Category Archives: Dave’s Blog

Production Music and Content ID: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

With production music venturing more and more into the online space, content ID and musical fingerprinting programs are becoming evermore necessary, evermore prevalent and evermore obtrusive. Fingerprinting and content recognition is vital for combating piracy, but at the same time creates headaches in a crowded and quickly-changing creative field of royalty free music production.

audio fingerprinting
The Good
Content Identification is great for maintaining order in an industry that sees more piracy every day. With the increasing availability of high-end but low-cost audio software, more and more people are expressing their creativity with music more than ever. While accessibility drives innovation in the arts, technological progress oftentimes comes at the expense of time-honored copyright laws. For content owners and the artists who create, content ID programs offer a way to monitor and be properly compensated for your work. Content Identification systems can recognize your music in a video, on a website, or in an app, thereby giving you the opportunity to exercise your right as first exploitation. No matter your distribution and compensation strategy, all artists benefit from knowing who is using their music, and where their music is playing.

The Bad
On Youtube especially, Content ID is soulless. The systems in place do not recognize people, and cannot infer circumstances, nor does the system attempt to try. Some may argue that this is by design — an attempt to leave authoritative control in the hands of the copyright owner. However, without fully grasping common licensing practices, especially in the stock media and production music industries, these content scans are an all-powerful guilty-until-proven-innocent judge and jury. Customers of stock music sites often find themselves harrassed by the YouTube Content ID system for using music that they have properly licensed, oftentimes with threats of closing down the user’s channel. So much for doing things the right way, and ignoring pleas from the licensor, no matter how much authority was granted to them by the original copyright holder, requiring full licenses from the original owner in order to fully satisfy its documentation needs.

Additionally, content identification systems don’t have real ears. While fingerprinting and sonic imaging have come a long way in recent years, true content matching can only be done by a human being — especially when it comes to production music. Think about it: every composer out there is using the same sample libraries as the next guy. OF COURSE THEY ALL MATCH SOMETHING ELSE, it’s because the instruments are identical. Only a human can make the distinction between a fair use of a lick or sample kit, a common harmonic progression, or a loop pack.

youtube content idThe Ugly
The YouTube Content ID system contractually requires the content owners who provide the data to be exclusive rights holders. Yes, exclusive. Read the terms. All of those Ad Rev and Ad Share companies out there? Yeah, they’re all claiming that they own your (the composer) work. Worse, they’re collecting ad revenue on your behalf and chances are, unless you’ve signed a contract with these companies, you’re not seeing a dime. We know of a bunch of music libraries who made deals to provide huge databases of music tracks to these companies without telling you, and without paying you. What winds up happening because of this, in addition to someone else making money off of your hard work who is not you, is that tracks are getting improperly attributed. Confusion abounds as to who really owns what — and usually, to satisfy the DMCA, service providers are forced by the law to turn a blind eye. Some protection.

How Productiontrax Uses Content ID
Productiontrax.com does not submit song data to Content ID programs. We do, however, scan our library against the content identification databases to identify songs, and we match this data to the data provided by our users. Why? We do this for two reasons:

1) To make sure that our clients are properly licensed when they purchase music on Productiontrax.com. Scanning, fingerprinting, and identifying songs uploaded help us to keep the promises we make in the end user license, representing and warranting that we have properly and adequately obtained rights to license all of the work posted to our site. This protects our customers, protects us, and helps protect you.

2) To protect composers. Through content identification, we can spot fraud, illegal uses, and stolen music — not from us, but from you. We can also spot errors in the content identification database, where your music is being attributed to another musician, composer, or fraudster, when in fact, it belongs to you.

Ultimately, Content ID, when used and maintained properly is an excellent tool, and should be used by copyright owners. But for your sake, do it without the middleman.

