Thursday, December 8, 2011

Paypal turning the screw...

At we represent about 150 different music composers/producers who receive their royalties from us quarterly. We've been using Paypal Mass Pay to pay out their royalties and the Paypal fee for this has been capped at $1 per recipient. So when we sent out royalties to 150 receivers, it cost us $150. No problem.

Last month however, Paypal massively increased the fee for sending Mass Pay, to 2% of the value of the payment, up to a max of $45 per recipient. This means that when we now pay out royalties to 150 composers, it costs us over $1,000 in Paypal FEE for one Mass Pay. This represents a price increase overnight over several hundred percent!

The Mass Pay function is a fully automated operation that nobody in Paypal has to lift a finger to make happen. As a Paypal user we do the whole operation ourselves, using our Paypal account screen. It seems excessive to me, for Paypal to charge over $1,000 in fee for one automated process.

Looks like Paypal are starting to realize some of the monopoly they have on this market and is starting to maximize profit by blackmail type fees. :-(

Ironically, it's still slightly cheaper than sending 150 international bank wire transfers, and of course, the Paypal Mass Pay is a lot less work.

We have communicated this with our composers and they have kindly agreed to share the new 2% Paypal fee with us, so we are now paying 1% and the composers the other 1%, and I guess we can just about live with that.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hanzi Warrior game with royalty-free Chinese music

From time to time we like to give a mention to a project where we feel that our customer has used our music in a cool way, or in a nice project. One such project is the new iPhone and iPod Touch game, "Hanzi Warrior", up for release on 11/11/11, including our royalty-free Chinese music track "Zhongdu".

Hanzi Warrior is a neat game in which you can learn Chinese and save the earth! Gong Gong has created a hole in the sky. Yellow Dragon holds the key to repair the sky. There are over 28 worlds across five realms. Unite the winds to summon Yellow Dragon.
Learn Chinese, Save the Earth, and have a great time doing it. An entertaining and educational game for iPhone and iPad.

We thank the developers, Difint, for using our music in this cool game, and we'd like to suggest you check out the game trailer video at YouTube.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Some thoughts behind our 'Suggested Production Types'

The "Suggested Production Types" music browsing tool is something that we introduced to our site quite recently. We used to have just a list of Music Genres (Jazz, Rock, Classical, Ambient...) and nothing else. But searching for the right music for your project can be more complicated than that. You may not know exactly which "music genre" you are looking for. You may simply be looking for something - anything - that works for your project.

This is why we introduced the Suggested Production Types. You can find this as a Browse button in the music browsing tool on the right-hand side of our site. Click on Suggested Production Types and you'll be able to click on things like "Relaxation, Spa & Indulgence" or "Spy, Secret Agent, Undercover" and more, to bring up a list of music tracks that we felt would work well in those types of productions - regardless of the actual music genre of that track.

Additionally, we've written a page where we illustrate and explain a little bit about what we mean by the various "Suggested Production Types" and what criteria we've used when selecting music tracks for each of them. A little bit of background as to what makes certain music / sounds work well for a particular genre of production, be it a video game, TV show, YouTube video, or any other media.

Should you be interested in reading about each of our Suggested Production Types and the thought process behind them, click here. Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Increase your 3D animation impact - How to strengthen and intensify your 3D animations using royalty-free sound effects and music

By Mike Efford

Audio intensifies 3D animation. It gives spatial depth and atmosphere to an animated production, fleshes out character, and generally breathes life into it. There are ways to make the most of that combined energy, to take an animation to a higher level of intensity with good audio, and that’s what we’re about to open our eyes and ears to here.

3D animation is different from footage captured on film. 3D animation is not originated automatically with audio. Sound has to be added separately, unlike video. It may sound obvious, but there are decisions to be made when combining animation with audio that are anything but.

Coordinating animation and audio is about much more than synching. Especially with stereoscopic 3D filmmaking taking us to new worlds of audiovisual experience, the two senses are being integrated in ways both subtle and spectacular.

Perceptual research in the 1960s to the 1980s was more concerned with separating the different areas of the brain rather than looking at how they integrate, reinforce and correlate to each other. It’s when "left brain" was first seen as distinct from "right brain", and a clichĂ© was born. These days both science and entertainment seem to be moving toward a complex integration. And that’s our challenge: integrating more and more complex sights and sounds, animation and audio, into a quality production. The following are some observations and suggestions for doing exactly that:


Animating IS visualizing, of course. But less obvious is another kind of visualization: "seeing" sound. Musicians sometimes refer to "tonal color" and that’s just one example of what’s possible in visualizing music. But it goes way beyond that: tempo, texture, style, and overall "feel". It’s very intuitive and subjective, as it should be!

When browsing music tracks, for example in a royalty free production music library, try and "see" the audio. Because a visual will in fact be paired with it, it’s not a bad idea to hold a mental picture of the animation subject whether character or graphic. Start with whatever visual reference you have on hand: a storyboard perhaps, sketches, a script, or a selection of graphic style samples. Stock photo catalogs are another source. Assemble a bit of visual reference and flip through it while trolling for tracks. Then imagine, as the musical events play out in the piece, what could happen through it, alongside it, behind it, across it, etc. The value of all this is a richer integration of animation and audio, because the project has been sourced better. It has drawn upon more creative resources of the producer or sound technician.

Manage and anticipate:

Coordinate the development of audio along with motion graphics, rather than tacking it on as an afterthought. It makes for a better managed production and a better quality production, at the end of the day. But besides having to coordinate audio and visuals, a producer has to manage the related logistics of people, travel and gear. How to help it all flow together?

