as either download or physical CD’s. Many of them will be categorised by predetermined moods. You may get a CD called ‘Chilled’ or one called ‘Uptempo Dance’ or ‘Rock Radio’. Normally their titles are pretty self explanatory.

The better sites have preview facilities so that you are able to listen to each track and decide whether the collection suits your needs. Remember, these CD’s may cost close to $100, so you’ll need at least 4 or 5 tracks that you think maybe useable. The best way to check usability is by previewing the track and running your footage alongside it in your Movie Making program. Do all the elements work together? If not, move on.

Perhaps in this case as we need only a single track we should check out the sites Music Genre categories. On top end sites, a list of categories won’t be far away. Usually displayed skyscaper-style down the left or right hand side of every page.

Remember, our track is routed in Gansta Rap. Most sites will refer to this as Urban/R’n’B or Hip Hop. ‘Gangsta Rap’ may be available as a sub genre, but is more likely to be a little too esoteric for most tastes! Let’s try Urban. That’s the closest. Clicking on this category link will take you through to a list of tracks available in the style of ‘Urban’.

Now the fun begins. At your leisure, you can read through the description of each track and preview them against your footage. The music will usually be ‘watermarked’ with an ident. A voice over stating that ‘This is a preview’, or something to that effect. But this shouldn’t prevent you from judging whether the track will be suitable for use.

If they’re further categorised by BPM (our tempo is 93BPM) and key (A minor), then check out those first, so that our search becomes as accurate as possible.

Most tracks will be available as full versions, or as loops of various durations (10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute etc.). There may also be an underscore, which will include basic instrumentation, useful when there is a voice over to be added. In our case, there is no voice over.

OK, so let’s judge the quality of the music.

Choosing The Right Track

I can virtually guarantee that many of the composers on many of the sites you visit will have produced a (shall we say) homage to the great Dr. Dre and his ground breaking world wide hit, ‘Still D.R.E.’. Ah, yes. If only that royalty free producer had grown up on the wrong side of L.A., come up with that incredible piano riff before Dr. Dre, and befriended Snoop Dogg who then agreed to rap on it…Well, it could be a whole different story, my friend. But no. His royalty free version will forever merely be a facsimile, albeit a very good one, of the original track. And as we listen through, it becomes clear…This Dr. Dre homage is just what we need to replace the original on our fashion show project. In fact, it’s perfect...

As for format, most mp3’s on offer will use a high quality compression algorithm barely distinguishable from a 44.1 wav. But the audiophiles among us will feel more secure in the knowledge that our project offers the best possible quality and download the wav version rather than the mp3. Be aware that the wav takes longer to download, depending on your broadband connection.

The decision is yours.

OK, happy?

So ‘Add To Cart’ and let’s go!

Add To Cart

Woah, there! Before we go any further, let’s consider the cost. Typically an mp3 version of the track should hover around the $30 mark. With a 44.1 wav version being slightly more expensive.

Many sites will be offering ‘bargain bin’ prices ($7.00, $4.00…My entire catalogue for $37.50!). This low cost is often reflected in the quality of what’s on offer. Of course, some sites will charge a lot more than $30, but this is no indication of quality. That’s left to your own judgement, discretion and indeed budget allowances!

Trust your ears and preview a number of times against your footage. Remember that truly robust music will stand up to repeated listens. If there’s any doubt about the quality of the composition, the flaws will expose themselves after a number of plays. Is our chosen track Dre enough? It is? OK, proceed to checkout.

Proceed To Checkout

But what’s this? We’re being asked a number of questions about ‘licenses’…I thought this was supposed to be ‘royalty free’?

Patience, it is. But there are a number of different licenses within that category and you need to make sure you choose the correct one.

Normally there will be a choice of two (some sites have more). These will be a broadcast license (for TV, radio and film etc), and a non-broadcast license (typically the best one for our short-run audio/visual project). This non-broadcast license will have a restriction on the number of copies you can produce. As an example, anything over 5,000 may be termed as mass market and would require you to buy the alternative license.

Sealing The Deal

So, after choosing the correct license you will be forwarded to a typical Internet shop where you are able to pay for and eventually download your royalty free track.

Within minutes the process is complete and the track is yours ready to import into your movie maker program and sync up to your fashion show footage.

And that’s it!

A Conclusion

OK, so we’ve been through the definition and the process involved in using royalty free music as a music resource.

But as always, there are downsides. There will be times when you find it impossible to find a good match to what you have in mind. You may spend a frustrating amount of time searching through music that just doesn’t somehow meet your needs. There is also an enormous amount of royalty free music available, which can lead to confusion over choice and price comparison.

Sometimes you will be scared away by the frustration of visiting sites with music that just doesn’t come up to the mark.

