One of the historically awful things our industry has been known for in the past is using bad music. It’s right up there with slow-motion and cheesy graphics. I think even today, there are remnants of that and the evidence is when a bride asks if she can pick her own music!
A few years ago, our English friends Coldplay arrived and we all breathed a sigh of relief and began using their music. But then Coldplay became cheesy. And now it’s a race to be the first one to use the newest Bruno Mars or One Republic single in your SDE – kind of staking ‘claim’ to that song (I honestly can’t get that whistle tune out of my head – you know the one). There’s also another looming problem which is the record companies. I believe it was Jason Magbanua who received a letter from Warner Brother’s lawyers for using a Jason Mraz song in one of his edits.
I can remember a forum discussion a few years ago. Someone – a new-comer to the forum just getting started in this world of event filmmaking – put up an edit using the famous (in our circles) Amy Seeley song ‘Gravel Lines‘ (which most will agree is from the first StillMotion piece that really got people’s attention). I can recall someone saying – ‘Don’t use that song – that’s StillMotion’s territory. Now – that’s not exactly true – but the song was pretty unique and instantly people thought of SM when the song began to play. Using one of ‘their songs’ made this new film seem almost not relevant or worth watching just because it used an iconic song…
People started to realize – we need music that people like. Let’s try licensing it. I personally put in a call back then to Universal Music inquiring about using a popular song at the time. The response I got was if you want to use our music – you’ll be paying upwards of $4,000 for single DVD home use. “You want to use it online??” they asked, “Well… you can start by giving us the title to your home and we’ll go from there”.
So you can’t use cheesy music (and please don’t). You can’t use popular recorded music (at least online anyways) for fear of either law suit, bankruptcy or simply just not standing out from the crowd. And you can’t use a song that you’ve heard someone else in our industry use (well – that is another discussion for another day – but you get where i’m going). You’ve got to use some form of music!
In 2010, StillMotion launched a new business that aimed to solve all of your problems for just $99. The deal was that the artist would get 50% of the fee and the website would take the other 50% for all of the admin side of things. WithEtiquette.com was (and still is) a great resource for us in the wedding filmmaking world. When they launched – they had a catalog of about 30 or 40 songs. You pay them – they pay the artist – you get to use the song and everyone is happy! WE is still growing and adding to their catalog – which is probably the only downside to the website (size of catalog).
In 2011, TheMusicBed.com a royalty-free music site was launched with a massive catalog of resources for production music for not only the wedding world – but also for the non-profit and church video production world – but their songs are just $49 each. I happen to like TMB for a few reasons other than the obvious financial difference. The website is very easy to use and has all kinds of ways to find new music. They have categorized each song by style, length, mood and intended application. There is a ‘wish list’ feature that allows you to add a song that you may use another time. They also do a very good job of recommending new music and keeping the site fresh. Every time I log in there is a new artist on the homepage. I also really liked that they sent us a hand-written card in the mail inviting us to use their website and I have also had emails and calls from the site’s owners thanking me for the business. Maybe I’m old-fashioned – but I kind of like that. Anyways – two thumbs up for the TheMusicBed.com.
We used a song for a Same Day Edit this past summer by an artist we found on TMB named Luke Huch. I sent him an email just letting him know we found and used his music through the website. From that little email – Luke wrote us back and even blogged our SDE on his site and we’ve connected several times through email about possibly filming a concert of his one day. Another cool little reason to hook up with a website like TMB.
And if that wasn’t enough – Vimeo.com just announced that they now have a Music Store – boasting over 45,000 tracks. The cool thing about the vimeo store is you can license music for your own personal projects for just $1.99! (It’s $98 for commercial use songs).
My conclusion is that finding good music is hard work. It does take time – but it’s worth it to do it the right way. $50 or even $100 to use a song and knowing the artist actually gets a large (often 50%) cut of that fee is a good feeling deep down. Music is a very important part of any film and I hope this will help you make music an important part of yours moving forward.