Monday, April 21, 2014

Buying music just for personal listening

We occasionally get emails from people browsing our site and wishing to buy our music just for personal listening. People who are used to buying music tracks for a couple of dollars at iTunes, Amazon etc. are finding it hard to paying our lowest license fee around $30 just for buying a music track for listening to it. We can understand that.

In answer to this, we usually tell people: is a Music Licensing business. We are in the business of licensing music for commercial and in-public use. When you buy our music, you get rights with it, allowing you to use the music in things like online videos, TV and radio broadcasting, games, apps and more. Quite simply, we are not in the business of selling music to people just for listening to it.

Having said that, if you really want to buy some of our music just for personal listening, we can set it up for you manually. We charge $1.65 per individual music track and $15 per CD-collection. Please contact us and let us know what you would like. We'll get back to you by email, ask you to send us payment by Paypal, and then have the file(s) sent to you. We will ask you to confirm in writing that you will be using the music only for personal listening.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Explanation of YouTube Content-ID for Stock Music / Production Music composers

Recently, one of our artists wrote to me with questions about YouTube and his right to receive compensation when his music was used in YouTube videos. I ended up writing a pretty long explanation around the whole YouTube / Content-ID issue, and I just thought it was worth sharing here, in case it can help clear some things up. So here it is. If you already know all of this, great. :-)

Let me try to explain the YouTube / Content-ID situation

YouTube (or rather, their owners, Google) developed an "audio recognition" program called Content-ID, into which it invited large music publishers such as Sony, Universal, Warner Brothers etc. to submit audio recordings of all their album releases. So these companies sent their music into Content-ID, and now, every video that uses music by these companies (say, Justin Timberlake music or whatever) is automatically “detected” to include this music. As soon as the video is uploaded to YouTube, the audio in that video is scanned and compared with millions of audio recordings that they have on file. When a match is found, the person who uploaded the video to YouTube will receive a “copyright notice” in his inbox. It says something along the lines of “Your video is found to contain music copyrighted to Sony" (or which ever company). Now, advertising is put on the video. This advertising is paid for by the various companies who advertise there (obviously) and it can be anything from movies to cars to shampoos, etc in those adverts, but often times it will be an advertisement that is somehow related to the content in the video. For example, if it’s a holiday video, the advertisement could to be some kind of holiday resort. Now, YouTube obviously makes money on that advertising, and a small portion of that money is now paid out to the company who owns the music that has been detected in that video. So if the music was Sony’s, Sony are now making money on each video, and I've heard this amounts to approximately $1.00 - 1.25 for every 1,000 views that video achieves.

A side effect to this program is that the person who created the video and uploaded the video to YouTube is not able to monetize his own video. By this I mean that the video creator can't sign the video up with the YouTube partnership advertising program and receive his own advertising income from his video. Because the advertising money from that video is already “taken” by the company that owns the music that’s playing in the video.

Some people also decided that it would be a good idea to let independent musicians and bands into this whole setup. So they started Content-ID programs for independent musicians, where the aggregator (CDBaby, Rumblefish, AdShare, AdRev, IODA, The Orchard, INDMusic, Rebeat, Tunecore, AudioSparx, Magnatune, to name a few) feeds the independent music into YouTube’s Content-ID system, and starts to make money on the videos that contain this music. What happens now when people use this independent music in their videos is that they get a message from YouTube saying that their video “contains music owned by Rumblefish” (for example) and advertising starts appearing on the video. About $1 - $1.25 per 1,000 views is sent to that company (for example Rumblefish or INDMusic). Some of this is sent on to the aggregator (for example CDBaby or TuneCore), and some of this is sent on to the artist. Exactly how much is left for the artist, I'm not sure, but what started as $1.00 - $1.25 per 1,000 views has now passed through another couple of companies before it got to the artist, so it’s definitely considerably less. And now, the guy who created the video is not able to monetize his own video, because the monetization on that video is done by the Content-ID company who claims to own the music.