But find the right site, and buying royalty free music can be the most satisfying and enjoyable process of all. And the results quite often speak for themselves when your project is given that indefinable ‘X’ factor by a well chosen music bed. If you haven’t used it already as part of your audio/visual production toolkit I can recommend it as a highly beneficial resource of good quality music.

Now let’s move on and finish that fashion show project before the weekends comes!


Royalty free music at shockwave-sound
Comprehensive international list of royalty collection agencies

More in this series:

There are previous two parts in this series:

Part One - Using Copyrighted Music
Part Two - Top 5 Music Resources On A Budget

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cue the Music - Part 2: Top 5 Music Resources On A Budget

by Simon Power

In Part One, we looked into the process of using copyrighted music on a low budget short-run audio/visual project. In part two we are going to look at the Top 5 alternatives to using copyrighted music by seeking out available music from other sources.

Where Do I Start?

There is an ever growing number of alternative sources of music available to the amateur and semi-pro audio/visual producer. Websites are falling over each other to exploit music budgets by enticing producers with a variety of deals and bundles. But the choice can often be bewildering, and the quality, price and usability can vary wildly.

Hopefully this article will help make some sense of exactly what is on offer. And how you can get the best possible value from your music budget.

So let’s look at the alternatives as we count down the Top 5 Music Resources On A Budget.

By the way. I’ve used a star system here whereby each source is marked out of 5 for convenience, expense and usability. The higher the star rating, the better it performs in that category.

5. Music Software & Programs

Many of the leading music software packages come bundled with comprehensive selections of music loops & kits. In GarageBand for instance, there are a huge number of loops featuring high quality instrumentation. And many of the virtual samplers like Halion, Reason and EXS24 offer simple solutions for music creation that are highly intuitive and easy to use.

However, you have to buy the software to access the loops. If music production isn’t your primary business, you may end up paying over the odds for a wealth of music software that you can’t use for any other purpose than gaining access to the bundled music. Then of course you have to arrange the loops and process them to suit your needs.

Some music software programs offer bundled music loops

There are also dedicated video production businesses that now offer buy-out music as part of their service. Many of these offer every conceivable tool for visuals, from stock footage and animation, to graphics, sound FX and yes, royalty free music loops and kits. Although these are rarely sold as entire compositions, favouring instead 8 and 16 bar loops necessitating the need for a command of music sequencer programs to edit to your needs. And beware. The quantity of loops available often out weighs the quality. My advice would be to preview the entire package to gauge its usability before making a purchase. Although many of the compositions sound highly polished on first listen, you may find subsequently that they just don’t cut it when used as an underscore on your audio/visual project.

    Convenience **
    Expense *
    Usability ***

4. Sample Collections

Sample collections have improved immensely in recent years as more and more established music producers make their self produced samples and loops available on commercial releases. Quite often they will offer entire ready-mixed tracks that can be utilised as music beds with little adjustment. The loops are normally categorised by genre, tempo and key which would certainly help to find suitable music that needed to be of a strict predetermined speed or duration.

However, the ability to manipulate these loops or create your own music beds will require a degree of musical know-how and the ability to operate dedicated music software. You will need to have a sound knowledge of composition, mixing and layering to get the best results. Playing around with loops and samples may be the last thing you need to be doing if you’re on a tight deadline.

Another negative aspect may be the cost. Gaining access to elite collections of samples doesn’t come cheap. Physical CD’s can cost anything up to $200 and you still may not be able to guarantee finding a suitable music bed.

Also beware of copyright. Despite the initial expense, the producers still maintain ownership of the music. In most cases, you’re merely buying a restricted license to use their work. So sample collections can often be a pricey and unwieldy way of finding a solution.

    Convenience **
    Expense *
    Usability ***

3. Production Music

Production Music, or Library Music as it’s commonly known has been around for a long time. Infact it was introduced back in the days of silent movies and has been an abundant resource of ‘synchronized’ or licensed music ever since. Lately, though the business model has started to look decidedly creaky. A lot of Production Music libraries ask for exorbitant up-front fees plus subsequent royalties that put the music out of reach for producers working with a limited budget. Some Production Music companies have addressed this issue by adjusting their business model to suit today’s needs. While others hold on to their values, seeing the alternatives as quirky fads that will soon fade away into obscurity. Sure, you will find high quality music from experienced musicians and composers, but the business model errs more towards TV and film production rather than the low budget producer who is the subject of this exercise.

