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Wedding Videography Music – To License or Not to License…

Do You Have the Right Wedding Videography Music vs Do You Have the Rights

Whether you’re an established filmmaker with a studio and a portfolio, a beginner videographer shooting their first wedding, or even a bride that is looking to provide some input on what songs she wants in her wedding video, there are a few things you might need to consider before choosing that perfect song. The first of which, is whether or not you have the Rights to the music. For any seasoned wedding videographer, this is a no-brainer, but if you’re an aspiring filmmaker (or a bride to be), it may come as a surprise to you that it’s actually copyright violation to put a recording artists songs into your wedding video without their permission. Of course, in an ideal scenario you would just contact the artist directly, they would send you a written letter stating that you have permission at no cost, bada-boom-bada-bing, now go make a great  video use their music. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy contacting Rihanna directly as we’d all like it to be. In that case, you have a few other options. Contact artists you can actually get a hold of (like indie groups), finding royalty free music, using “Production Music”, or attempt to acquire the usage rights to the exact music you want.

Independent and Royalty Free

While it may sound a little far-fetched contacting indie artists, you’d be surprised to know how many musicians are actually within your social circle. It just takes a little digging, but people start to come out of the wood work once you ask about it. Not only will find out a little more about your friends and relatives, but think of how cool it would be to have a personal friend add a little of their own personal touch to your wedding videography music. Plus, with the proliferation of high-end home PC’s/Macs and the price coming down on quality recording software, it doesn’t take a billion dollar studio to make a great recording. Nowadays when people write music at home and produce or record it electronically, they are producing some very professional sounding pieces.  Which bring me to my next point.

For a very long time, Royalty Free music was associated with Royally Bad music. This was because musicians without the backing of a record deal, did not have access to quality studio recording time. And the early electronic artists did not have the thousands of dollars that it took to invest in the appropriate electronic hardware it took to create good quality electronic/hip-hop music. As I stated above, the prices of incredibly powerful home computers have fallen dramatically. This allowed software manufacturers to start developing more powerful software for less and targeting home consumers. While it still takes a lot of know-how and a little bit of ingenuity the amount of equipment that is now available to independent artists is astounding. This makes your life a lot easier because when you look for royalty free music, you can rest assured that it will be immensely easier finding good quality royalty free music now than it was 10 years ago. In my article, Choosing Appropriate Wedding Videography Songs, I have a short list of great websites to browse when looking for royalty free music. While it won’t be easy finding good royalty free music (you do have to do a fair amount of digging), this is one of the easiest and best ways to add music to your wedding videos.

Licensed Music

This brings us to the part where we talk about the most boring topic of all, music licensing. While you would think that a musician that wants their music to be heard would want the licensing process to be simple enough anyone can do it, believe me, it’s not. If you don’t already work in the Broadcast Industry, there’s a good chance you don’t already have the licenses you need. And even if you do already work in the broadcast industry you probably still don’t have the licenses you need. So, let me make this as short as painless as I can by clearing up a few misconceptions and offering some direction.

PRO’s and Why You Don’t Need Them

The first thing people come across or think of when they need to acquire wedding videography music licenses are associations like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC, otherwise known as Performance-Rights Organizations (aka PROs). While it is true that those big 3 can provide blanket licenses for publication and distribution of virtually all major recording artists’ work, a wedding video does not need these blanket licenses. The blanket publication and distrubution licenses are what a radio station or a broadcaster, like HBO, would need. What your wedding video actually needs is a Master Recording Rights license and a Sync License. Neither of which is provided by the PRO’s. For the Master Recording Rights and the Sync Licenses, you’ll have to reach out directly to the Publisher. Finding out who the publisher of your favorite radio song isn’t hard, something a quick Google Search should be able to turn up for you. As an example, if you love Rihanna’s track “Diamonds” and want it in your wedding video, you can just simply punch Rihanna Diamonds Publisher into Google and quickly see that EMI Publishing Group is the publisher you’re looking for.  A few searches later should lead you to a page like this, EMI Licensing, which directs you on how to obtain a license. Unfortunately, if you clicked on that link, you’ll notice that what EMI recommends is to email them. Now I’m going to tell you upfront, Rihanna and EMI are definitely looking to sell her music to be used in movies. The downside is that your movie is probably low on Rihanna’s priority list. If you’re even fortunate enough to get a response from EMI in the first place, the price of purchasing Master Recording Rights and a Sync License are probably not going to be cheap. Of course there’s always the chance that EMI will just say, “No problemo! Here’s your license,” but that is very unlikely to happen.

So, now that we’ve established that using radio music is not easy and not cheap, the other option is to use licensed music by a production house that creates the music in-house and owns all of the rights to that music. This gives us the option of Production Music. Unfortunately, just like with searching for royalty free music, production music is a hit and miss scenario. There are very good quality libraries of production music available, but, again, you really have to do some digging because there is a litany of 90’s sounding Midi tracks with very poor production quality.

Now that you know all about music licensing, jump over to this article to find inspiration and choose music: Choosing Appropriate Wedding Videography Songs


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