Another negative effect it will have on the customer’s video is that the video is actually blocked in some countries - for example, in Germany. This is because YouTube and the German royalty collection society GEMA (who control music broadcast and performance in Germany) have not reached an agreement on payments, so GEMA simply forbids YouTube to broadcast registered music in German territory. There are also some other countries that have this problem, but Germany is the most publicized one. So if you upload a video to YouTube and that video is found to contain music that is in Content-ID, the video will be blocked for all German viewers.
Content-ID clean music

This is exactly why people come to a place like Shockwave-Sound, to license music that is not in Content-ID. The music is “clean” and is not automatically recognized at YouTube. When people put our music in a video and uploads that video to YouTube, nothing special happens. The customer does not get any email with a copyright notification. The video is not automatically monetized by a third party. The video is “clean” and the customer is able to monetize his own video. He can sign the video up into the YouTube Partnership program, and he can start to receive advertising money from his video. And his video won't be blocked in any countries.

When a conflict happens

What has happened sometimes is that artists have not understood this whole setup, and they have had their music both licensed via a stock music site like ours, and also monetized via a Content-ID system through Rumblefish, CDBaby, AdShare etc. And that is a conflict.

As you can imagine, when a customer buys your a license to your music track from Shockwave-Sound and they want to use the music in a video that they wish to monetize, they upload the video to YouTube, only to be told by YouTube that their video “Contains music owned by Rumblefish”, the customer is not happy, and we here at Shockwave-Sound are definitely not happy.

  • Firstly, it creates a big problem for our customer. He is likely to be angry and he will want a pretty good explanation for the music that he thought he licensed from us.
  • Secondly, it makes us look very bad in front of our customer, because it looks like we are a fraudulent company trying to sell music that is owned by somebody else. A competing company, no less.
  • And thirdly, the Content-ID "owner" of the music (our competitor) now actually starts to make money on our customer. We've spent years building a customer base, working our guts out day in and day out for years, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Google advertising to tempt customers to our site. We finally land that customer, he buys something from us... only for the Content-ID company to “leech” onto that sale, and start to make money on our customer’s video, even though they did no work in regards to that customer, that sale, or that music. All they do is to “piggy-back” on our sale, our customer, and start to make money for absolutely nothing, other than to have allowed the independent artist to have their music in their systems.

Can Content-ID make us rich?

It is my strong opinion that independent artists will make more money on selling/licensing their music via Shockwave-Sound, than they ever will make with the Content-ID system. Unless your music “goes viral” in some crazy popular video, the money you end up with after what started as $1 - $1.25 per 1,000 views, after the money passes through one or two other companies, is hardly anything left for you. I have never heard of any artist, except for such “crazy popular” cases, that made any money worth mentioning via Content-ID. The guys I spoke with made just “pennies”. Of course, if you're Bruce Springsteen and you have your music used in 30 million videos, things will start to build up. And for the aggregators, it’s pennies from millions and millions of videos, because they have SO many artists and tracks in their database. But for one independent artist who is part of that setup, the money is likely to be almost nothing. I feel strongly that you guys will make more money by occasionally making royalties from sales via Shockwave-Sound or indeed other stock music outlets, than to receive “pennies” through a YouTube Content-ID system. But that’s up to each artist to consider, of course.

What we're saying is that you can't have it both ways. You can't ask us to sell a license to a customer to use your music track, and then also want to make money through the Content-ID system, having your music flagged as “Owned by AdShare” (or other such company) and deny the customer the chance to monetize his own video.

Sorry this turned out a little long, but this whole thing isn't a simple, straight-forward thing to explain. It’s quite a complex issue.

But if somebody "just took" our music and used it in a YouTube video, are we not entitled to any income for that?

If you find your music being used in a video, you have the right to ask (nicely) if the video uploader has a license to use that music in their video. They may claim that they don't need a license because the video is only a personal, non-profit, non-commercial video, but in fact, whether they are making money or not is beside the point. The point is that they (1) put your music to film, and (2) are distributing your music via YouTube, and both of these items are something that you are entitled to receive something for. You created the music that is helping his video, either in a financial, OR in an artistic way. You have the right to ask the customer to buy a license or compensate you in some way. We would of course like you to send the customer to Shockwave-Sound to buy a license from us, but if you wish, you can sell him a license directly (as long as you are prepared and able to give him a proper license document, which he should rightly expect when he pays you for a license).