    Convenience **
    Expense *
    Usability ****

2. MIDI Files

Musical Instrument Digital Interface or MIDI for short was invented in the early 1980’s to allow communication between digital synthesizers, sequencers and computers. Since then it has become the industry standard protocol for computerised music. Even to this day all music software packages interact with controller keyboards using MIDI interface, although wholly ‘in-the-box’ sequencers have somewhat reduced it’s sovereignty over sequencer control. GM or General MIDI was introduced as a secondary protocol so that MIDI data could be interpreted by the same standard on every synthesised instrument. (A predetermined MIDI channel for a piano, a bass, drums and so on). GM was consequently introduced to soundcards and computers internal synthesis programs and functions. Hence the popularity of MIDI files for all sorts of applications from karaoke to games music.

This popularity and standardisation has led to an enormous industry based on MIDI files of popular songs. Any number of sites will offer tracks as MIDI files that utilise General MIDI that will prompt your soundcard to play a song faithfully when imported into your digital sequencer.

However, let’s take an example. Say you downloaded a MIDI file of ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ by Foreigner, recorded the MIDI data as audio and inserted it on your audio/visual project. This would be a copyright infringement and result in legal proceeding should the publisher decide to sue. These are copyrighted songs that are on offer, not original compositions. You will need permission to use them, much in the same way you would to use a specific recording. (Although in this case you wouldn’t require permission from the owner of the physical recording of ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ by Foreigner, just the synchronisation rights from the publisher).

Having said that, there are sites that offer original MIDI recordings by their own staff composers. In other words, ‘royalty free MIDI compositions’. This may be a cheap and effective way to produce original (albeit non-exclusive) music beds for your project. Of course, this requires a degree of knowledge in manipulating digital recordings and the results will be determined by the quality of the sounds on your soundcard or choice of VST instrument. But all in all it’s a reasonable, cheap solution, bearing in mind you need to factor in a certain amount of time to get the desired results.

    Convenience *
    Expense ****
    Usability ****

1. Royalty Free Music

The royalty free music business model came out on top for a number of reasons. Of course the quality varies and some sites are better than others, but overall the process involved was the smoothest and most convenient.

Bearing in mind that the music on offer is non-exclusive, gaining access to highly useable tracks, MIDI and SFX is easy, cheap and fast.

Matched up against production music and sample CD’s, royalty free music scored high on economics, being currently the cheapest way to access good quality music. And for usage possibilities it scored well against software loops that still don’t as yet offer as much variety as royalty free music. For convenience, too. You don’t have to be a musician or digital music producer in order to prepare a track for your project. You just download it and import it straight into your Movie Maker without much fuss at all.

Dr Who & The Pyramids audiobook
enhanced by royalty free SFX in post production

Perhaps things will change. We are currently seeing a great rift appearing between royalty free sites that are slashing prices, while others are charging higher fees to use their music. Eventually the higher quality compositions may become more in line with production music, pricing themselves out of the reach of the ameteur and semi-pro multi media producers. While the one’s slashing their prices will be exposed as offering ‘poor quality’ music. But currently times are good for the consumer, and there is an opportunity to build up a vast selection of credible music via royalty free libraries. Right now it’s the best way to access effective music solutions for low budget audio/visual projects when you’re up against a stiff deadline.

    Convenience ****
    Expense ****
    Usability ****


I hope this article has been helpful and informative. In part three we’ll be examining things in a little more detail when we put the royalty free music business model under the microscope.
More in this series:

You may proceed to Part Three of this series.
Or even go back to Part One of this series.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Some new music subgenres at

Dear site users,

Those of you with a keen eye who are regular users of our site, may have noticed that over this weekend we have added several new music sub-genres under the "Film scores / Soundtrack" main genre.

When we first started our site back in April of 2000, it seemed like more than enough to have "Film scores: Action/Urgent/Battle" and "Film scores: More subtle, low intensity backgrounds".

However as our music catalog has grown tenfold many times over, we felt that we were getting too many tracks in each of those genres, and too many different styles & moods of cinematic underscores displayed together in a single genre. So after thinking about it for a while, we came up with the following new sub-genres:

Cinematic Main Themes:
In this genre you'll find highly melodic and "theme like" tracks. These are tracks that have a strong identity and presence, and are often suitable for use in an opening sequence, intro, or other use where it's okay for the music to be "up front" and carry the listener's attention. These tracks are usually not so suitable for "background" use.

Music for Dramatic Trailers

Here you'll find music of a very dramatic nature, often with great contrasts between low-intensity, sneaky, dangerous/simmering parts, exploding into bursts of hell raising action and destruction. These tracks tend to be reasonably short and made to fit a trailer, such as a movie trailer, game trailer, TV show trailer etc. Most often these tracks are done in an orchestral arrangements, but some also use techno, industrial or hard rock elements mixed in with the otherwise symphonic sound - for extra power and grit.

Sad, Sorrowful, Wistful, Regretful underscores:

These are low-intensity background tracks that are made to accompany scenes of loss, death, personal tragedy and melancholy. Perhaps also longing and despair, but in a rather low key style.

