Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The problem of using (commercial, royalty free) stock music for your public service videos

photo credit: “The Team of Designers.” Creative Commons licensed by flickr user Jens Rydén.

Ha ha! I think this is funny! Maybe you will too :)

Here is a problem with using (commercial, royalty free) stock music for your videos.

So there are many services like West One Music, which is a clearinghouse that buys "stock" music from composers and producers, for use in commercials, or TV show theme music, etc. The producer usually gets a one-time fee, or maybe royalties, for giving up their rights on how the music gets used.

(I listed West One Music, because they have a huge library of music online. I actually found some of the stock music from the WPX Energy video, "Down Deep" there. It's probably all there, but I gave up after a while.)

This system is premised on the idea that Music is ownable property. It makes sense in a lot of ways. It gives music producers, composers, and musicians an income stream, and it gives movie and video producers a way to grab great sounding music at a lower cost than hiring a composer to write a custom score, and a band/orchestra, etc.

Let's say you are making a video for a political candidate, and you want background music which instills a feeling of being Upbeat, Reassuring, or Hopeful. You can just go to that site and type in those keywords: "Upbeat, Reassuring, or Hopeful", and you get back a list of tracks. It's kind of fun! Try your own moods and see what pops up.

But there are downsides to this too. Like the fact that most of these clearinghouses require the artist to give up their ownership interest in the work for some time, and usually, in perpetuity. This can help the artist with a quick paycheck, but may not be the best plan for a retirement income.

There are different models, too. Sites like Bandcamp, Soundcloud, FreeSound, Free Music Archive and all in some way offer a direct link between artists and remixers offering a variety of licensing schemes, from Public Domain, Creative Commons, to traditional Copyright.

However another possible drawback is that you can get some uncomfortable and/or unintended associations.  For example, first check this video produced by the EPA announcing an environmental victory for engaged citizens. They clearly wanted "Upbeat, Reassuring, and Hopeful":

Citizen scientists win big in upstate New York

So like we said, any slimeball can take money from some big industrial polluter
and do the same thing!

Here is one of the largest (and most polluting) industrial turbine compressors made. I can imagine the client told the video producer, "I want this to be Upbeat, Reassuring, and Hopeful":

(Note: many producers make several variations of the same tune. Clearly these two tracks are from the same producer. Don't you agree? --BH)

Titan™ 250 Gas Turbine Powers Remote Pipeline in North America

So here is a problem when the EPA starts acting like a for-profit corporation, and starts purchasing commercial music for their videos, rather than using something with a non-commercial Creative Commons license:

Now the EPA's feel-good video for Environmentalists has the same exact music as that for a massive environmental polluter.


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