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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.

Royalty Free Music Pick of the Week – Trippy

A little off the beaten path, some quirky, psychedelic royalty free music lurks in the shadows, waiting to be brought to light in crazy, trippy projects. And that happens to be the name of this week’s production music pick of the week. This production music track boasts sitars, tablas, and ethnic and a hybrid trip-hop electronica undercurrent that will make your next multimedia production feel a little high.

While we’d probably classify this more as a world music track, the trance and electronica underpinnings make this a superb background track for any type of project needing an ethnic flair. We could see Trippy used as a sound bed for video games, or establishing shots, even as an eerie theme or film underscore. According to the composer, the track was inspired by The Beatles track Within You, Without You and Tomorrow Never Knows.

Trippy is track ID 384563, and for our video showcase, we’ve combined it with stock footage clip ID 300554 of a nice kaleidoscope effect to enhance it’s off-beat nature.

License the track here: http://www.productiontrax.com/royalty-free-music/384563

Overlooked Production Music Categories for Composers: Opera

A lot of production music composers focus their energy on creating royalty free music for just a few specific categories. Typically, composers will say, “I’m a film music composer,” and subsequently post music to the film music category. Or they might be really familiar with corporate videos, and therefore only classify their music as corporate. These categories are not only well known, but also have a lot of competition as a result. This practice leads many composers to overlook production of music for different genres, which are equally as necessary for the licensing needs of many a multimedia project.

Stumped on what style to write in? Here this series explores genres that are extremely useful for customers of royalty free music, but tend to go neglected over the course of a composer’s production schedule.

Opera
operaThis sub genre of classical music is often overlooked, usually because of its complexity, and the resources needed for production. Opera requires orchestral composition and recording, which, ironically enough, is the easy part, given the higher quality and lower cost of orchestral samples for digital workstations. The difficult part? Finding a good live singer to float over the orchestra.

Opera tracks are exceptionally useful in places you normally wouldn’t expect. Car commercials, fragrance commercials, even cleaning supply commercials. Opera tracks can add an element of sophistication, mysteriousness, even comedy, depending on how the track is used. And yet, this category is strikingly relatively empty.

If you’re a composer, you have a few strategies for approaching production. Public domain operas are an excellent choice (not to mention one of two legal approaches). Be sure the composer is long gone, and that the lyricist is, as well. Note that some more recent operas by Vivaldi are not in the public domain, not because of Vivaldi, but because the lyrics belong to the estate of the lyricist. So do your homework before selecting one to produce to make into usable royalty free music. That said, however, the scores to most operas are easily accessible, so with the right samples, and a good strategic approach, you can create realistic, and by-the-book production music opera tracks. Dig in to an old public domain opera like Mozart. Select a couple of popular or not so popular movements, and team up with a great singer.

You can also write something original — no need to write a full opera, just something that has the same sound and feel. Keep the music sounding classical to impressionist, lush and stringy. Pick a language, any language, and write some lyrics. They don’t even need to make sense, especially if your singer has some great technique and vibrato. The point is that making a statement isn’t necessary here, simply creating the sound and feel of an opera is all that a commercial production needs. Have fun, and treat it like any other production project. It’s just another song, in a slightly different style.

5 Ways To Record Better Sound Effects

sound effectsRecording sound effects or building a catalog of sounds to sell on some royalty free music or stock audio library sites? Follow these five tips for maximizing your library’s size and overal success. You’ll find that, with just a little careful planning and organization, you’ll be able to curate the sound library that your production business needs to succeed.

1) Make a list in advance. Just as film producers create a list of shots they need to complete a scene or a video, and optimize their lists to minimize shooting time (equipment rental is expensive, man), so should the professional sound designer. Whether your goal is to get a single animal sound, or a collection of city ambiences, know what you’re going for before you get on location. Make a list, and be specific! Do you need footsteps? Howling? Traffic? Once you’ve got your list, you can then optimize your locations — for example, you can get footsteps on a sidewalk, and at the same time get some traffic sounds if you record on a busy street. You can save time, and at the same time, get creative with your catalog. A little pre-planning can go a long way.

2) Invest in a high quality microphone and DAW. While technology is getting better and better, and cheaper quality equipment is becoming increasingly available, it’s still important for sound effects producers to invest in great gear. Do your homework, because just like quality gear is becoming cheaper, cheap gear is becoming more and more prevalent. Find microphones that have excellent reponse at all frequencies, a solid hard disk to store your takes to, and don’t skimp on your editing software. A quality digital audio editor such as ProTools or Logic can save you time and make your audio sound great.

3) Edit, Edit, Edit. Getting rid of extraneous noises is key in creating quality sound effects that are ready to use in production. No one wants footstep sounds with dogs barking in the background when they’re searching for footstep sound effects. Cut the extra sounds, and your clients will thank you for it. Reduce the ambient noise as much as you can, as this will allow your sound effects to be used in as many different projects as possible without much editing. Separating your sounds this way will also pay off big in the size of your catalog.

4) Master your recordings and create high-resolution mixes. Invest in some quality mastering plug-ins. This will make your recordings have the loudness they need, along with the equalization required to make them sound their best. But remember, don’t over-master. Chances are that whoever is purchasing your audio is likely to edit the effects to suit their specific needs. You can coun’t on them adjusting volume, changing reverb, or mixing with other sounds. The key is to give them the best base material possible. Along these lines, don’t forget to bounce to uncompressed formats like WAV or AIFF, which have far superior sound quality than a highly compressed MP3.

5) Tag and Describe your Sound Effects accurately. When you’ve completed your mixes, don’t just label your files Car 1, Car 2, Car 3. That doesn’t tell your customer anything about the sound they’re looking at, and wastes their time. If you’ve recorded a Ferrari Testarosa revving up it’s engine, label the file that way. People searching sound effects libraries have tons of material to go through, and need help finding things quickly. Similarly, you can save yourself numerous headaches when you need to dig up a file from your archives a year from now. With a little forethought and organization, you can build a better sound effects library with minimal effort.