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Putting Legal Music in Your Video

BarefootMedia's picture
Last seen: 7 years 8 months ago
Joined: 01/13/2007 - 8:13pm

I ran into a couple of questions about adding music to your video productions in other forum posts, so I thought I'd take a whack at the whole issue of putting legal music in your videos. Now we all know it isn't legal to use someone else's music without their permission. The legal term for getting permission is to get a license. If you've got enough cash, you can license pretty much anything you've heard. but most of us have rather strict limits on what we can spend to license music for our videos.

If you have a $0 budget, you still have options. Many stock music providers have collections of "royalty free music" available to purchase. The term "royalty free music" or a "musical buy out" refer to the license terms. Once you purchase the "royalty free" license, you can use that music in as many productions playing back to any number of people that you may encounter. But the music has to be part of a larger program. Some "royalty free" licenses will limit the size of the audience and may require an additional or expanded license for broadcasting. So where's the music for $0? Many of the companies will give away a royalty free song or clip and a way for producers to try out the product. Since stock music songs are created in various lengths for various uses, they may give away the 0:15 version but you'd have to buy the 0:30 or 1:00 version. Or perhaps you can get the full-length version, but none of the shorter cuts. But in any case, they provide you with a license to print-out proving you have permission to use that song in as many different programs as you want. I've used these complete songs to run under graphic sequences of various programs. I've used them as theme music on a show or series of shows. But on the $0 budget, you are severely limited by what will actually fit into your production. You can't use the same tune in every show or folks will tire of hearing it. And clients never want the music in their show to be the same as in another of your client's program. (We'll come back to these "buy out" libraries later.)

Now we all know that if we or someone we know can write & perform original music, that's perfectly legal to use. But what if you can't play an instrument? Or you need more instruments to round out the sound? But we're still on that limited budget. Well, there are music composition programs that any computer savvy producer can use to create custom songs of their own. The easiest to use are what are known as "loop" composition programs. The industry standard for loop composing is Sony ACID. To get composers hooked into how it works, Sony provides a number of freebies to get you started. But let's describe how loop composition works.

A single loop is generally one instrument playing a rhythm or melody that loops, so the ending will blend into to beginning and create a track. There are rhythm tracks of drum beats, bass lines, horns or guitars. The software let's you stack various looping tracks together to create a full piece of music. So to make your own music, you need the software to stack the loops AND loops to stack. These stacking loops are the basis for a lot of techno, dance, hip-hop and even your average pop songs. So where do the loops come from? Well musicians make them, then they are licensed just like any other "royalty free" music composition. Except loops will usually have the requirement that they can't be used without other loops. Now as I mentioned before, Sony ACID is the industry standard for loop composition software. If you'd like to get a version that limits you to no more than 10 loops in a composition, Sony gives it away. Just click on Videomaker's "Free Software" button at the bottom of the page and you have the link to download it for free. And while you're at the site, you can download your first of the weekly "8 packs" they provide.

A lot of us may have an idea of what sort of music we'd like to have, but we're not sure how to compose it. This is where the "8 packs" will help. An "8 pack" contains 8 free sample loops and an ACID file that uses just those 8 loops to create a song. The songs are written by a variety of artists and cover different musical genres. And every week they give away 8 more loops and an idea of how to use them. Using just the free software and various free loops both provided with the software & downloaded as part of the "8 packs," I have created several opening themes, music beds and even a guitar piece for my mom's 60th birthday video. And by the way, you can also get sound effects as loops and add them to your videos. In fact, you can add the loops directly into your video timeline as sound efx or a music bed. I've upgraded from the free version, now ACIDexpress 5.0 to ACID Home Studio 6.0, so I don't know if the express version supports video input or not. But my studio version (around $70) lets me import a video file and display it at the top of the stack. Then I can create a music bed in absolutely perfect synch with the video's action. And I can make it as simple or complex as I have the time, energy & desire to achieve. I've used ACID Studio to add complex sound effects and musical compositions based on movement in the video.

The newest twist on music for videos is a sort of hybrid between a "buy out" song and one composed to fit your unique situation. I've seen other posts recommending Sony Cinescore. It is designed to meld pre-made themes to fit & accent your video while you edit it (hopefully in Sony Vegas, but is works with other NLE's.) This program & others like it are totally out of my price range. But the stock music retailers have come up with something for the rest of us called layered music. The brand I've tried comes from Digital Juice and is called "Stack Traxx." And in order to use them effectively, they give away a program called "Juicer" to let you create the track you need.

In operation, layered custom music programs do very similar tasks. Using "Juicer" I load in the song version I'd like to use. The software then splits the song into various racks which can be selected individually. Select them all and you have a fully fleshed out song. But you can pick & choose between the four to eight tracks, each corresponding to an instrument or two. By adding or removing these tracks, the music will take on different sounds. Using the same basic song, you are able to create different themes or beds for different clients. Or you can use the same song to create different moods in the same production. Layered music is great when you don't have the time or talent to create something yourself and you can't find a "royalty free" tune that works. You have a professionally composed sound track, unique to your video production. You will, however, have to purchase a layered library so this isn't a free option. Purchasing a "Stack Traxx" library runs from $25 to $70, depending on the current sale (or lack thereof) and contains something like 40 themes with a number of run times for each theme.

So there you have it, the three main ways of getting legal music for your video productions. As I said at the beginning, I have cause to use each each method on different productions. But since we're talking about sound, it sometimes is easier to understand it by hearing an example or two. So I'm going to direct you to my YouTube page where I have examples of each method posted.

www.youtube.com/user/BarefootMedia

The short "A Wintery Walk" is an example of free stock music (and video graphics) used in a production. But please forgive the video, it was MP4 shot with a web sharing camcorder. That's why I wanted to add the higher quality graphics & music.

The long form PSA "It's All About You!" uses a simple rhythm track I composed using ACID and three or four loops. If you want to watch the video, instead of just listen, please us the "watch in high quality" button since it was sized for cablecasting.

And my "bio for Expert Village" uses a layered composition so I could pull the melody line and let the music remain in the background, but still comes in with a flash when I change my outfit.

So I hope you found this helpful. I try to check back every couple of days, so feel free to ask questions. And if you have your own experiences, especially with products I didn't mention, please share them with us. Thanks for reading.


chrisColorado's picture
Last seen: 1 month 4 weeks ago
Joined: 04/03/2008 - 10:48pm

ACID is awesome. One of my last films had songs that were mostly ACID loops that I slammed together. It sounded pretty cool, so I tweaked it and it worked great.

To hear an example of loop songs/experiments, go to http://mexenzoaiire.angelfire.com/demospage3.html and in the Vegas and ACID section, listen to the last three music tracks. The whistling in the last two songsare the only part that's not a loop(it's me).

My last film had royalty free music. The only thing we had to do was credit the guy how he wanted in the credits. It was a creepy, awesomescore!