I made it through Jr. High, High School and College without playing sports. I did, however, play in the band–marching band, pep band and jazz band. In fact, I graduated with a degree in music performance. Maybe that’s why Comprehensive Media has always placed such importance on the role and quality of the music we use in our videos.
Over the years, I’ve found that there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to using music for video. So I want to help you be clear about music clearances.

Two Choices

In general, when it comes to using music for video there are really only two choices. You can either:

  1. write & record your own original music or
  2. use existing music.

Since most of us don’t have the skills, budgets or time, recording our own music isn’t really an option — so we use existing music for our video productions.

Existing Music

In this context, there are basically only three types of existing music.

  • iTunes Music Library — We could spend .99¢ and use our favorite cut from iTunes. But in the long run, that would cost tens of thousands of times more money in legal fees and fines than our original .99¢ investment. So that’s not really a viable option.
  • A Buy Out Music Library — Also called royalty-free, this is a music library that can be purchased for a one-time fee and used over and over again.
  • A Licensed Music Library — This music library is leased by the production company and cleared for use, licensed, for a particular project. These libraries tend to cost a little more but offer a much higher quality and variety of music.

Because of my background and the types of video projects we produce, we’ve always chosen the licensed music library. It gives us the diversity of having everything from Be-Bop to the London Philharmonic played by real musicians on real instruments. However, there is one caveat with this option:
Our clients don’t own the music and therefore cannot use it in any way they want. In fact, our agreement covers our clients with the following clearances:

  • US,
  • Broadcast & Non-Broadcast,
  • Use on the web,
  • For Sale (up to 10,000 units)

Here’s how I recently explained it to a client:

The music used in your project was only licensed for use in a) the original project/product b) for use within the United States. That means that anytime a new project/product is created from this project, (ie: any change made to the production as originally delivered), or the project will be used outside the US, the music has to be relicensed. So if you want to re-edit the video next year to include a new title, logo, video clip, etc., or use the video in India, the music on the video has to be relicensed.

Serious Business

Now the good news is, this is not hard or expensive. But hoping no one will notice, is not a good idea. I know of a production company that accidentally re-used a piece of music from an earlier project without licensing it and ended up paying a $20k fine for that use.
The moral to the story is simple. Know your usage. Don’t assume your covered. Seek out appropriate legal counsel from a practicing entertainment attorney. And above all else, when it comes to music for video. Be clear on your clearances.

QUESTION: What’s your music choice for your video?