  • Consider starting with a music track or sting, and building the animation to fit the audio. This process works especially well with motion graphics because animated events can be fine-tuned to match an existing piece of music with great accuracy.
  • Build around the most difficult elements to replace, if time is the biggest factor dictating the production. An elaborate special effects explosion shot in real time will dictate the corresponding audio effects paired with it. And a voice over reading from a very famous actor who is now out of the country is locked in. Animate around the sound.
  • Spot the audio track before animating, obviously, but care needs to be taken to get this correct and accurate. After Effects, for example, will often place markers with a small lag behind the keystrokes that initiate them on the timeline track, and need to be tweaked to get them right.
  • If a motion graphic animation must be developed in advance of selecting a music track, time the animation’s events and keyframes to the nearest second, and largest increments thereof; ½, 1/3 and ¼. Music tends naturally to be subdivided that way (think of the harmonic overtone series if you have a musical background), and building an animation to those generic cue points will create a very editor friendly piece of footage. That will yield the strongest synch for the least amount of upfront planning. And it can help rescue an animation production that is either extremely rushed or subject to many changes.


Push your stock music and sound effects into new dimensions. Starting with this very site, there’s a huge variety of royalty free sound effects, royalty free music and techniques to extend the range of stock media:
  • When searching for sound FX to match an animation, try a more random search, temporarily bypassing categorizations of sounds, to find music and FX you may never have thought of.
  • Make the most of an editor’s or sound technician’s skill set. They can punctuate an audio track with a wild range of sound effects, to build out a piece of stock music into something well above and beyond the original track.
  • Take the music and sound effects "out of the box": When designing audio where the important element is the virtual space in the animation where the sound will be playing, set up speakers in a similar a real - world space, play the audio and record. This can be great for unanticipated ambient sound. Brings the "audio space" to life; for example music playing in an old dance hall, with all its ambient noise and unique acoustics.
  • Take both visual and audio elements and post -- process them. Most top 3D animation studios never use rendered footage as is. It’s always tweaked for color balance, and often wildly altered with special effects plug-ins. Likewise, alter pitch in the audio and try filters and effects in the edit suite as well, for a more creative range of texture and tone.


Three dimensional sound design is to be sought after, and multichannel sound mixes are the future. Audio combines with 3D animated objects on screen into a richer perception of 3D space, quite apart from providing mood etc. Having said that, one of the keys to creating depth in 3D animation is to separate one object from another, both visually and aurally. "Auditory localization" effects from the audio separation will strengthen visual depth perception in 3D animation.
  • Objects that are deeply separated in 3D virtual space need to have separate audio tracks where feasible. Separation of specific objects in an animation and their corresponding audio signals makes audiences more sensitive to even tiny changes in scene environment and improves object identification. For example a cartoon character walking left to right through a raucous crowd will carry the audience’s attention with it more easily if the character’s voice crosses channels, despite the distraction of the crowd.
  • With progress come new challenges, of course. For example, care must be taken, particularly for multichannel HD broadcast to use LFE, or the Low Frequency Effects channel, properly. Sending the entire audio mix through the LFE channel can create mush. That channel is intended for discrete use of the lowest ranges. Sending only the lowest frequency audio through the LFE channel will strengthen the spatial sense of that low range audio. So a giant cartoon bowling ball crashing through the floor will have a specific spatial identity and character rather than just a generic assault on the senses.
  • Assigning a specific range of pitch in the audio to an individual graphic object or character in an animation can separate the paired animation/audio element from a busy environment, and direct an audience’s attention to it. A cartoon bird emitting high-pitched song will stand out from a forest full of dancing, singing animals far better than the same bird chirping with a deeper voice. The same applies to motion graphics. Play the graphic animation example and note how certain tones tend to highlight specific graphic elements.


Layering up 3D animation elements to fit audio and vice-versa will strengthen both. As animation has grown in sophistication, it has become more complex. And the most efficient way to build up a complex production is by an additive process. Begin with the basic track or audio, then add detail. This is true for visuals as well as audio:
  • Motion graphic events can be layered up to fit a music track in great detail. 3D virtual lights can be added, subtle washes of transparent color introduced and graphic elements combined, to "pull" the most out of the music. Subtle internal harmonies within a music track are given a presence, and have accompanying visual effects. When a number of audio and visual synchronizations are woven together, a motion graphic animation really takes on a life of its own and becomes something of a force of nature.
  • Sound effects can extend the range of a piece of music, adding emphasis and punctuation. This is a double play, because there is a kind of perceptual feedback from the visual event sequence that reinforces the audio track when certain kinds of audio "punctuation" are added on.


Ultimately it all has to flow together seamlessly. An orchestra is a good example. Many different instruments modulating together in a symphony, some separating from the rest briefly, but integrating into the musical score as a cohesive whole. Animation and audio should orchestrate together too:
  • As mentioned before, adding in sound effects at the right time can enhance a piece of music in its details. But overall, they can also "knit" the whole animated scene together, too. Timed to certain main keyframes in an animation, sound effects, whether for motion graphics or cartoons, can introduce periodic moments that affirm the linkage of audio and animation, making both stronger.
  • Choosing a great audio track as early as possible is one key to integrating the visual with the musical. The earlier an animator has access to a music score or audio track, the more the audio can influence their thinking, and the better the animation. And no better place to start than right here, at

Video example:

Since there’s nothing better than a case study to illustrate a process, let’s take a look and have a listen to a good example of the above concepts:

The animation in action: projected onto large screens at a conference in Orlando, Florida, designed by Blackbox Communications, Toronto, Canada.

Particularly interesting with the animation we have here is that it’s basically abstract. It’s a motion graphic animation. That is, there is no animated cartoon character etc. that would provide an obvious rationale for music and sound FX selection. So, how to proceed?