Introspective, Thoughtful, Reflective underscores:

Here you'll find a lot of music that's suitable for background use in films and stories about personal experiences, life lessons and contemplation. It's a little bit hard to put words on exactly what this music sounds like or what emotions it brings out, because this music is neither very happy or very sad, but instead tends to work well as a musical background for when you want your viewers to connect with the people in your scene, and not so much about the music. If you have a scene about someone examining their life or having a conversation about personal issues, this is the genre you should be browsing for music.

Amazement, Wonderment, Enchanted, Fantasy underscores:

Well, the name of this sub-genre says a lot, really. Here you can find music that will go well in scenes of amazing discoveries, explorations of new worlds and strange lands, contact with strange creatures and unfamiliar places. The music tends to have a subtle "oh.. wow.." factor and is made to illustrate feelings of awe and amazement - in a positive way, mostly. This music is very useful for childrens & grown-up films alike, as well as fairy tales and perhaps fantasy and adventure games, when you want to convey a sensation of discovery and exploration.

Investigative, Analyzing, Evaluating, Clues, Mysterious underscores

Use this music when someone is trying to figure out something. Brain cells and computer analysis working overtime to solve a crime, solve a riddle or put together a puzzle of some sort. We imagine this music to go well in things like criminal investigation programs, documentaries, forensics and forensic investigation. Data analysis, fingerprint and DNA databases, working out a trail of clues that may lead us to the answers we're looking for. The music tends to have a mystical undertow, and often with a rhythmic element to give the sense of passing time and moving, scanning, updating and processing information.

Dark Ambient, Drones, Brooding, Ominous underscores:

This is the genre that previously used to be filed under "Ambient: Dark Ambient" here at This music is very dark and tends to represent a combination of musical elements and Sound Design elements. There may be scraping textures, twitching dark strings, distorted fragments of textural pads, etc. Deep, dark and distant drum booms and eerie, creepy tinkles and swirls. This music goes well in horror films, horror games, dark scifi material, thrillers and chillers, where you want to instill a sense of fear, unease and claustrophobia.

Urgent, Chase, Battle, Action underscores:

This is the place to look for music to use during chase scenes, battle and fighting and so on. The music tends to use either orchestral / symphonic arrangements, techno / big beat styles, or a combination of both. High intensity, high energy music, often with a staccato rhythm to convey a sense of anger and determination.

Victorious, Triumphant, Celebratory

These are "fanfare" like compositions that are meant to illustrate scenes of success, triumph and victory. The music has a rousing, exhilarating sense and will go well with scenes of conquering, overcoming, winning or reaching one's peak. Or, succeeding in struggle or armed conflict.

Playful, Light hearted, Whimsical underscores:

In this sub-genre you'll find music that go well as background/underscores for sitcoms and light hearted films, games and other media. Not exactly slapstick or laugh-out-loud, cake in the face type of comedy. We have another genre for that (Look under "Children's & Comedy music"). These "Playful, lighthearted, whimsical" underscores are more low-key, music that's not noticed so much, but is there to provide a subtle, light, backdrop to scenes of mild comedy or light content.

Tender, Touching, Romantic underscores:

Basically, this is where you can find music for love scenes and declarations of eternal love and devotion. But more than that, really. Many of the tracks in this genre also go well with other emotional and touching content, such as mother/child love, worthy causes and charities with heartening and heartwarming stories to share, and more.

Spy, Undercover Agent, Espionage underscores

In this section you'll find music to use with undercover cops, spies and spy hunters, secret missions, covert operations and James Bond / Mission Impossible type "Undercover" footage. Whether your hero is getting away in his custom built car, or sneaking into that old abandoned warehouse to avoid the evil henchmen, or just being "fabuolously" dangerous, this is where you can find the music to go with that scene.

Developing this new set of sub-genres for soundtrack music was a genre because we really didn't want to have to create too many sub-genres. Presenting users with a huge list of sub-genres to search for music, we felt, just made it more difficult and more "thankless" to start the music search. On the other hand, we felt we had to create enough different sub-genres to avoid the problem of too many different styles of music being bunged together in a single genre listing. We spent a fair amount of time considering the new sub-genre structure and in the end, I feel that we got the balance pretty much right. We hope you'll agree, and that you'll find it pretty easy and clear to see which categories you should be browsing to find music for your scenes, be it a film, web presentation, short film, video game, interactive application, etc.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

YouTube music use, music fingerprinting and advertising on YouTube videos

Hello all,

We're being asked a lot of questions about YouTube music use, YouTube's "music recognition" system and how it relates to the use of licensed music, royalty free music, and "YouTube friendly music", so I decided to write a few words about this somewhat complex issue.

