Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mechanical Rights administration and stock music / production music

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

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

First of all, what are Mechanical Rights administration organizations?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Using the "Advanced Browse" music search at Shockwave-Sound.com

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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



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

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

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


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

Let's just take one more example:


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

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


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

Have fun!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

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

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

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


The music track is a vocal, somewhat mysterious, epic, but in an understated, elegant way. It's hard to explain exactly why this track is so atmospheric and vibrant. It has a timeless feel, and can work well in drama, as theme songs for films and much more. There is also an instrumental version. Here is a link to the track in our royalty-free music listing, showing all the different versions available and the licensing costs: https://www.shockwave-sound.com/stock-music-track/18483/rising-up