Here’s how producer Melissa Elliott of Blackbox Communications in Toronto, Canada approached it:
"Our initial objective in creating this piece was to settle an audience and set a tone for a live event. We wanted a short, smart, energetic piece that conveyed a brief overview of the corporate messaging to give an audience of 3000 a visual reminder of why they were attending the event.

One of the main challenges within this piece was that we had to convey our emotion and content within a very short timeframe. If the piece went over 30 seconds, we failed in what we were trying to accomplish. The animation was to play multiple times during a 3 day conference, as an aural and visual cue to the audience that we were about to begin, so we felt that anything over 30 seconds would significantly decrease its power to engage.

With this challenge in mind, we started with the music selection. It was key to choose a track that got us to our desired emotive destination quickly, but not so quickly that the animated corporate content got missed.

Once we had a track that we felt could accomplish this, it was sent to our animator for feedback. If he could visualize the same type of animation that we could, we had a winner. If the track didn’t work for him, the search would begin again.

He put together a draft version that illustrated how the two elements were merging. We went back into the audio studio to clean up the audio to match this draft and sent the revised .aif files off so that the next round could be as tight as possible, without making it feel rushed.

In the end, the ultimate timing was determined by the animation, and budget was held back in order to go back into the audio studio a third time to fine tune the timing on the track and to add SFX for the key moments in animation. This resulted in an integrated piece that energized the audience and prepared them for the days ahead, without making them feel as though layers of corporate messaging was being thrown at them to absorb."

- - -

We have touched on some ways to take 3D animation to the next level, intensifying it and strengthening the entire production with audio. We hope you’ll refer back to this article next time an animation project comes your way.

To your success!

About the author: Mike Efford Motion Design is a Toronto based animation studio, creating 3D computer animation for clients who market business concepts, technology, architecture and consumer products. The studio opened in November 1994 and is now one of the most long-established practitioners of computer animation in Canada. Find out more about him at the Mike Efford Motion Design website. About Blackbox Communications: From event programming to marketing communications campaigns, video to design, Blackbox provides the process and production necessary to build a community of brand evangelists for business-to-business and business-to-employee clients. You may also visit their website.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Have Yourself A Merry Royalty-Free Christmas

It's almost Christmas time again and we can see that time coming, as people start buying royalty free Christmas music from our catalogue. Tracks like "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", "Jingle Bells", "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" are so popular that many of our composers have made their own versions of these, from the straightforward and cosy to the cool and funked-up, to the downright silly. We also have a lot of Christmas music that aren't actually traditional or well-known tracks, but that are new, original compositions made by our own composers in a Christmas style. We call this area New & Fun Christmas Music so if you're looking for something a little bit different for this year's Christmas presentation or electronic Christmas greeting card, you may want to check out those tracks.

But where are the other famous Christmas classics, such as Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow and others? What about Walking In A Winter Wonder Land? Why don't we have it? We get customers writing in and asking about these tracks and about why they can't find them on our site. It seems odd for us to have 66 search results for "Jingle Bells", but nothing for other famous Christmas classics like the two I just mentioned and Frosty the Snowman? What's up with that?

The simple answer is, that these "missing" Christmas tracks are under copyright and therefore cannot be offered up as royalty free music / stock music / library music, by anyone. In contrast to "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" and "Jingle Bells" where the actual compositions are in the public domain, and only the recording and arrangement is in copyright to who ever actually created that recording -- these other tracks including Frosty the Snowman have the actual composition still under copyright to the authors and their publishers. Therefore, these tracks cannot be done up as royalty-free music and this explains why you can't find them here, or indeed on any other music licensing website:
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Holly Jolly Christmas
  • Let it Snow
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  • Walking in the Winter Wonderland
  • Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
  • ...and others
We are a little bit bummed out about this, because several years ago we actually spent quite a lot of time and energy on making our own arrangements and versions of these tracks, and we have some pretty good recordings of these tracks that we've played and made ourselves. We wrongly assumed that these compositions were public domain until just before we were going to start selling them from our site.

Anyway, for those of you who were looking for this, and possibly other Christmas tunes that you can't find on our site -- that is the explanation. Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lifeyo has made a cool Content Management System / Website building tool that makes it easy and fun to make your own website and blog. Putting together the YouTube video that demonstrates their service, they came to for royalty-free music. We really liked the video and thought we'd post it here too.

Notice that's music is not in a Content ID program at YouTube and therefore does not cause advertising for a competing brand to appear on Lifeyo's YouTube video.

The music track used in this video is "Spirit" composed by Dan Gautreau. We felt the music worked really well in their video and thank Lifeyo for using our music. Two thumbs up from us!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Finding your picked tracks on a different computer

We are occasionally asked how it's possible to make a list of favorite tracks, and then find that list on a different computer. You may be browsing music from home and wish to make a list of bookmarked tracks that you would like to come back to when you're in your office, to actually make the purchase from there.

As you may have noticed, our site does not have "user accounts" and does not require that you set up an account, or log into an account, before making a purchase. We have considered this several times, but we feel that a lot of customers like that about our site - that they can just come, browse, place an order. All without having to create a user account first.

However, not having any user accounts, we have no way of tracking a person from their home computer to their work computer. But there is still a way that you can create a list of favorite tracks from home, and then access that list from your work computer, by using Mozilla Firefox web browser.

[Click on the actual track title to be
taken to a page for that track specifically]
The Firefox browser has a feature called "Firefox Sync" which lets you create a Sync Account with Firefox, and all your bookmarks, log in information, saved passwords, etc. will be stored within that account. So you can have all your bookmarks and other such information shared between your computers. I'm using that feature myself and it's really great. If I bookmark a page on my office PC, I can see that bookmark on my laptop when I'm traveling.