If the video creator refuses to buy a license to your music, you have the right to issue a “Takedown notice” to YouTube. You can do that via this form: Fill in details about yourself and your song. It gets passed to YouTube’s copyright dept., and the video gets taken down, unless the customer can document that he has purchased a license.

This is what you should do if you find your music in a YouTube video and you suspect that the customer has not bought a license.

But the video uploader claims to have bought the track from iTunes...

Remember, if the customer bought the music track from iTunes, Amazon and other such places that sell a track for a dollar -- or if he bought the CD in a record store -- that purchase does not include the rights to distribute the music, to Sync it to video, or to perform it through any public website, public space, broadcast, or anything like that. The iTunes / CD purchase includes only the right to personally listen to the music.

I hope this helps. It’s important for me that people understand all of this, which is why I decided to spend some time explaining it properly. Feel free to link to this article if you like; here is a permanent link directly to this article.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Cost of Music - A Filmmaker's Guide to Cutting Costs on Soundtracks & Scores

Professional and semi pro filmmakers are aware of the huge impact a great music score can make on their production. But the temptation is to cut costs on music so that more of the budget can be invested in the costly visual & post production side of film making.


So how do you trim your music budget without compromising the quality of the score?

Here we offer some tips and tricks on the best way to reduce costs while making sure that your score has the maximum impact on your audience.

Hiring a Composer

There are a number of different ways to add music to a film production. The director could hire a composer & liaise with him or her on every aspect of the score. Together they could spot the various scenes that require added emotional impact & discuss the hiring of an orchestra & specialist musicians to add reality and depth to the music. But all this freedom and flexibility comes at a cost. For a feature length documentary a professional composer’s fee could be up to $30,000 (Danny Elfman costs a little more!) and hiring an orchestra can be a drain on money and time, with sessions adding two or three weeks to recordings and in some cases doubling the allocated budget. However, for some directors a ‘gun-for-hire’ composer may be a necessary expense. This way they can ensure that they will receive personal input on their score, and be able to liaise with the composer if things don’t sound exactly how they’d imagined.

So hiring a composer is flexible & can add a unique quality to the production. But there are also many other options to consider.

Using Published Music

In terms of cost, placing published commercial music in your film is undoubtedly the most expensive solution. Permission needs to be granted by the songwriter (through the publisher) as well as the performer (through the record label). Hiring a rights lawyer to clear permission is only part of the expense. Both publisher and record label will have entirely separate agendas that will conspire to maximise income from their release. And the more a director sets his sights on a particular song, the more expensive they will make it to grant permission.

If a film includes published music without clearing it first, there may be penalties later. The more successful a film becomes, the more costly the penalties are once the clearance problem has been identified, with fees being based on the amount of screenings at film festivals, theatres and on video sharing sites.

There is also the issue of content. Many publishers will refuse clearance due to the religious, sexual or violent nature of the film’s content. Without knowing this, negotiations may have already begun and with a music lawyer on an hourly rate it’s easy to see how clearance issues can soon send the budget spiralling out of control.

Unless there’s no option, it’s sensible for directors to steer clear of published commercial releases in their score.

Using Stock Music

Stock music (AKA library music or production cues) may not be the most flexible way to score a film, but it’s certainly one of the most cost effective. Contemporary stock music is often tailor made for such projects, whereby a central musical theme will have been edited into suitable durations and incidental underscores so that the filmmaker can choose an off-the-shelf solution that is effective and compelling.

Many of today’s stock music producers are themselves film & TV composers which means they have the necessary experience and resources to turn out lush, intricate cues that predict many of the key emotional states expressed in the narrative arc of a typical high end feature film.

Adventure, melodrama, comedy, documentary. Most styles are catered for and often the only drawback is the amount of choice facing a director when he begins his search.

To get the best music filmmakers will need to visit the best and most reputable sites and libraries.

And the better the catalogue, the more expensive the music becomes. However that’s generally a sign of good quality. And whatever the cost, it will be a fraction of the fee for a composer.