YouTube have developed a system in which they have recorded "fingerprints" of hundreds of thousands of music tracks. They have a database of all these "music fingerprints", and every time somebody uploads a video to YouTube they automatically match the sound in that video up against their database of fingerprinted music. If a match is found, the YouTube uploader (video creator) receives a "Copyright info" message from YouTube:
Dear (your name),

Your video, (name of video), may have content that is owned or licensed by GoDigital for a third party.

No action is required on your part; however, if you're interested in learning how this affects your video, please visit the Content ID Matches section of your account for more information.

- The YouTube Team
What usually happens next is that advertisements are placed on your video. YouTube’s owners, Google, collect money from the advertisers, and some of this advertising revenue is paid out to the music owners.

The theory is that some of that advertising money should eventually trickle down to the music composers but, to be fair, we have never heard of any composer who has ever actually received any money from such use. The money seems to go to GoDigital and their clients, but never to the composers.

Lately some sites have started selling "YouTube friendly music" licenses for a very cheap price like $1.99 for non-commercial use only. This is music that is fingerprinted by YouTube, and using that music will get you one of the above emails, and advertisements will appear on your video. The YouTube-friendly music site collects additional revenue from these advertisements. So the $1.99 that you pay for the license is really only the beginning of the revenue for the site that sold you the music license. Their real revenue comes from monetizing your video, by collecting advertising revenue from the ads that are placed on your video as a result of using their music.

Here at, we do not sell music that is fingerprinted by YouTube or their partners such as GoDigital, RumbleFish, AudioMicro, etc. We stay away from any such music, because we don’t want our music to cause advertisements to be placed on our customer’s videos. Another major difference between us and the $1.99 place is that we also allow our music to be used for commercial purposes and commercial videos. The "Youtube-friendly music" places only allow the music to be used in one non-commercial video.

Of course, we can’t guarantee that YouTube won’t place advertising on your video. You should keep in mind that when you upload a video to YouTube, you are using their free services on their terms entirely. You have to accept that YouTube/Google owns the video that you have uploaded to them, and they can do anything they want with your video, any time they want. They can advertise on it, sell it, distribute it as they see fit, etc, without paying you anything. So please understand that using music from is not a guarantee that YouTube will never place advertisements on your video. All we can guarantee is that our music will not cause advertising to appear on your video, and that we do not further monetize our music by collecting advertising revenue from your video, like those cheap places do.

There have been a few exceptional cases where music that we sell has made its way into GoDigital’s / YouTube’s music fingerprinting database by mistake. If this should happen to you, please let us know about it. We will see to it that this mistake is corrected and that the copyright claim is removed from the music that you have licensed from us.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cue the Music, Part 1 - Using copyrighted music

by Simon Power

"Cue The Music" is a three part series examining the options available to amateur and semi-pro audio/visual producers who wish to incorporate music in their productions. Part one examines the process of clearing copyrighted music. Part two offers 5 alternatives to using copyrighted music. Part three examines the process of using royalty free music.



There’s a whole wealth of music out there that could really enhance your audio/visual projects and impress your customers. But there’s a problem. Literally everything you hear on TV, radio, cinema and in bars and nightclubs is protected by copyright. And you will face a wall of expensive bureaucracy trying to gain permission to use it for your own ends.

But if you really, really think it’s the only option you have, this article aims to give you some insight into the process of using copyrighted music on a low budget project.

Let’s Suppose

Let’s suppose you get a job to produce a DVD about the fashion industry. Some of the footage features a catwalk show filmed at the Fashion Institute.

On the night, the PA system is pumping out Dr. Dre’s ‘Still D.R.E.’ at full volume. That’s fine. It adds a real hard edged atmosphere and sounds great as the models strut down the catwalk.

But here’s the thing. The venue will be covered by an annual blanket performance license that allows them to play copyrighted music whenever they like. Unfortunately, your DVD copies won’t be covered by the same license. If you leave the soundtrack as it is you will be breaking the law. Even for a small run, you need express permission to use a published works, even if it’s in the background. And let’s be clear. Gaining clearance to use copyrighted music on a low budget short run DVD project is quite an undertaking. Infact, that’s something of an understatement. Running into a minefield blindfolded would perhaps be a more accurate description! There are so many pitfalls and grey areas that it’s difficult to see why anyone would wish to even attempt such a thing in the first place.

Some people don’t get permission, of course. They just go ahead and use it anyway without asking. Chances are no one will see or hear their work, so they figure ‘why not?’. Well, that’s fine if you’re foolhardy enough to risk a massive fine or in extreme cases imprisonment. But if you’re serious about making a long and fruitful career out of audio/visual production you will need to address these issues head on.

So what I hope to do in this article is at least remove the blindfold, giving you a fighting chance in that minefield. Or perhaps even offer some of the options that are available that you may or may not have considered as alternatives.

