Written by Video

Licencing Music

Of late, I’ve been shooting a few Super 8 films, and have really enjoyed the somewhat back to basics pleasures. I’ve still got plenty to learn about the medium however.
But I am left with a problem.
Because of the silent nature, the films work much better if I put a soundtrack on them. And that’s where I run into problems.
If I want to licence a piece of music to put on a film that I upload and may only be seen by a few people, there just really isn’t an affordable mechanism available to me – at least if I want to choose a piece of music I’m already familar with. Although I’m talking about Super 8 here, I might just as well be talking about video in general.
I can upload the video to YouTube where it’s Content ID system will probably detect that I’m using a commercial track. Then – depending on the agreement made between the rights owner and YouTube – I may, or may not, be able to leave the video in place. But there are lots of problems with this.

  • I don’t know in advance whether a given track will be allowed. I wouldn’t even attempt to use a Beatles track for example.
  • I don’t know in advance whether a given track will be viewable in my territory. Because of the way music rights are allocated, the relevant agreements might have been reached in North America, but not in Europe or the UK.
  • I don’t know how long any agreements might remain in place. If a record label “falls out” with YouTube, my video might get pulled at any time in the future.
  • My video will probably featured embedded advertising that I have no control over.

Now of course, I shouldn’t complain unduly, because I didn’t pay to licence that music in the first place. I’m actually lucky that there’s an option at all to use someone else’s music. I realise that when I say “my video” I’m using the endeavours of someone else.
But how about a system that allowed me limited rights to pay to licence some music to use on services like Vimeo, YouTube and Facebook? If I was able to pay a modest amount of money – more than 79p, but less than the several thousand dollars I’d have to pay for full commercial rights – to use the music in my essentially amateur video? £10 for a track perhaps with some limited usage rights?
Might this be another avenue for the music industry to earn revenue?
It’s not totally straightforward, since if one of my videos becomes a viral sensation (unlikely) then those digital advertising pennies that YouTube currently generates on a pre-roll could be earning many more dollars than my paltry tenner. But I’m sure there’s a workaround.
Of course, I could certainly go down a different route and use rights-free music from the sizeable array of companies that either give it away or licence it. But that’s a great deal more work. I’m almost certainly unfamiliar with all the music available, and that leaves me with a lot of work to find an appropriate track.
Occassionally bands and artists will run competitions for fans to make videos. Sigor Ros is doing precisely that at the moment.
But is there a legal, “affordable” way for me to licence a music track for a non-commercial online environment?