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How License music for independent film


    Whenever I get asked the question of why do films need background score, there is always on movie that comes to my mind, ( No Country for Old men). This movie is unique in that it has no score. There are a few others out  with no or very little scores such as Birds or even castaway.  What was unique about these films is that they were able to capture the mood and scene without using any background music. However, great films or even lousy films that  can set a certain mood without background music makes up less than on percent of all films. A great background track can make or break an action scene. It can add emotion to a scene such as love or even fear. Imagine some of the great romance films without a great sound track. What with the movie the body guard be without Witney Houston’s, I will always love you or the theme songs from Halloween  that tells the audience that Michael Myers is coming. The truth is music is crucial to almost any film, rather you are making a huge hollowed big budget film or a indie film on a show string budget. 

  Unfortunately for most indie film makers they will never have access to a Whitney Houston or any one close to that. In-fact most indie films will barley have budget for music at all. There are ways to go about licensing the music you need, one way is to contact a record label or artist who holds the copyright. However, even if you are able to get it cleared, will it be in your budget. The cost of using a record label to license music for your film could run it the tens of thousands of dollars and thats just for one track. You can hire an in-house composer, but that will all set you back, Hans Zimmer  is not cheap. 

  In these cases most  indie film makers  will turn to the Production music library  sometimes called a stock music library.  Generally they come in two forms, pay per use or buyout or royalty free music.  Using a production music library can have many benefits and a few drawbacks. 


Get the music you need on time and on budget. 

Get access to a large variety of music quickly. 

No need to worry about getting it cleared, all the music is pre cleared. 

4.    Improved quality

These are some great benefits that someone a budget and making a film can enjoy. However, nothing is perfect.  The are also a few drawbacks to using this method. 


1. Other may use the same track as you. 

2. You may not be able to fin what you are looking for. 

3. The track you want may have bad quality. 

  These are some of the big drawbacks to using production music or library music. However, if you use music from a record label you will run into the problem of other ilm maybe using the same track as you. There is really only one way to avoid this and that is to hit a composer and take control of the copyright. But the defeats the purpose if you are trying to save money. There might be a middle ground. You see most background music for film is written to work with the scene of the film and not be the focal point.  The only accept ion to this may be the theme song. If you want your film to have its own theme to it, hiring a composer just for the theme and using a production music library for other background scenes might be your happy median. 

   Now you are face with the prospect of what library to use and what type of license should you purchase.  As we mentioned earlier, there  are sync libraries for which you pay as you use and there are buyout and royalty free libraries for which you pay one license fee and use forever.   Which deal is better? It depends on what you are using it for, the cost and how many projects you are working on. For background music buyout and royalty free music is by far the best deal. This is because no one will notice if you are using the same music for certain background scenes. 

   There are other options to license the music that you need. Since the Digital Audio work station came of age and since pretty much everyone now has high speed internet, thousands of indie artist and composers are now online. There are number of place where a film producer could street, contact art its and license music from these artist. Sites such as Soundcloud and Reverb nation are a couple of site that allow this. You also search the old myspace. Although this may have some advantages , there are some disadvantages.  There are really multiple  problems with using this method. The first is that there is no real blanket license format. You will need to sign a separate license for each track you want and each artist may have different terms. The music is not pre-cleared so there is no way to no if the artist actually owns the copyrights to the music. There is no way to know if there are multiple contributors to this work. The composing or producer may have subpar engineering skills and the quality may be bad. However, if you can get over this hump, licensing music from an indie art its could help you meet some of your goals. 


Another way to get some of the music that you may need is  use music that is i the public domain.  This is music where the copyright own has been dead for over 28 years and the music is now in the public domain. 

  Although there are many ways to get the music you need for project using a royalty free and buyout music library is by far these easiest and most cost effective way to license music for your film project. Since all the music is pre-cleared it is also the safest  



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