The Grim Truth

Let’s start with the facts. The copyright on all published works is shared between a number of different institutions and individuals. Each of these parties will wish to be informed of your intensions before they decide whether to grant permission to use their copyrighted material.

You may think that obtaining permission will be the end of it. Not really. Each of these individual parties will want to be paid large sums for allowing you to use their copyrighted material for your own ends. And this is where the fun starts. You could find a very substantial amount of your narrow profit margin being siphoned off by unbelievably disproportionate advances and subsequent royalty payments to publishers and record companies attempting to claw back the large amounts of unrecuperated production costs.

Remember, their business is all based on economics. They will be completely oblivious to any point of view based simply on artistic or intellectual grounds. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the music looks and sounds great on your project. You won’t be able to use it legally unless they say “yes”. They own the copyright and that’s that.

A Glimmer Of Hope


I don’t wish to make it sound all doom and gloom.

What with the enormous amount of turbulence in the music market lately, institutions have had to wake up to the fact that they may have to act quickly to make some radical changes to encourage more income from a variety of sources in matters related to the usage and distribution of published works. In other words, they are trying to make it easier to gain access to their vast back catalogues for sync usage on various projects from major films to short run audio/visual projects like the one we have in mind here.

The Mighty Boosh audiobook.
Published music was replaced in post production

Take into account the new range of ‘blanket licenses’ issued by the UK’s royalty collection agency, MCPS. (more on that later). But it’s tiny steps not giant leaps. There is still lots and lots of bureaucracy involved, especially on behalf of the record labels.

Having said that, if you’re still determined to use copyrighted material by artists like Dr. Dre on your DVD project, let’s take a look at how you go about it.

First Contact

First you’ll need a copy of the track, so dig out your copy of Dr. Dre’s ‘2001’ album. Look at the printed information on the recording. Somewhere in very, very small type there will be the name of the publisher attached to the familiar ‘c in a circle’. This is who you need to contact to get permission to use the composition itself (the synchronization rights). The lyrics, the instrumentation, the musical score. Sure, the songwriter(s) owns the rights to the song, but generally they grant those rights to a “music publisher" to administer them, and that’s who you need to contact.

OK, so we have found the name of the publisher. Right next to that there will be a letter ‘p’ in a circle followed another company name. This refers to the physical sound recording of the composition. That copyright (the master rights) is owned by the record label. In this case Interscope. If you want to use a specific recording of a specific song, you will need permission from the publisher of the song ‘Still D.R.E.’ and the owner of the physical recording of that song, the record company, Interscope.

You will also need the title of the song (Still D.R.E.) and the name of the composer. In this case Andre Young (Dr. Dre’s somewhat less imposing birth name).

Armed with this information you will first need to find contact details for the publisher. The easiest way to track down music publishers is through the performing rights society. All songwriters and publishers need to be a member of that society in order to collect royalties. Unfortunately, the performing rights societies will only give out the publisher information for the writers they represent. Therefore, if you want to use a song written by writers from different societies, you will need to go to each society's website to find all of the publisher information.

Dr. Dre’s ‘Still D.R.E.’. A hard act to follow?

However, once you have tracked down the publishers contact details you will need to approach them directly to ask for permission. For this you will need to send a letter or email. Use the term ‘Independent Film Request’ or ‘Low Budget Project’, something that immediately outlines your situation and intentions. Reference the title of the song and songwriters, then the name of your production. Tell them briefly about the production how the song fits in, as well as the duration of the music and a description of the accompanying visuals. They will also need to know the territories in which your product will be available and the amount of copies earmarked for the initial run.

As for approaching the record companies, The bigger ones use central offices that deal with these kind of queries. But the smaller record companies are much easier to find. Generally their websites have all the contact details you will need. Once you get these details, approach them in a similar way to the publishers.

Licensed To Ill

With that thought in mind, Royalty collection companies such as ASCAP (USA) have recently introduced ‘blanket’ licensing schemes that allow copyrighted music to be transmitted unconditionally in certain circumstances. Although these kind of high end licence deals are way beyond the likes of you and me, a similar approach is beginning to immerge to help smaller businesses, too.

Take for instance the AVP (Audio Visual Product) license offered by MCPS in the UK. This is targeted at small budget short run video/DVD productions where music is used, but is not the primary theme of the product. A class that they term ‘non-music’. (A fitness video, a sports event or a drama is OK. A concert or music chart show is not OK.). Our ‘fashion show’ project should fall into the category ‘non-music’, because music is not the primary theme of the presentation. It’s a fashion show using music as enhancement and not as the main theme. So in this case, an AVP license may be suitable.