If you want to bookmark a specific music track, simply click on the track title. That will take you to a page that specifically displays only that one track. The URL for that page looks something like: (where the x'es represent the track ID number in our catalog). While viewing this page, you can Bookmark the page and easily find this track later. And if you're using Firefox Sync feature, you can see that bookmark on all your synced computers. So when you start up Firefox on your work computer, you'll see the track bookmarked there.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Royalty Free Music for Weather Channel / Weather Forecast

We've added a new "Suggested Production Type" to the music browsing tools at "Weather Forecast". Here we present music that we feel goes well with TV Weather Forecasts; you know the type you can see on CNN and other broadcasters where they just display the weather in different parts of the world. Here are 74 music tracks highly suited for this particular use. Enjoy. :-) . The below link is a bit long, but you get the same result just by going to our main front page, clicking on "Suggested Production Types" and then clicking on "Weather Forecast".

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New preview player with waveform display

We've designed and released a new and updated preview audio player here at Shockwave-Sound. The new player features a graphic waveform display so that you can see where the music gets louder and quieter. Useful if you need to plan the use of the music in your project, how it will match up with your scenes etc.

Remember that according to our music licensing terms, you are welcome to cut, chop, crop, fade, and stretch our music to fit your required cue-lengths. So with a bit of insight and knowledge, perhaps some reasonably good editing software, you can always make the music fit your cues and lengths (for example, getting that musical climax at exactly the right time on your movie timeline).

We hope you'll enjoy this new and updated preview player - it's just one of the many site upgrades and improvements we've done over the past 6 months or so.

Saturday, September 3, 2011 music making good in Aralon

From time to time we get whiff of a project where we think our music is part of something really pretty cool, so we want to brag about it a little bit. :-)

Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD is a role playing game for the iPhone and iPad that looks and plays more like what we've got used to from the PC, X-Box, Mac and Playstation over the last few years. Developed by Crescent Moon Games, Aralon features HD graphics, lots of quests, character customization, mounts, dungeons and caves and pretty much everything you've come to expect from a good quality fantasy RPG. There's a full inventory system, various fighting techniques and you can play as a Human, Elf or Troll.

Crescent Moon Games licensed royalty-free music from including the fantasy / medieval style music track Fairy Winds composed by Bjorn Lynne and several others for this great iPad game. Check it out in the Apple App Store:  Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mess FilmMakers film, shot with a cellphone

It's pretty cool what you can do these days, armed only with a cellphone, a lot of time and talent, and of course, access to a good quality stock music library and voiceover talents. :-)

Luis Mieses from Zaragoza, Spain - aka Mess FilmMakers - has produced two really cool trailers / short films. We think he shows a lot of talent as a film maker.

Pray For Dawn is made as a teaser/trailer for a mystery crime / thriller:

The Fixer is more of a short film, this is the one that was shot entirely on a cellphone camera:

In both films, provided the royalty-free music as well as all voice / voiceover acting.

It's fun to see our music and our voice over recordings used with such talent and gusto. Well done, Luis, and good luck with your carreer as a film maker!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New look track display with "Find Similar Tracks"

Hello folks,

About a month ago we launched our new, powerful music browsing tool. This weekend we are pretty pleased with ourselves again ;-) because we are unveiling our new style track display. The new track design can be seen by browsing or searching any music on our site, and it looks like the picture on the left, with the new black headings for track titles and new-look "play" buttons. We hope you like it! Besides looking a bit cleaner, it is also more optimized and streamlined than the old design, so track display pages should now load a bit faster.

The real improvement here, though, lies in the [Find Similar] link that you can find on the bottom frame of each track displayed. Clicking on this link brings up our powerful Advanced Browse too, pre-filled with details of the track you were looking at - such as: Music genre, tempo-feel, moods/emotions, prominent instruments and suggested production types. From here, you can either tweak the criteria as you wish, or you can simply hit that "Submit" button and a new "Advanced Browse" will take place that looks for tracks with similar configurations as the original track. This should give you a new track listing with a whole set of tracks that should pretty much match up with the track you were looking at first.

Play around with it! We think you'll like it. If you encounter any problems with it, be sure to let us know. And thanks for using!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Choosing Music For Short Film Projects

by Simon Power

Film making requires ingenuity in many different fields. One priority is matching the mood and atmosphere of your story with the right music. In this article, we speak to directors and short film makers about how to get the best music for your movie score without blowing the budget.


Part One - Big Budget vs No Budget

Music is a powerful tool in filmmaking. And choosing the right mood is an art in itself. Professional film directors work directly with composers to produce music & sound design that integrates perfectly with the imagery on the screen. They will often choose published songs to connect with the audience adding emphasis to certain scenes. But there’s a high price to pay. Top composers working with professional orchestras can ask for seven figure salaries. Perhaps more shocking is that the use of a single published work by a major artist can sometimes match or exceed that figure. Take for example the rights to use Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ on the recent movie, ‘Lords Of Dogtown’ which cost the producers a cool $3 Million!

But typically the score for a major movie represents around 8 percent of the total budget.

With short films, this margin is greatly reduced. Often there will very little money or no budget at all. The filmmaker will need to think of all kinds of creative ideas to get the music he wants.

Stian Hafstad is a young Norwegian filmmaker. As a student he directed the much acclaimed award winning shorts, ‘Nemesis’ (2008) and ‘Liten Penis’ (2009).
"Getting the music right is everything. The right soundtrack can make or break your film. I have no idea how many hours I've spent in recent years listening through music samples. But it's all worth it. The feeling you get when the music works with your scene is just amazing."

So how does a student filmmaker go about choosing music for a scene?
"9 out of 10 times I have a clear idea beforehand what kind of music I want. I usually hear music inside my head when I read/write a script so I go out searching for something similar. However there are of course limitations, especially when you have a close to nothing budget. This doesn't mean you can't get good music, it just means you have to spend a lot of time searching."