And stock music also comes with one huge advantage. If purchased from a reputable site or catalogue, the cost incurred will also include an extensive license. This could include worldwide usage and limitless reproduction in perpetuity. So the director is able to curb costs on music supervisors, lawyers, composers, orchestras and musicians as well as instantly gaining access to all the paperwork required for music rights, copyright and distribution. All this will be included in the license. Saving them time, money and lots of future headaches when the film is distributed worldwide.

On the downside, the score won’t be exclusive. Other filmmakers can access the same music. But if it locks in perfectly with the narrative of a film, then however many other people use it, it will never sound exactly the same. Because of the unique combination of the music, visuals & narrative storyline of each particular project.

If you do decide to use stock music / production music, you could do a lot worse than starting right here at Shockwave-Sound.

The Final Cost

So, is stock music the most effective option for the pro and semi-pro filmmaker?

From the three options above the answer would be yes. However to score a feature length film or documentary with original stock music may require up to two hours of cues, which could end up being expensive. Thankfully, many catalogues release collections with many tracks of similar themes or a complete narrative arc. This greatly reduces the cost of buying each track individually.

As for quality vs. price, it’s worth considering that very few scores are made up of tracks that have been downloaded for $0.99!

Other Options

Public domain music is music with lapsed copyright. Some very interesting music has entered the public domain, particularly from the 1920’s and 30’s and it’s a good resource for eclectic and unusual recordings that may spark the imagination. Blues, swing, ragtime and a lot of contemporary music that is out of copyright. It’s worth spending time listening to what’s out there.

However, it’s sometimes unclear as to whether the performance rights are in the public domain as well as the rights to the composition. If one or other remains under copyright, it will present unforeseen problems if a director is set on using a specific recording of the music.

What they do in Hollywood

Director John Carpenter composed the score for many of his own films

Sometimes directors choose to score the film themselves. Legendary Hollywood director John Carpenter has provided the score for sixteen of his major motion pictures including Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween. David Lynch is also a director who often performs and is deeply involved in the musical scores of his own feature films such as Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.

Such is the importance of dramatic scores that directors will go to great lengths to get the music they want. Quentin Tarrentino wanted so much to have Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Stuck in the Middle’ for the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs that he fired the music supervisor when they couldn’t license the track. He then employed a music supervisor who got him the rights to the song and the famous scene was brought to life.

Some films employ a device called diegetic sound, where the score is made up of the naturally occurring sounds in the scene. A radio playing, a jukebox, a live band. All adding to a much more naturalistic approach rather than the more self-conscience written score.

Some scores go even further than that. The Coen Brothers’ film, No Country For Old Men had very little recognisable music at all. The score consisting of occasional tones & frequencies that were so in tune with the scene as to be unrecognisable as actual music. Often more like feedback or processed versions of the natural ambiences already present in the scene.

Martin Scorsese uses end to end published commercial music for his movie scores. Often a heady mix of Doo Wop, Phil Spectre, Motown and his favourite band, The Rolling Stones. Although recent films have unearthed buried gems like ‘Wheel of Fortune’ by Kay Star & ‘Cry’ by Johnny Ray from Shutter Island. ‘Bang Bang’ by Jo Cuba and ‘Dust My Broom’ by Elmore James from Wolf on Wall Street. As a music curator, Scorsese is creatively fearless and his hugely popular films of course have a massive budget set aside for licence fees.

All of these directors have a unique way of scoring. And it’s useful to study each director’s approach as well as the different techniques they employ to score each of their movies.

Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island score features many obscure gems

A few more ideas

There are other options available for scoring a film or compiling a soundtrack. Filmmakers often turn to family, friends or colleagues when it comes to music production.

Unsigned bands are also a consideration. Although experience and reliability are often not their strong points.

Perhaps the most exciting score may be a combination of many of the above suggestions. One or two bespoke cues from a hired composer, alongside a number of licensed themes from Stock Music catalogues. And then some eclectic choices from public domain or unsigned bands to add some unusual and unique qualities to the production.

Whatever you decide, hopefully some of these ideas will help create an exciting and innovative score for your next creative film project.