The license removes the need for separate sync payments on each individual piece of music, favouring a ‘blanket’ license covering the whole project. But take into account that this license refers to the copyright of the composition and NOT to the sound recording itself. (As we’ve already determined, the physical copyright is owned by the record label). Take into account also that under the terms of the license agreement and for granting usage of their part of the copyright, MCPS will still want to skim off a whopping 8.5% of the highest published dealer price. So you kind of inherit a cash-hungry business partner as well as a license and that’s gonna eat into your profits in a big way. As a footnote, other royalty collection companies may have their own similar blanket license agreements. The AVP license is merely an example.

The Waiting Game

So you’ve sent out your letter or email to the publishers and the record company requesting permission to use their copyrighted material in your project. Getting a response to your initial query is going to take time. Especially in the case of the record company. Permission for small time usage is pretty low on their list of priorities and this is often reflected in their response. It may take ages and ages for them to say “no”. Or simply come up with some ludicrous figure of tens of thousands of bucks that you couldn’t possibly even consider.

On the upside, the chances of the publishers granting permission is marginally higher. This is after all their reason for existing. To license and promote the work of the artists that they represent. And in the case of the AVP license mentioned above, you are able to apply for permission relatively painlessly using an online application form.

What Happens next?

You will certainly need to follow up your query. But leave it for at least 14 days before you do. Beyond this point I’m afraid it’s in the lap of the Gods. You have followed the procedure that begins the process of clearing rights to use copyrighted music on a small-run DVD project. The outcome is entirely dependent on all parties agreeing to grant permission. You’ve got a reasonable chance of gaining rights from a publisher to use a composition. But precious little chance of being granted rights from the record company to use that specific recording. And no chance at all of being able to carry out all this administration before your deadline. If I were you I’d be investigating some alternatives. And that’s just what we’ll be doing next. Looking at all the options available to you when substituting copyrighted music with licensed music on a low budget short-run audio/visual project. All coming up in the next part of Cue The Music.

To summarize

To use copyrighted music on a low budget short-run DVD project you will need to apply for permission from two sources. The music’s publisher and the copyright owner of the physical recording of the composition (normally the record company).

Many royalty collection agencies now offer blanket licenses that provide easier access to synchronization rights. The license cost may be negligable, but the royalty demands will narrow your profit margin. Rights to use the physical recording will be the hardest to obtain and may be accompanied by a request for a large advance plus subsequent royalties.


ASCAP: The American Society Of Composers, Authors and Publishers
MCPS: The UK’s mechanical Rights society
Comprehensive international list of royalty collection agencies

More in this series:

You may proceed to Part Two of this series.
Or even to Part Three.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Copyrights in Public Domain music and Classical music

Who owns the rights in classical music by composers such as Mozart, Wagner, Beethoven and Vivaldi? Is it even legal for a company to sell this music and make a profit on it? owner/founder Bjorn Lynne sheds some light on the rights in classical music and traditional music.

Why are companies such as ourselves (Lynne Publishing / Shockwave-Sound.Com) claiming copyrights in classical recordings, tracks by Mozart and the likes? Isn't this music in the Public Domain? Why can't I just take this music and use it in my film, or on my website, without having to pay anybody for a right to do that?

On the face of it, it seems odd. After all, there is a law that says music composed by a composer who has been dead for 75 years becomes Public Domain. That's why, for example, in 2008, compositions by George Gershwin became Public Domain -- in other words, they belong to the people. To everyone and no one. And of course, people like Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky have all been dead much longer than 75 years, so their compositions have been in the Public Domain for a long time already.

Mozart's genius compositions -
Copyrighted or Public Domain?

But even so, take a piece of Mozart music from a CD and use it on your YouTube video, on your website or in your film, without first buying a license for commercial exploitation of that music -- and you risk, at best, having YouTube strip the audio track off your video, or at worst, having legal action taken against you by a company that claims copyright in that recording.

The clue is in that word: The recording. For here we come to the crux of the matter. There are in fact two copyrights that exist in every music recording. One is the right in the Composition, and the other is the right in the Recording. When we are talking about classical music rights, we are talking about the rights that exist in that recording and arrangement. The arrangement basically means someone's "interpretation" of the composition.

If you decide to sing a Mozart piece out loud, that is your arrangement of that composition. If you decide to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" by hitting a hammer on various oil cans tuned to different pitches, then that is your arrangement of that composition. And basically, if you sit down one day at a piano and you play "Für Elise" on piano, while recording your performance on tape - then that is your arrangement of that recording, and you own the rights in that recording.

You play it - you own it:
If it's your recording, you own the copyright.
When a record company decides to release a classical CD, they make their own arrangement and recording of that music. When they have done so, they own the rights to that recording. After all, if nobody could claim any rights in classical music recordings, why would any company be willing to invest tens of thousands of dollars on hiring an entire orchestra, paying all the musicians in that orchestra as well as the conductor for days, if they couldn't claim the rights in the music and then exploit that recording commercially afterwards?