Are royalty payments and clearance issues a stumbling block for filmmakers when searching for music?

"A friend of mine recently made a documentary where there was a scene with some old people singing for about 20 seconds. She had to clear the rights for the song and pay to use it. That's just insane. I just wish it was easier (and not expensive) to use small bands and artists. I can understand that you have to pay a lot if you want to use The Beatles, but I think many not so well know bands could benefit from letting filmmakers use their music for free."

Can pieces of music ever offer the director ideas for storylines and edits?

"Yes! Absolutely. This happens to me all the time. I believe that some songs are just meant to be used in film. The first time you hear them you can see the outline of a scene or a montage in your head. For example. The first time I heard Coldplay's ‘Life in Technicolor ii’, I could see the opening scene of a movie. But you could never get the clearance to use it."

How did you go about choosing music for your film, ‘Nemesis’?
"In this film I decided to go with a well known classical work by Saint Saens for the opening scene (Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals). I love this song because it instantly creates a mood and takes you somewhere exiting. So we decided to have just a few seconds of the song before the image started, hoping to send the viewer to magical place before he saw the films first image. Also I love to play with expectations, and it was fun to play some really exciting music, and then cut to an ordinary man on a bus."
What other advice can you offer about choosing music for short films?
"Don’t use a song just because you think it's cool. Cool track + good scene does not always make a good film. Also, remember your first impression of a song. The music I like the most now is the music I had to work on liking. Music that I listened to over and over before it clicked. But if I use a song like this in a film people who hear it for the first time won’t necessarily feel the same way."

Part Two - Money To Burn

To give things a little perspective, let’s look at the methods used by some of the great auteurs of filmmaking.

Francis Ford Coppola commissioned a variety of artists (including his Father) to compose & record entire scores for his 1979 epic, ‘Apocalypse Now’. Only in post production did he decide what was to be used for each scene from the hours and hours of recorded music.

Coppola: Finding the right music can be a headache

Despite taking place in WWII, Quentin Tarrentino’s latest film, ‘Inglorious’ features music from a variety of unexpected eras. Spaghetti Western soundtracks, psychedelic funk, heavy metal and even ‘Cat People’ by David Bowie.

Speaking of which, Bowie recorded an entire soundtrack for the movie ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ which was rejected by director Nicolas Roeg in favour of old standards and a score by John Phillips. (Bowie’s score was subsequently never released).

Despite huge budgets, even these high end directors occasionally fall foul to the crippling cost of using published music.

Scorsese’s ‘Casino’ soundtrack album excludes many of the seminal tracks from the film due to clearance difficulties. And, although a pivotal track in David Lynch’s ‘Lost Highway’, This Mortal Coil’s ‘Song to The Siren’ does not appear on the soundtrack album.

But these are high end Hollywood directors with money to burn. Sam Raimi, for instance, put aside a pot of $4.5 million as the music budget for ‘Spiderman’. This including a brand-new song recorded exclusively for the movie by Chad Kroeger.

Spiderman: multi million dollar music budget

Although these directors are in a different league to short filmmakers, their methods and ideas can be highly inspirational. Our student director, Stian Hafstad has some personal favourite movie scores that have inspired his own work. "Gershwin in the opening of Allen's ‘Manhattan’, Yann Tiersens work on Jeunet's ‘Amelie’, Gary Jules' piano version of ‘Mad World’ at the end of ‘Donnie Darko’. I could go on and on. There are just so many!"

Sure, you may not be able to afford the same luxuries on your own short film. But at least you can enjoy mimicking some of the techniques of these great directors when it comes to including music.

For instance, something common to all directors is diegetic music, That is, music that comes from an obvious source like a radio or television. Or a quartet playing in a cafĂ©. Or a busker in a street scene. Or an entire orchestra in a concert hall. It’s a great way to intertwine the music and visual action when the two are in some way meshed together on screen. But who’s to say the music playing on the radio isn’t a soundalike royalty free track? Or that the quartet is merely miming to out of copyright royalty free classical recording? Or that the busker isn’t just improvising or jamming along with the action?

For an open minded director, there are always ways and means to navigate the minefield of music usage and come up with fresh ideas.

Part Three - In Production

Iain McGuiness is the Creative Director of TV and video Production Company, AND / OR Productions.
"Most film-makers who are just starting out, and small independent production companies, like my own, don't have the sort of money that broadcasters such as the BBC and Channel 4 can spend on their blanket agreements, for published music, and original compositions. And for young filmmakers, the processes involved in using published music are far too complicated. I found it all very overwhelming and, dare I say, not very end user-friendly."

"For that reason, I'm a great fan of royalty-free music, and would recommend it to any film-maker. My production company has several stock music libraries, which editors can browse in order to find compositions to use in their work. We also frequent several websites to search for individual stuff that we like, including our favourite,!"

We’re currently in post-production on a documentary called South Ifrica. It's an 84-minute, three-part documentary mini-series about a charitable trip I made to South Africa around eighteen months ago. It has been made for the Community Channel, on Freeview, Sky and Virgin TV here in the UK. I chose a track from for this piece, as I have with some of my other documentaries. They have a fantastic range of composers with lots of very diverse styles. So the piece I chose worked out really nicely on the finished film."

"When choosing music, you have to think very carefully about whether the track that you want to use, actually works well with your video. Although this is largely a subjective process, it's wise to ask friends, family and colleagues for feedback. Most of the time, you will need to experiment, in order to see which piece best achieves your artistic vision."

"My advise would be, don't be afraid of being original. You don't necessarily need to use the track that countless others have used in their videos. I call this the corporate video syndrome, where one track is being widely used for countless, vastly different companies. Of course, if a track is really good, it'll be in high demand. But that can sometimes drive myself and other filmmakers to try and find a hidden gems elsewhere."

