Working with Royalty Free Music

When creating Multi-Media Content, Flash or Video Clips for a client's web site or CD Rom Project, the last thing you want is to get him in trouble with the law. If there's a need for music in a project, using royalty free music is essential.

Here are some general music tips that you may find useful:

1) Finding the right kind of music

There are hundreds of choices when it comes to royalty free music and making the right decision can be hard. After all, most TV production companies have music supervisors on staff whose only job it is to select appropriate music for projects. Selecting music is an art in itself. In general, you will find that your clients would prefer to use something they heard on the radio, something from their favorite album etc. Unfortunately, that's copyrighted stuff and licensing an N Sync song for your next 'how to' video or CD-Rom may cost you a fortune. What you want to do is find buyout music that sounds similar to today's popular music. It's a little harder to find than your typical 'canned' music. A lot royalty free music may sound like music from a 70's sitcom or worse, a cheap porno flick.

A good place to check out is http://www.buyoutmusictracks.com All their tracks are created by established record producers with grammy and gold record credits so you get music that sounds as up-to-date as what you may hear on the radio.

Our tip: Always use music that sounds just a little more energetic than you think you may need. You may listen to the music over and over while you're putting together your project while the end user may only hear it a few times.

2) Less is not more in production music

When you are looking for background music for a project, choose music with some impact. I know it is supposed to be background music but if you choose high energy tracks, your whole project will leave more of an impression. Listen to a sampling of today's TV commercials and you'll find that most of them use very powerful music. You want your work to create an impact and keep viewer's attention and a strong, powerful soundtrack can do that.

3) When 'legal' music is not legal

The usage license on your buyout music CD may be very liberal but it is not a license to steal. You can use royalty free music on all of your projects and as you have the legal right to use the music, your customers can be assured not to get into legal troubles.

However, that license is only extended to you, the purchaser. You cannot transfer that license by copying your CD and giving it to somebody else or by selling the CD. This may be news to you but there's no such thing as a 'used buyout music CD' If you don't purchase the music from the producers of the music, it won't be legal still. So, next time you browse Ebay for royalty free music, make sure you are buying a new CD, not a used one or it will be useless to you.

4) You get what you pay for

While we're on the topic of Ebay: You may find offers for entire 4 or 6 CD libraries for $75 or other ridiculously low prices on Ebay. The truth is, these CDs may not even be worth that low price.

One good quality royalty free music CD will cost you between $29 and $69 (some even more) If it's less than that, here's what you are likely to get:

  • Discontinued titles that have been around for 10, 20 or more and not only sound dated but may also have already found its way unto hundreds or thousands of other projects during the years to make your own project sound dated.

  • Homegrown CDs that are created in somebody's bedroom studio. You can easily recognize these CDs as they usually don't have any 'real' instruments on it, only synthesized stuff. You can clearly hear the difference between those CDs and something produced in a real studio with real musicians. Our tip: Check out http://www.buyoutmusictracks.com for music. Each of their CDs is only $29.95 and each title contains between 30 and 48 real studio recorded tracks.

    5) CD or Download?

    With the event of high speed internet, you don't really have to wait anymore to receive your Royalty Free Music CD in the mail. If you need tracks fast, you can now download buyout music from the net. You can choose only the tracks you need and get to use them within minutes. Single downloadable tracks usually cost a little more money per track than buying a whole CD. On the other hand, you don't have to buy a whole CD if you only need one or two tracks.

    My advice, if you are buying music to 'keep on the shelf' for future projects and for your customers to choose from, buy physical CDs. If you need just one or two 'perfect' tracks or if you are on a deadline, downloadable purchases may be perfect for you. I don't know if I have to mention it, but purchasing a Mariah Carey track from Itunes or Napster for a buck does not entitle you to use the music. You have to download your music from a buyout music company so the track is licensed to you.

    6) Make your own

    You may think, 'are you crazy? I'm not a musician' You don't have to be a music genius anymore these days. Programs like Acid and Apple's Garageband allow you to create original music by using 'loops' Loops are pre-made musical chunks of drums, bass, guitar, strings, whatever, that you can put together like a mosaic to create your own music soundtrack.

    The advantage is clear. By creating your own music with a loops program you can make absolutely sure that nobody else is using the exact same music on their project. This will give you 'original' music at Buyout Music Prices. All you need is a good musical ear and a couple of loops CDs to get you started. You can find lots of loops CDs and more info at http://www.acidmusicloops.com Their Groove Construction Kits are a great way to get started with music loops. And here's the best news, you can download the Acid program for free. Just visit http://www.musicleads.net/articles/freestuff.html for free (and legal) downloads of Acid, Protools and many other great music and sound tools.

    I hope that these tips were useful to you. You are free to use or re-print this article in your newsletter, ezine, or on your web site.

    About The Author

    Alan Steward - www.musicleads.net

    Alan Steward is a producer and engineer with many credits in the Music, Video and Television production world.

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