Towards sensible music licensing for film: Beyond Creative Commons

seven men pushing a train freight car
Working together we can achieve impressive results

What is the value of and best use of Creative Commons in terms of music for film and video? Steve Lawson (AKA @solobasssteve, warning he is one of the most logorrheic Twitter users I follow) tweeted a wish for easier and more explicit marking of Creative Commons licensed music on Bandcamp and Soundcloud particularly for use in video projects. This opened up an interesting vista of musing for me about the role and potential of Creative Commons (CC) and the culture of sharing within creative communities.

Problems with licensing music for film

Perhaps because I am more mired in old-world thinking than Steve, who is something of a social media age renaissance man, I initially saw problems with the premise of a directory of CC music for film/video use,

  • Would this cover both synchronisation and master use?
  • What territories would be covered?
  • What kinds of exhibition?
  • How long would the license last?

I worked, many moons ago, in the field of film sound and music and music licensing was often a fraught issue particularly with licensing existing music for films. There are lots of cumbersome procedures to get through in order to do it in the old-world way.

The synchronisation right allows the film maker to include the music in the film soundtrack, the master license allows them to make copies of the film including the music (like a mechanical license for a CD) and then there’s an exhibition right to screen the film. This mental oxbow is probably not relevant to what Steve was thinking of but the difference is important as it points to the liminal state creative arts licensing is currently in. Continue reading Towards sensible music licensing for film: Beyond Creative Commons

Give your music away: You have nothing to loose but your obscurity

Free Hugs
The image sometimes, a hug is all what we need by kalandrakas is used under a Creative Commons License

Why don’t you give away your music for free? This is one of the sticking points in independent artist music marketing. People are scared to give access to their work for free but it can be an important tool in gathering the attention you need to make a living from your work in the longer term.

Andrew Dubber put it as well as it can be when he said, “[Giving free access to your music is a] business strategy – not [a] business model.” Of course you’re not going to make money from this but you might make money because of it. He gives the example of his excellent e-book The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online. It has always been free but it has made him money by getting him gigs speaking, consulting and writing.

There are lots of reasons that musicians don’t want to do this and they all come down to fear,

  • Fear that their work will be devalued
  • Fear that they will be ripped off
  • Fear that the music they give away is the only good work they will ever create

It is true that as Andrew Dubber says giving your music away isn’t a business model. You aren’t going to make money from it but what are you loosing? As an up and coming independent artist how much money are you making from downloads and CD sales? If you are making any congratulations and if you’re making enough to support yourself please tell me, and everyone else, how you did it.

If you’re not making much money from media sales what do you have to loose by giving people free access to your music? I would suggest not much, but you do have a lot to gain. In order for anyone to value your work they have to know about it and lowering the threshold of access is a great place to start. Continue reading Give your music away: You have nothing to loose but your obscurity

Attribution Matters

Missionary DiplomacyThe imaginary band album cover game has come back up on Facebook, perhaps it never really went away. It’s a chance operation game where you,

  1. Find a bandname via the Wikipedia random article function. The article title is the bandname.
  2. Find an album title via The Quotations Page random quotations page. The last three to five words of the last quote on the page are the title.
  3. Find an album cover by using Flickr’s “explore the last seven days” link that selects recent content ranked by Flickr’s “interestingness” algorithm. Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
  4. Combine the elements in an image editing program and share it with your friends.

I like random operation games very much and I started playing but something wasn’t right at step three for me. The problem was that Flickr includes all uploaded images in its interesting tag and this includes copyrighted images. This is just a light-hearted game but it is taking an image creating a derivative work and sharing it. Doing this with copyrighted images is not legal. This started me thinking about copyright both from the creator’s and the user’s perspective. Continue reading Attribution Matters