Part Four - The Machine Stops

Adam & Nathan Freise (The Freise Brothers) co-directed the highly acclaimed Sci-Fi short film, ‘The Machine Stops’ in which music plays an essential part in building the mood.

"Since ‘The Machine Stops’ is such a short piece, finding the right music was crucial in providing a sort of background to the story. We knew that there were many elements of the original story that we simply didn't have time to build up and that the success of the overall mood and emotional moments would rely heavily on the ability of the music to create a sense of time and history to this underground world."

The Machine (and the buck) Stops here

What musical choices did you make for ‘The Machine Stops’?
"It’s important to be open to different styles, sometimes you can say a lot with irony or contrast in music, which may mean choosing something that is the opposite of the mood you initially had in mind. I often use a temp track, a piece of music I'm already familiar with that fits the tone I have in mind. Then I search to move past the temp track, looking for ways to make it more custom for the scene, fit the pace, editing style etc. There is always the danger of becoming too attached to the temp track...but it seems to have worked well for Kubrick when he used The Blue Danube as a temp track in 2001!"

Do you ever consider using free stock music or buy out tracks provided by your film school?
"Anything readily available to students for free - including music & sound effects tends to become quickly overused. You don't want to commit on a piece that works really well with your film & find out 2 days before you're done that a fellow student is using the same piece!"

What about using well known songs or published music in your films?
"We tend to avoid published music for the sake of originality. A film utilizing a well known track, not always, but can tend to feel gimmicky or cheap."

How do you rate the quality of online royalty free outlets for usable music?
"I like to be optimistic and think that the online libraries are getting better in terms of how they market their composers/music. I've been fortunate to actually meet some great composers through online libraries. If I really like a piece I'll contact that composer directly and see if they're willing to tweak or further customize their piece to my film. I've had pretty good luck with that and am grateful to those composers."

What advice would you offer young filmmakers about scoring their short films?
"I think the most important thing is to start thinking about it from the very beginning of the process. It’s always obvious when the music/score to a piece is an afterthought. If you're thinking about how sound is going to be integrated within your piece from the start, it's only going to make the piece stronger."

How about film scores that have influenced you as directors?
"I've always thought the score to ‘Blade Runner’ was near perfect. The music not only complements the story but actually seems to progress it along. That combination of rich natural instruments with the plastic synth sounds is a dynamic contrast that reflects the human/android theme of the film. Another soundtrack that has left an impression on me is Jim Jarmusch's ‘Dead Man’. Neil Young's scratching, whining guitar creates such a haunting atmosphere for that film."

Part Five - Infinity And Beyond

So what does the future hold for young filmmaker Stian Hafstad?
"I've just made an short info film for my University where I they gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted (within reason of course) so that was pretty fun. It has dinosaurs, a man eating flames, murder and lots of other fun stuff!"

Meantime, The Freise Brothers are currently storyboarding new ideas that they hope to get funding for.
"We are also refining the script of ‘The Machine Stops’ as a feature length version."
And for Iain McGuiness’s AND/OR Productions?
"I'm currently in the very late stages of production for a mini-documentary about the urban sports, parkour and free-running, entitled Off The Wall, which I hope to soon turn into a full-length documentary. The film is basically about a group of young guys, here in Glasgow, Scotland, who practise parkour and free-running as their hobby. Actually, I'd say it's more of a lifestyle for them. Of course, not everybody is happy with them back-flipping down the city streets, climbing up lamp-posts, and jumping between rooftops, and so the film also explores the conflicts between them and the authorities!"

So short filmmaking can lead to all sorts of diverse projects and careers. And as a genre, they have taken on a whole new lease of life over recent years. Directors are turning out highly sophisticated work and high quality music is seen more and more as an integral part of the process.

But as many restrictions are imposed on music usage in feature length films, the most important thing is to enjoy the freedom that making short film presentations can offer.

And then who knows, with many of the major films starting out as low budget shorts, there’s every chance that your movie could become a full length feature one day. Or even an academy award winning blockbuster. Well it could happen... Couldn’t it?

Watch the Freise Brothers work on their website.

Stian Hafstad’s short films can be viewed on

And you can watch his latest infomercial on the University’s YouTube page.

Iain McGuiness can be found at
Or on YouTube at

Simon Power (AKA Elliot Simons) produces music, sound design, IPTV programming, Podcasts, virals and other web stuff at offers original and dynamic music in a wide spectrum of genres. As much of the music here has been produced by experienced film composers it’s a great place to start searching for royalty free music.

NEMESIS by Stian Hafstad
Featuring royalty-free music from

Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Birthday To You - royalty free music? Actually, no...

We got a call from a customer who was looking to buy the classic "Happy Birthday To You" song as royalty-free music. We didn't have the track and at first both the customer and myself found it a bit odd. But I found out that in fact this track is still under copyright to two old ladies in Florida and therefore, that track cannot be purchased as royalty-free music / stock music. We would be breaking copyright if we were to offer it -- even if we made our own arrangement and recording of it, because the actual composition itself is in copyright.

We have this "alternative Happy Birthday Song" instead:

Okay, it may be a bit cheesy, but if you're making something like an electronic greeting card or just an office fun project, I think it really hits the spot. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Browse music by historical eras

We're always working on improving and diversifying the ways that you can browse and search for music here at, and this week we've added the possibility to browse for retro music by decade.

By clicking on Suggested Production Types you can see a panel similar to the one shown here on the left. You will see various "Historical / Retro:" selections including:

1980's: The era of the electro pop and a continuation of the "later era Disco" that was started in the 70's. Also, soul (Motown) and AOR Rock music was prominent in this era.