Recording Public Domain Songs for Production

Classical music and other public domain songs make for excellent source material for production music. But utilizing these compositions and then legally licensing your recordings can get tricky. With a little forethought, research, and knowledge of copyright rules, you can avoid inadvertently infringing on another composer’s copyright. Give your tracks a copyright tune-up. Here are some things to consider:

copyright1) Research the song. First and foremost, you need to know exactly when the song was written and published. Take careful note of this, as copyright terms expire after a specific time, as determined by where the music might be used. In the United States, works published prior to 1923 are currently public domain. For example, the common song Happy Birthday was written and published after 1923, meaning that song, as common as it is, is still under copyright and cannot be used. There are some caveats, however. So…

2) Research your composer. Know some basics about your composer. Is he still alive? This is important as copyright status depends largely on the composer’s date of death. Find out when the composer died. If he or she is still living, chances are you cannot license any of their music. In the United States, for all works published after 1922, if the composer is no longer living, the copyright expires 95 years from the date the song was written and published. That means that any work published in 1923 will enter the public domain in 2019.

3) If there are lyrics, the lyrics must also be in the public domain. This makes operas, arias, and classical songs a royal pain. You cannot reproduce a song with its lyrics unless the lyrics are also in the public domain, as the lyricist still has rights in the piece. Research this carefully if you are considering producing a recording of any popular operas. Puccini operas are a prime example of this — depending on the lyricist, some operas are now public domain, and some are not.

4) Never, EVER, sell or license a recording you did not make. Period. Don’t do it. Because of the complexities of copyright law, absolutely NO SOUND RECORDINGS are currently in the public domain. Sound recordings have their own copyright, so all recordings must be licensed from the producers or owners of the recording, i.e. the record label that produced them.

Considering producing a classical work for your next round of library music tracks? Be sure to carefully research every aspect of a song before you dive in. This will save you huge headaches, legal trouble, and lots of time.

Great Expectations – Wintery Royalty Free Production Music

Winter might be on the thaw, but you can instill that icy chill into any multimedia project with this week’s royalty free production music pick of the week, Great Expectations. With choirs, bells, and orchestral strings, this track has a layer of intrigue and motivation that combines with sounds traditionally heard during the cold winter months to create a character all of its own.

It sort of reminds us of a Harry Potter sequence — a dark sinister stroll through enchanted woods, or in the deep recesses of a medieval castle. A suitable theme for an evil villain, sorcerer, or fantasy role playing game, this piece has moments of huge muiscal epic-ness and quiet contemplation (or brooding). But don’t let that pidgeon hole you to the fantasy genre. Ad campaigns for companies ranging from security systems to banks and insurance companies could find creative use for these tracks. We feel a sports car commercial would probably make great use of this production music track.

For our pick of the week video, we paired this short piece with stock footage of nighttime snow and fog filmed from a moving car in an eerily empty parking lot. Notice how the creepy feel transfers over to the second stock footage clip, establishing a winter scene haunted farm, demonstrating the music’s versatility.

Get the stock music: http://www.productiontrax.com/royalty-free-music/341353
Get the driving stock footage: http://www.productiontrax.com/stock-footage/304231
Get the winter farm footage: http://www.productiontrax.com/stock-footage/304737

Overlooked Production Music Categories for Composers: Australian & Digidiroo

For our next installment in examining the the most overlooked production music categories, we’re turning to world music. Specifically, Australian & Digidiroo. Royalty free music libraries around the globe tend to be lacking in the extremely useful and oft neglected compositional genre, representing a huge opportunity for composers involved in stock music production.

australian digiderooAustralian music has a long, rich, and diverse history, and spans a diverse range of tastes and cultural sounds. Heavily influenced by European colonization, Australia’s classical music and folk music mirror the styles common to Europe in their respective eras, while modern day pop and country genres are largely consistent with trends in the United States.

But most notably, and probably the most recognizable, is the use of digidiroo in aboriginal and folk music. Similar in sound generating function to the trumpet, the digideroo is a long wooden wind instrument that creates that quintessential drone pipe sound. If you’ve ever seen a film with a chase scene through the jungle, or a pan across a hot desert, you’ve likely heard the low, buzzing drone of the digigeroo.

Why is Australian music so useful in production? The characteristic digideroo sound can be used in a wide variety of film and video genres, most effectively to set foreign scenes in harsh environments. Commonly, the sounds tytpical to Australian folk genres create excitement in advertising, hinting at the new and different. The drone can be used to create tension, either in concert with other tribal percussion, symphonic strings, and brash brass stingers, or on its own as a minimalist score.