The Importance of Licensing Music in Your Video Productions: 6 Tips to Avoid Legal Troubles

The Importance of Licensing Music in Your Video Productions: 6 Tips to Avoid Legal Troubles

Adding music to your video productions is a tried and true way to increase impact. Music adds an emotional aspect to your video that can grab the viewer’s attention and pull them in. Music controls the perception of your brand, so much so that choosing the right music for your video can make the viewer happy or sad.

Music is an important part of branded content. According to Nielsen, viewers rate advertisements with music as more creative and memorable. And while including music in video productions is a must for savvy brands, it is crucial that you understand how to use music legally in a business setting.

You may be asking, “Well, what’s the harm of using some music piece in my video? It’s just online. It’s not harming anyone. No one really cares.” Unfortunately, you’re very wrong.

Take Range Road Music, Inc. v. East Coast Foods, Inc., a court case from 2012. The restaurant chain in question decided to play music at their businesses without a license. $36,000 in statutory damages and $162,728.22 in legal fees later, the restaurant learned a valuable lesson about the importance of licensing music for any business purposes.

Video productions are no exception. They are a business activity meant to generate some type of return on investment.

The musicians’ music you use is a product they created. Would you allow people to profit off a product you created while seeing none of the profits yourself? Most likely not.

Yet, people are cavalier about licensing music because they do not view it as a product. On a basic level, it is not only financially wise to license music properly but morally upstanding as well.

Of course, music companies can be far too aggressive in their approach to protecting their music property. For example, YouTube recently has seen a spat of false copyright claims by music companies that have demonetized many YouTube stars’ videos.

One mind-blowing example was back in 2016 when the YouTube musician TheFatRat uploaded an original song called “The Calling.” The video garnered 47 million views, but a Colombian music company called Ramjets claimed a copyright 19 months later by. A new, remixed version of “The Calling” was created by a musician who worked under the Ramjets’ label. Yet, they claimed TheFatRat’s original song was infringing on their copyright.

The moral of the story is that YouTube is very aware of when you use copyrighted material. Since most brands post their video productions on YouTube, any unlicensed music could get your video taken down. Even worse, your video could start generating money for the copyright claiming company and start serving ads from your competitors.

Important Tips to Remember When Licensing Music

1. Music Rights Are Complicated

Licensing can be a bit complex. Let’s break it down to two broad categories: performances and visual work.

If you plan on playing the music for a public audience, such as at a restaurant, you need a public performance license. For video productions, you will need a synchronization license in order to add the song to the visual work.

2. Synchronization Rights

Video production will almost exclusively deal with synchronization rights. The long name basically means there is an agreement between the owner of the music and the licensee to use the music in a commercial setting. For a more detailed rundown of frequently asked questions, consult ASCAP for more information.

3. The Music Industry Will Defend Their Content

Major viewing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo may immediately block or delete infringing video content. Even honest mistakes can be costly for a business, with statutory damages reaching as high as $150,000. The music industry earns its money through copyrights, so it makes sense that they would be quick to defend their content.

4. Reputational Harm

Your reputation as a brand can be just as valuable as the brand itself. Don’t let all of the hard work you put into creating a brand name be stymied by using unlicensed music. Musicians have huge public voices, and they often utilize this strength in order to shame infringing businesses and even tell their fans not to use a business’s products.

Reasons to Use Royalty-Free Music in Your Videos

Between public condemnation from musicians to frivolous copyright claims on video platforms, licensing music can be a bit of a mess. The music industry can be quite litigious, so the best course of action may be to remove that risk altogether.

Try to use music that has no copyright claim or is in the public domain. PDInfo has a large list of royalty-free music and will even provide proof of being royalty-free and having an international copyright.

The most lucrative benefit is that you will be able to monetize your video production without fear of legal recourse. Many infringing YouTubers not only receive copyright claims against their video content but also lose out on revenues from the ad servings on the site. (The video still stays up, but the money flows to the copyright claimant.) If you only use royalty-free music, then you should not face any legal quandaries.

Resources for Finding Music for Your Videos

There are specific resources that cater to film creators and their video productions. One of the best resources is Music Bed, which helps you find the perfect song. The company offers annual subscriptions or one-time purchases of songs with full synchronization rights. They even offer the ability to create custom music by working with artists who offer licenses.

Another great resource is Epidemic Sound, which is a similar service to Music Bed. They offer a flexible range of music, such as full tracks, melodies, drums, bass, or instrumental tracks. Businesses or individuals can subscribe for $149.99 per month. Large companies such as Netflix, Cheddar, and even Spotify regularly use the service in order to protect themselves against potential copyright infringement.

These are only a few of many resources out there. There’s also Premium Beat, as well as working with family and friends or even directly contracting with qualified songwriters and producers.

It is important to do your homework when working with licensing companies. Consider their reputation, their reliability, and their resources, such as indemnification (compensation for harm or loss).

The best policy, always, is to cover your bases. If you think there’s a question about whether you can use a music piece in your video production, always seek out legal counsel and licensing to protect yourself.

Music can be a great way to add artistic value to your production and capture the attention of your viewers. Just don’t capture the attention of the music industry lawyers!

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