1970's: The era of Motown, Disco and Funk, when pants had flares and the Bee Gees ruled Boogie Town.

1960's: The era of peace and love, free love and free sex, when hippies set the musical order and pop & rock music took on Beatles'esque sounds and psychedelic colors. Also prominent in this era was the Bossa Nova and smooth latin chill-out music.

1950's: When Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & the Comets ruled the world. This was the era of the Rockabilly, along with classic Jazz sounds

1920-1940's: This was the era of happy jazz music, Dixieland and Charleston, but also Gospel, Blues and early Hollywood type orchestral film music.

Older / History Channel etc: This is where you'll find music that we felt would be suitable for general Historical programmes, historical documentaries, world history / heritage and so on. Much of this music is pretty "ambient" in that it would work well simply as background music to storytelling, documentary film etc.

Remember that you can Combine one of the above selections with other criteria, by using the Advanced Browse feature. For example, you can choose to browse music from the 1970's which is also marked with having a "Happy" mood. Or, you can choose to browse music from the 1920-40's which feature a trumpet. There are many, many such possibilities available to you from within our Advanced Browsing tool, which you can read more about here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New ways of browsing for music at

We're very happy and excited to announce the new music browsing tool here at

Our site and music catalog has come a long way since the first beginnings back in April 2000 and it was no longer enough to simply be able to look at a music genre and see hundreds or even a thousand tracks listed in that genre. We needed to give you better ways to browse and find music by other criteria than just the genre itself, and to be able to more precisely define exactly what you're looking for.

So we gathered a team of some 7-8 people who spent a few weeks going back over all our 10,000 tracks, listened carefully to each track and ticked various Moods/Emotions (e.g. Sad, Happy, Excited etc), Suggested Production Types (e.g. Crime TV, Underwater video, Wedding video, etc.), Prominent Instruments (e.g. Acoustic piano), Tempo-feel (e.g. "slow"), and BPM tempo (e.g. 132) for every track. It was a big job, but we had a good team of people and we finished it in about 2 weeks.

We then developed the tool you can see on the left. The 5 blue buttons represent "simple browsing"; you just click that button, select a Mood or Instrument etc., and the track listing comes up immediately. Depending on which criteria you click, the resulting track list can be just a few, or several hundred, a couple of thousand, tracks.

"Advanced Browse" is where you can really harvest the power and flexibility of our new tool. Here you can combine various criteria from all of the other "simple" options to create very accurate track listings reflecting exactly what you want. It can be something relatively simple, like "I want children's music, it should be happy, and it should feature a xylophone", or it can be very complex and precise, like "I want acoustic piano and violin, I want it to be sorrowful, I want it to have very slow tempo, I want it not to be classical music, and I want it to be suitable for use in drama". The tool really gives you a lot of power, as you can combine many different types of criteria and every criteria can be negated to create a "not" out of it too. So you can look for "Smooth jazz, slow tempo, not containing saxophone".

At the bottom of the tool, you can make a quick search, or you can get to the Advanced Search page where you can search for keywords, titles, sound effects, CD collections and more by using various search criteria to find your music.

If you encounter any problems with the browsing tool, any crashes or unexpected results, please let us know about it by using our contact form. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Royalty-Free music with real orchestra

The state of royalty free music / stock music has come a long way since the rather bland, generic sounding electronic tracks of the 1980's. As the music library business has "grown up" so to speak, the talent, effort, time and money put into library music recordings have increased gradually.

We are now at a situation where some of our stock music actually features real live philharmonic orchestras. We think it's pretty amazing. We took in 5 new such real live orchestra tracks yesterday and that's what prompted us to write this little article - even though it's by no means the first time we have this type of content in our catalog.

Of course, we already have a huge catalogue of classical music featuring hundreds of tracks with real live orchestras.  But increasingly, we are adding new compositions, non-classical works, film soundtracks and dramatic background music for movies, games and more, which are fully or partially recorded with live philharmonic orchestras.

Yesterday we added these some great tracks by John Herberman, and among them was this really amazing track called Vindication:

With its stabbing strings and horns, big booming timpani / orchestral percussion, this track is full of drama, guts and glory, aggression and pure fear, this track will go extremely well with an action scene, sci-fi or fantasy fight / battle, or all-out war. It will make the hairs in your neck stand up straight. If you want to license Vindication for use in your production, follow this link or just search for it by title.

Another track with perhaps a more "longing" sense, of dark drama, intrigue, intensity and orchestral climax, is this track called Return of the Warrior:

A truly beautiful track featuring real live orchestra, fragile string sections with grand, swelling crescendi. If you'd like to license this track for your film, game or other projects, follow this link or just search for it by title.

Moving on, we have this much softer track, of amazement and beauty: By Golden Pond:

Again, recorded with a real live philharmonic orchestra, this beautiful and poignant track will go well in a family movie, romantic drama or other touching, personal or thoughtful stories. I can't imagine a better track for, say, a charity appeal or a cosy, touching, childrens story. If you would like to license this track
for use in your project, follow this link or just search for the track by its title.

All the above 3 tracks were composed by John Herberman - he has more too - here is a link to all John Herberman tracks.

But John is by no means the only one who's done tracks with live orchestras.We already have the team of Dick De Benedictis (famous TV- and film composer for many years - check out his page at Internet Movie Database) and Thomas Stobierski, some 50 years his junior. Together they combined the classical, orchestral skills of Dick with the hi-tech, electronic, cutting-edge sound of Thomas, to create some pretty awesome music that crosses over between real live orchestra / Hollywood sound and the gritty, edgy sound of today's hip-hop, electronica, industrial and funk music. Here are some of their great tracks:

Rebellion - awesome for war, fighting, chase, sci-fi / space battle etc:

And here's one called The Toll, also featuring a real live orchestra combined with industrial / electronic / cutting-edge production techniques:

Those are two of the many great orchestral / edgy crossover tracks by De Benedictis & Stobierski. To see their full track listing - a lot of great tracks for science fiction, action, sports and more - click here.

