Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More on Royalty-Free Music

After listing some sources for royalty-free music, we got feedback from another site called Musinc (, whose rep Craig Puller wanted us to know about the many dimensions of “royalty free,” and the advantages his site offers consumers.  What he has to say is informative wherever you shop, and filmmakers need this information.  How many horror stories have we heard about films—especially independent ones with limited resources—losing big money or being shelved due to preventable music rights problems? 

Craig urges filmmakers to know what “royalty-free music” means.  Referring to a handy article on the subject, he says that this does not necessarily mean “free,” or public domain, or canned stock music.  Instead, the term refers to “a type of music licensing that allows the purchaser to pay for the music license only once and to use the music as long as desired” and regardless of how many people it reaches or where or how often.  This is in contrast to getting something for nothing as well as “rights-managed” licensing, where the purchaser pays royalties “according to the number of times it will be used as well as the size of the territory.”

While “royalty free” may have a specific technical meaning, consumers should know that each music provider actually has its own combination of terms, conditions, and fees for accessing and using its music.  At Musinc, for example, “All of our music has full clearance, and our licenses work in perpetuity.  (Once purchased, a license is valid for up to a year; once incorporated into a project, it then works in perpetuity.)  We offer generous commissions to our composers and offer both exclusive and non-exclusive ranges and various edits to suit all production requirements.” These are some—but not the only—factors to consider when seeking royalty-free music.

Another factor involves whether or how a music provider distinguishes between types of consumers.  Some simply treat everyone the same.  In contrast, Musinc accommodates student as well as independent filmmakers working with budgets under £500,000 (all prices are currently in GBP ((1 GBP = 1.55 USD)); Musinc will have USD prices on its site soon).  Students can license single tracks for £50, or an unlimited number of tracks for about £79, all on a per-year basis.  Indie filmmakers pay £149 for unlimited tracks for a full year.  Students and indie filmmakers can freely choose from Musinc’s entire database of over 1,000 (and rapidly growing) original tracks representing over 100 composers worldwide, including several who are high profile.  Filmmakers also can screen at any and all festivals without added expense.  If a low-budget film demonstrates financial promise, Musinc enables filmmakers to upgrade their licenses to any combination of distribution platforms—theatrical, DVD, streaming.

Some sites behave as though “royalty free” means “they keep the royalties rather than pass them on to the people who made the music.”  Some music providers or publishers have gotten bad reputations for not fairly paying the musicians their royalties, instead taking a percentage (sometimes high) of those royalties for themselves.  Other sites, like Musinc, pay proper royalties to composers through PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) such as ASCAP.  These organizations collect the royalties and distribute them appropriately to writers, performers, and publishers. Musinc only takes the publisher share, treating musicians ethically, which benefits everyone. 

Another way to get “royalty free” music is to create it with a composer who works for a flat fee.  Some sites only provide pre-recorded music, but Musinc enables filmmakers to connect with composers to create new custom-made scores / compositions, made to the exact specifications of filmmakers.  Composers write, record, and mix original compositions for productions, at costs that depend on the requirements of individual films.  Once the music is made, you own the rights to use it in accordance with the original contractual agreement. 

Who knew “royalty free” music had so many dimensions?  Well, now we do.  Thanks to Craig for shedding some light on this important aspect of filmmaking, one that can be crucial in determining a film’s success or even survival.  For more info, feel free to contact him anytime via the Musinc website.


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