I'm a student, and I have always been interested in doing a project with existing music. However, I am having a hang up as far as securing festival rights for such music, particularly contemporary popular music.
I currently don't have a specific song I'm looking to animate, I'm just wondering for future reference if anyone here knows the procedures one would go through to obtain festival rights to music. Public domain makes classical music a bit easier to obtain, but what about music made in the last 10 years or less? I would assume you would contact the laber, or the artist(s) as the first step, but that's easier said that done, I'm sure.
I would be willing to pay a small fee to use it, but I wouldn't be animating for profit. It would just be a student film inspired by existing music that I may submit to festivals and such.
Any thoughts would be awesome.
That sure is a HORROR story! And I'm not even a celebrity... well, to my friends I am!
I'm not sure what kind of music you're looking for, but check out Mobygratis.com
Moby is offering a selection of free music for film students to be used for not-for-profit projects - How cool is THAT!!!
Another option is to simply advertise on Craig's List and you can land in a mutually beneficial situation where your animation promotes an up and coming musician and their music promotes your animation. I've seen this work really well for some thesis students.
>> I have contacted labels for music I am interested in with no call back.
You have to realize they are extremely busy and you're not going to make them any money so there's not motivation for them to get back to you. But it isn't hopeless.
To give you a sense of time and cost, when I went to get festival rights to a Hans Zimmer song, I sent out emails in October and probably didn't get the final OK till March - with quite a few back and forth emails. I ended up paying $250, negotiated down from $500. The nice part was I actually got a contract that protected all parties.
Stick to email which keeps everything in writing and dated. Don't be afraid to send friendly reminders and think of it as an intro into the (frustrating) world of production. Keep it professional but feel free to play the part of a poor, struggling student who loves their music.
Lastly, a lot of today's young bands are managing their own affairs online, so contact them through their webpages and you may get a personal response.
b'ini, thanks for all the information that you've posted. I'm pleasantly surprised to see that you were able to use a song from such a popular composer for such a low price! Was it necessary for you to have engaged them solely through e-mail, or do you think you might've fared better or worse had you conducted your correspondence through snail-mail?
But I'm more curious than ever now -- what IS covered under "fair use," if non-profit doesn't suffice? Is it actually true that you can use up to 15 seconds of a song legally without having bought a license to use it?
From the U.S. Copyright office website:
"The distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission."
To see the whole article:
>> Was it necessary for you to have engaged them solely through e-mail, or do you think you might've fared better or worse had you conducted your correspondence through snail-mail?
Now that you mention it, my original inquiry was probably snail mail. I probably did both - belt and suspenders, ya know. I did recieve a hard copy of the contract through snail mail. I was just steering anyone away from phonecalls. Another factor was the recording label was in the Netherlands - so email made communication fast and easy.
I was pleased with the outcome.
One thing worth a mention, having somebody like clearance.com do the work for you is very costly. I was quoted $800 for what I did myself for free. If you're careful and thorough, DIY. Their website allows you to find all the contact info you need - a wonderful service!
I would use them for anything outside of student work. That's when the stakes go up.
Thanks for all the great replies!
Speaking of teaming-up with a band, do either of you two knowledgeable sorts know what kind of contract would need to be drawn up in that case? The same as with licensing the song (master rights and synchronization rights) or would it be different in some way? Thanks again.
That's a good question and I'm interested in the same issue... I'm working on an animated short and want to use Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," but I'm not sure about rights issues. Like you, my project won't be for profit, so if anyone has any expertise, please advise.
Well, while I've never done anything like this myself, it would seem logical to begin by phoning the record label which owns the rights to the song that you want to use, if you really care about being 100 percent in the clear legally.
I've read a bit about the legal issues involved, and the best that I could glean from my reading was that while it's very clear that any music that you buy "cannot be publically exhibited without the express written permission [of the rights holder]," the "fair-use" laws cast those warnings into a legal gray area.
The bottom line, as far as I was able to conclude from my reading, was that it's possibly illegal to do what you want to do without the written permission of the owner of the rights to the music.
If you write to them or phone them, you will almost certainly be denied permission and then a precedent has been set for your prosecution -- but, if you use the music without asking, you will almost certainly be ignored, and the fair use laws (provided that you did not profit from the use of the song) offer at least a veil of protection, though by no means a certain guard against litigation. Hundreds of independent and student films use rights-protected music every year - and prosecution just isn't prudent for the record labels to pursue on that scale. It's even possible that the record labels regard that sort of exposure as ultimately beneficial to record sales. On the other hand, the RIAA is nuts lately, so who knows?
It really comes down to how much it matters to you to use a particular song. It sounds to me like the original poster attaches no great significance to any one particular song for the purposes of animation, and therefore ought to try to use something public-domain or royalty free. There's a lot of music of both types available from various services on the internet.
Or you could pay a few $1k for the rights, of course. If you animate something entertaining and market yourself well, maybe you'd mitigate your expense after a few years, since you'd be legally entitled to earn money from your product.
Or...develop an appreciation for pre-war, public domain music. It's better than everything "popular" from "the last 10 years."
p.s. :) hi. please note that i qualified my advice by saying that my conclusions were drawn from my reading. specifically, i read several webpages. i've read no case history. if you have a friend in law school, or know a lawyer, definitely forget everything i typed and ask THEM. they'd know for sure, and i don't.
Fair use doesn't enter into the plans outlined by the original post. There's an expressed intent to display the work publicly, and fair use doesn't cover that.
I've researched music clearances before, and here's what I learned:
* There is no standard rate based on intended use. The fees for the use of a given song are set by the composer and/or recording artist, who are free to charge whatever they like.
* How the music is used, for how long, and in what venues is part of the negotiation. You may get rights for theatrical or public exhibit, but not broadcast rights, for example. Or you may only be licensed to use it for a set period of time.
* If you tell the composer/artist that you are a student and want the music for practice, but cannot guarantee it won't be shown publicly, they'll frequently give you a better deal than if it's a commercial venture. Sometimes, if you catch them in the right mood, you may even get it for free or very, very cheap.
If you plan on showing your work anywhere other than on a demo reel, protect yourself and get clearances. The odds that you'll get caught or sued for unauthorized use are pretty low, but if you are, it can literally cost you tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Thanks to all for your feedback on this topic. I think I'll just go with some music from GarageBand or an Indie artist who would be glad to have their music used in a clip!
Thanks for the feedback. I knew that contacting the label would be the first step, however I have contacted labels for music I am interested in with no call back. I guess that's how it is though. C'est la vie.
The reason I wanted existing music is because public domain music tends to lack personality and is thus less inspiring. It's the music that motivates me to do something, so it would be nice to have the original inspiration intact.
Would it be wrong of me to go ahead on a project and then ask permission later?
More thoughts are definitely welcome.
Just writing to thank DSB for clarifying matters. Thanks!
clearance.com/ is a great place to start. Give yourself plenty of time, it can take longer than you think, and be persistent. Be prepared to offer some money and don't be afraid to negotiate if they ask for big bucks.
Excellent link, b'ini. Here's an example from their "horror stories" page that illustrates just how far wrong using uncleared music can go - and bear in mind that the host and musician were friends:
A celebrity host co-produces a one-run, syndicated TV sports special and wants to underscore parts of the show with instrumental music by his favorite artist. The host rejects music from a production library as being too pedestrian, and insists that his personal relationship with the artist should forestall any problems in making a deal. The show's deadline passes with no response from the artist, and the tracks are used. Four months later the artist's attorney responds with a demand of $50,000. The library of music would have cost $750.