In this blog post we've given you a small taste of the many different royalty-free tracks we have that utilize the dynamics and power of the live orchestra. You can't really beat it with synthesizers and samplers - even though, I admit - you can get pretty close.

For a full overview of live orchestra recordings, see the Classical Music section, and also try these search terms in the search box: Live orchestra , Real orchestra , philharmonic orchestra, orchestral (the last one there will also bring up tracks made with samplers and synthesizers approximating the sound of symphonic orchestras.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Track # 10,000 reached at

On June 7, 2011, we added track #10,000 to our royalty free music catalog. Track number ten thousand in our database was given to this rather nice & evocative piece of neo-classical piano + orchestra track by Yuri Sazonoff:

At the time of writing this, it's about 24 hours later and right now we have 10,033 tracks.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Download multiple files in one big download

We're happy to announce our "download page re-zipper". This custom engineered little piece of software is now presented on your download page if you have ordered multiple products. Instead of downloading each sound file by itself, you can now click "Select All" and then click "Download selected files as one big .zip file".

Our server will unzip each individual file that you have purchased, re-zip them all into one big .zip file, and hand this file over to your browser - for saving to your hard drive. Once downloaded, you simply unzip it and find all your purchased files inside.

This feature will be particularly useful for those who purchase "All sounds" in a sound effects package (typically 25-50 sounds) or "All versions" of a track that exist in many different edits / versions / mixes. We hope you'll enjoy this new feature. Just one of the several things we are doing this spring/summer to upgrade and improve our site for our customers.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Higher sound quality previews on our older tracks

Back in the day (i.e. before 2010) ;-) we used to create all our preview audio files in 56-kbps MP3 format, with a "preview.... shockwave-sound...." voice that was mixed in at a fixed volume.

From about December 2010 onwards we started making our preview audio in 128-kbps MP3 files (higher fidelity, more clarity) and also with a "preview.... shockwave-sound..." voice that was both mixed at a lower volume generally, and that also changes in volume dynamically depending on how loud the music is at the moment. So if there is a really quiet part in the music, the preview voice is also at a low volume. And vice versa.

This did however leave our older tracks sounding a bit "second grade". There were some 5,500 tracks, all with multiple versions / edits / mixes, and a total of 38,770 "old" preview files on our server, and with a bit-rate of only 56 kbps and with a preview voice that was, at times, way too loud, these tracks just didn't sound as attractive as our newer tracks.

Anyway - we have now just finished the rather large task of updating all those 38,770 older preview files to the "new" format. We had some good people working on automating this task, so it wasn't as bad as we had feared. It took us a few days of audio file processing, plus about 10 hours of solid uploading. Now all our tracks - old and new - have preview files with a nice clarity of sound, and a preview voice that shouldn't be too obtrusive.

Just one of the several upgrades and improvements we are working on here at this spring/summer. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Upgrades & improvements coming to

Dear users / customers,

When we first started back in April of 2000 (now more than 11 years ago), the site contained basically only a few music tracks by founder/creator Bjorn Lynne, himself a musician with a nose for the emerging royalty-free music market. Everything was run pretty much manually, with Bjorn himself, or his wife, emailing with each customer individually and manually sending them the files they had purchased

In the spring of 2005 the site contained almost 1,000 different tracks, by about 30 different composers with whom Bjorn had made a deal to sell their music through this site. At this time, the software that runs the site "behind the scenes" was totally overhauled and basically created again from scratch. Now the site was given the technology needed to deliver files automatically to customers and to automatically create License Documents for each customer.

It's now the spring of 2011 and apart from a few minor tweaks and fixes, has basically, pretty much run on all the same technology for all these years since 2005. We've added a few things to help us along, such as the [My Orders] page where customers go any time to recover old orders and re-download them any time they want. But by now, the site has a catalog of approx. 10,000 tracks, with some 100-200 new tracks being added each new month. We've realized that the old search / browse structure is no longer enough, on its own, for customers to make a good and precise music search.

We we've gathered a whole team of talented people and we are now working on several upgrades & improvements to the site. These will include:

  • Ability to browse for music not only by Music Genre, but also by Moods/Emotions, Suggested Production Types, Tempo-feel, BMP-tempo and Prominent Instruments of each track.
  • For those who have ordered many files in one order, they will be able to "re-pack" all their downloadable files into one big .zip file, from their download page - enabling customers to download many files in one big download .zip file.
  • We're going to go back over all older tracks on the site and re-code the preview files so that the "preview... shockwave-sound..." voice becomes quieter, less obtrusive, and also with a higher fidelity on the preview files. We used to do them in 56-kbps MP3 format, we're now doing them in 128-kbps MP3, and this is what we're going to re-encode all preview files to.
  • Finally, the visual presentation of tracks on the site will be simplified somewhat and we'll try our best to make it quicker and easier to listen to the next track, the next track, the next track...

These are all things that we will be rolling out over the next few weeks and months here at, and we hope to have most of our new stuff active on the live website by the end of the summer 2011.

Right now, we have 7 guys working on listening to all 10,000 tracks in detail, one by one, and inputting additional data about each track, including Moods/Emotions, BPM tempo, Tempo-feel, Suggested Production Types, and Major Instruments. In fact, as I write this, it's almost completed.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all our users, visitors, partners and friends up through the years for their interest in our music and for making such a successful business. We're 11 years old, and quite literally, we can't wait for the next 11!