Tag Archives: music industry

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.

Sonic Branding – Using Music and Sound Effects to Create a Brand

by Bruno Strapko

The idea of using sound for branding is not new, but particularly in Europe, is considered an important marketing speciality. Using all of the usual marketing techniques of research, trial and retrial, entire agencies target sonic branding. It is the least used branding method and considered the technique with the most growth potential.

Contributing audio and music to marketing and branding campaigns can be a lucrative source of income for the stock music composer.

Contributing audio and music to marketing and branding campaigns can be a lucrative source of income for the stock music composer.

At the 2012 Audio Branding Congress at the University of Oxford, virtually every research project and branding development came from Europe. Speaking to other attendees, they were surprised at the lack of American participation when they felt American development was extremely mature. Cases cited included Harley-Davidson’s famous exhaust tuning studio, Intel Inside, and the omnipresent McDonald’s audio logo. New work presented at Oxford included sound design for the atmosphere in Harrod’s famous toy department in London featuring regenerative soundscapes, audio logos for two famous European companies, and an entire suite of sonically different logo-based music for use throughout the Dell Computer organization.

Recent literature that sum up current directions in sonic branding include “Sound Business” by Julian Treasure of The Sound Agency and “Audio Branding”, a compilation of articles and studies representing all issues associated with creating effective audio branding.

While considered a niche, sonic branding can be a differentiating part of the portfolio of a sound designer and/or composer. The unique chances to present their work from typical broadcast and the Internet to prestigious and renowned public spaces can be a fulfilling and challenging opportunity. Presented properly, any sound design student can be introduced to opportunities very closely tied to the main thrust of their education track. With awareness of jingle writers and sound designers in studios for traditional advertising media, adding the potential in sonic branding is worth investigating.

Are your sound effects and stock music tracks legal?

I came across this story the other day talking about how Warner/Chappell Music is being sued for demanding royalty payments for the usage of the song “Happy Birthday,” and it brought to mind some important misconceptions about what it means for a sound effect or stock music track to be in the public domain.

As much as I personally dislike large music publishing conglom-a-corp-a-plunderbunds because I think large companies don’t have artists’ best interests at heart, but the fact remains that the song Happy Birthday is still under copyright. Just because the song is popular and well known doesn’t make the plaintifs case that “the song should be dedicated to public use…” Under that logic, MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” should be public domain because it is both popular and well known. Not true.

With that in mind, the question both video production companies and stock music and sound effects producers alike should ask themselves when considering a piece of stock audio for purhcase or sale is “Is everything in this track legal?” Of course, if it’s 100% originally composed and produced, like most music on Productiontrax, then of course it is legal. Even though the tracks are under copyright, they’re still licensed royalty free. But, if the sound effect or music track has audio in it recorded live, you have to check it for copyrighted sounds before uploading or downloading (uploading content that contains copyrighted sounds to Productiontrax is against the terms of service).

For example…
Is there a snippet of copyrighted music in it? Not legal.
Uses sample software or sampled sounds to produce the track? Legal.
Contains a sound of a tv or radio playing a copyrighted song? Not legal.
Contains a human singing Happy Birthday? Not legal.
Contains a piano playing a Chopin Waltz? Legal.

You get the idea. The key here is to double check your work. We triple check at Productiontrax when we can to make absolutely certain that the media you find here will be 100% licensable and not get you into a legal battle with a plunderbund, but keep these tips in mind when looking for sound effects from your favorite sound effects sharing site, or from some other music library that has some hard to find stock audio clips from 1950s television. Your legal budget will thank you.

Bridging the Gap With Stock Music

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s true, paying for music and adhering to copyright laws does create jobs, like in this post.

And yet, the “free music economy” persists, as more and more internet surfers demand cheap or free content to use as they please. But I think there is a happy medium between the “free music economy” and prohibitively expensive licensing, and that happy medium is stock music. As computer and mobile devices become increasingly more capable, and barriers to entry in creative tasks fall, more and more people want that soundtrack for their slideshow, presentation, home movie, or viral YouTube hit. I would say most infringers steal because they simply can’t afford to play the music industry’s game, nor is their project worthy of that kind of scrutiny.

Instead of stealing, though, which I think we can all agree stifles creativity and hurts content creators, keeping food off their tables and forcing otherwise talented artists to find work elsewhere, stock music is a reasonable, affordable alternative. Artists should look at ways they can bring their products to market in ways such as this as a more desirable alternative to giving away all their stuff for free. Doing so would counteract the pirate culture. I see stock music as bridging the gap, either to bring out an unknown’s work to the public, or to lengthen the revenue tail of a song that has fallen by the wayside amidst constant musical innovation.

Similarly, multimedia authors need to step back and do things the right way. Afterall, they probably wouldn’t like it if we broke into their home and took their family photos and plastered them online… unless they already do that on Facebook. There are options for affordable projects — and stock media is one of them, which effectively keeps musicians and artists employed and the economy running so that there will be new music for the next project.