Any person or company that has invested time and money in making their own versions/recordings of classical music tracks, even if the composition itself is in the public domain, own the rights to that recording. That's why you can't just take classical music from a CD and use it for anything other than personal listening. And that's why companies such as ours can sell licenses to our classical music recordings. You pay us for a license to use the music, just as you do with our pop/rock music, and armed with our paid-for license, you may then proceed to use that track commercially, with our permission. (So long as you stay within the license terms).

The same goes for traditional music, meaning music where the composition is so old that nobody even knows who really composed it. Examples of this would be "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", "Silent Night", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", "O Danny Boy" and many, many other traditional music tracks. The Composition is not copyrighted to anyone, but if somebody hires musicians and makes their own recording of any of these tracks - then that person or company owns the rights in that recording.

There is more to a music recording
than just the notes within it
What worries me is that even people working in media don't seem to understand this, or know how it works. On a couple of occasions, we've had customers who licensed our classical music and used it in their YouTube videos. YouTube, being ignorant, waltzed in and stripped off the soundtrack, claiming that the music was under copyright to so-and-so record company -- because that company had, at one time or other, registered the copyright in their recording of that particular classical track. YouTube thought since that company had once published a track by Mozart, that company now owned all Mozart recordings. Which is of course not true. Luckily, we were able to straighten out that situation, and the audio track was restored to the video. But really, this is stuff that YouTube (and anybody working in media broadcasting) should know about before wading in and stripping people's audio.

So, to sum up: Even when a Composition is in the public domain because the composer has been dead for more than 75 years, there is still a copyright in the Recording. And many different companies each have rights in their recordings. For example, we here at own the rights in our recording of Bach's "Prelude in C major", but we don't own the rights in other recordings made by other people, of the same recording.

You can legally license Classical Music for use in film, video, YouTube, website, music on-hold and other purposes, by visiting our Stock Music Library, where you can choose between hundreds of different classical tracks by dozens of composers, famous and exotic.

Friday, April 30, 2010

New 'Advanced Search' feature at

Hi all,

Until now, we have always just had a single, simple "Search" feature here at This was fine years ago when we had only a thousand or so music tracks and sound effects. But as the years have gone by, adding new music and sound effects every week, or catalogue has grown to such a volume that it is sometimes necessary to go "deeper" in Search to find what you need.

We've had this in the back of our minds for some time, but the "kick in our behind" came one day recently when a customer wrote in to tell us that he was trying to find a "ding!" sound for a Powerpoint presentation, but when he searched for "ding" in our old, simple search box, he got 662 results, of which most were music tracks. The simple search box searches through all track titles, descriptions, keywords and -- for example -- it will produce a search result that includes every music track where the word "ending" appears in the description of that track.

A link to the new "Advanced Search" feature can be found directly underneath the simple search box.

Once on the Advanced Search page, you'll see some options that should be pretty self explanatory.

You can search only in Music Tracks, or only in Sound Effects, or both.

You can search only in 24-bit, High Definition audio files, or you can choose to include also 16-bit, normal CD-quality audio files. Note that there is no option to search for only 16-bit audio files and not include 24-bit audio files in the search results. The reason for this is that every purchase of 24-bit audio files always includes also the 16-bit equivalent file. So if you are unable to use 24-bit files in your system, you can still include 24-bit files in your search, because should you buy the 24-bit file, you automatically also get the 16-bit file included.

You can search in Non-PRO music tracks, or PRO-registered music tracks, or both. "PRO-registered" or "Non-PRO registered" basically means whether the composer of that music track is a member of a Performance Rights Organization such as PRS, ASCAP, BMI or similar. If the composer is a member of such an organization, the music is still royalty-free for almost all uses, but in some rare cases, additional licensing may be necessary. If the composer is not a member of any Performance Rights Organization (i.e. the music is "Non-PRO"), that means the music is entirely royalty-free for all types of use.

You can make a search in Title only. This is the best option if you know the track title, or part of the track title, you're looking for.

Or, you can make a different search that includes the Title, Description, Keywords, or Composer. This is useful to search for, for example, a mood (try a search for "romantic"), or an instrument (try a search for "acoustic guitar"), or a composer (try a search for "Arjun Sen") or even a music style (try a search for "hard rock").

Finally, you can limit your search to only a particular genre. For example, you can select the genre "Rock music" and search for the word "melodic". Or, you can select the genre "Classical music" and you can search for the keyword "romantic". You get the idea.

We hope you'll enjoy our new Advanced Search feature and we hope it will help to save you some time and frustration. :-)