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I opened up a Legal Pandora's Box when I decided to incorporate produced music (for end credits) from indie artists in my upcoming web series OSIRIS (http://www.facebook.com/OsirisTheSeries).
Even though I've worked in television for years on the post-production side and knew that music had to be "cleared", I thought it would be easier for a non-profit web series with free distribution contacting artists directly. I wasn't so jaded that I thought I could get permission for music use from MAJOR artists though.
I thought indies (with under 50,000 Facebook/Twitter/YouTube fans) would see a collaboration as an opportunity for more exposure. I thought this method would allow for cross promotion, as opposed to the time-consuming process of getting someone to produce all new tracks from scratch.
Its amazing that Nightclubs, Bars, DJs, Stores, etc are somewhat encouraged to illegally use and profit from licensed music w/o permission yet we could face a copyright infringement lawsuit for using music for non-profit purposes.
My experience so far after contacting artists directly (through their management, booking, etc) has been the following:
1. Completely Ignored. Which is bad business since these days you never know who will be the "next big thing" in the future. A short, cordial "we're not interested at this time" email is good business.
2. They See Dollar Signs. For some reason, non-filmmakers think BUDGET when they hear you're making a movie. Especially as in our case where we have previous Broadcast Network credits and we have a quality teaser trailer that doesn't scream "camcorder". No matter how indie and obscure they are, these artists were thinking their library was on par with The Beatles or U2. We were asked the question about royalties repeatedly even after they saw that we used crowd funding for our budget (Http://kck.st/OsirisTheSeries).
3. Lack of Contact Info At All. This has been the most amazing thing with many artists in general. There is no way to get in contact with them privately. You must list a contact email of some sorts on your pages, etc...Especially if you are indie. I've personally seen major promoters pass on booking musicians just because they didn't want to have to sign up for Myspace to contact them.
So far we've confirmed 4 of the 15 musicians we've contacted (we only need 10). It's tough because we need a certain type of music that matches the look/feel/tone of the series. I can't be upset with anyone not being interested in a collaboration, its their choice. However, its odd to me how complicated all parties involved make this out to be...
What has been your experience on music and/or clearances, if any?
Thanks for the Comment!
Please don't take my "camcorder" remark out of context and as an insult. I never stated that one was better than the other. I just mentioned that in our case, many people have assumed that our non-camcorder-like look means that we have/had a pretty big budget, big enough to pay actors/crew/location fees/music licensing, etc (which is FAR from the case).
As far as I know, you can STILL get into sticky copyright territory with using vocal imitators and public performances (at the end of the day, someone still owns the rights to the song/lyrics)...Ugh, It's all very complicated.
No I didn't, Donnie, but I know the difference ... believe me, I do what I can with the very little we have to make the best product possible. And on music, very very little is actually in the public domain and completely free and clear. Seat of their pants filmmakers long before the web series have been "stealing" music and in the event a studio likes the film enough to purchase it, then's the time the clearance issue is dealt with. Okay, I know that's not the way to go with a web series that is plastered all over the internet, but ...
on a some what related topic, One of my episodes last season was titled "LOGO MOFOs" inspired by Naomi Klein's "No Logo" essay/book ... in that book, Ms. Klein deconstructs the entire property right ownership of everything in our culture. You know what? There's isn't much left that IS free anymore. The space we shoot in, the clothes we wear, the logos, the music, someone could go over your web series with a fine tooth comb and find something in there that doesn't have clearance. And if you're shooting in LA, everyone has got dollar signs in their eyes, regardless of your size or budget (that's why so many productions left town).
So ... you either try to do things the legal way and get entangled in endless bureaucracies or you take your chances and do it working around the parameters of the copyright act. Yes, they could come after you for using a Sinatra imitator's rendition of "My Way," but it far less likely than using the actual Sinatra version. And really they'd only come after you if they feel there's a dollar to be made. Let's go back to your analogy of the little disco down the street that plays Michael Jackson songs all night long without paying a dime in royalties. Come on, would they really impose restrictions on that disco?
Then it all comes down to how YOU personally feel about using a piece of music and pay tribute to it by mentioning it in the credits and dealing with possible ramifications should they come (and chances are they will never come).
You made a LOT of good points...
When I see indie films in film festivals many of them have music that I KNOW they didn't get cleared even though both ASCAP & BMI supposedly now have "film festival licensing" discounts.
The key thing you mentioned relates to your conscience as a fellow artist. While we most likely can (and have) get away with using unlicensed music without much consequence, part of me wants to do things "the right way" as a CYA precaution and also to build relationships with fellow indie artists like ourselves.
But at the end of the day, using their music in a web series would be like promoting them more than anything, much like the DJ that spins records in a nightclub. That DJ/Bar Owner may make a few bucks for doing so, but the artist could make even more from getting new fans that may purchase their songs or go to their shows afterward.
In the coming weeks we'll see which direction we want to go. Worst case scenario if we choose to use the music anyway, I'd have to just remove it if becomes a problem which is easy since I'm also the editor, lol.
As for the property rights issue, you are SOOOO right! Seems like everything is copyrighted nowadays. From buildings to clothing to Computers to Cars, etc...And everything has a Logo or artwork or design patent that makes it difficult to film anything "legally" anymore. I once edited a show for a network where a woman was doing "man on the street" interviews with people in a public park. There was a big deal about music clearances because of the background music that was blasting in the park at the time...not to mention the clothing logos we have to blur out, smh.
This is the first I've hear of VersusMedia, an interesting concept one worth exploring.
Another option is to talk to me directly. What do you need? I work with 200+ solo indie artists, internet bands, gigging musicians and hobby musicians from Russia to Australia. I'm a lyricist and writer and am the music manager for most of the network and we will collaborate for exposure with the hope that at some point there is money but with no expectations other than having our music heard to a wider audience. We can also custom create for you as well. Check out some tunes mostly pop, rock, pop-rock, jazz, blues and show-style. Please note, these are all my songs but I do know tons of musicians with different styles that would be interested as well. We own the copyrights and master recordings to do as we please with no middle man. Several of the songs are creative commons licensing created to radio ready quality through virtual studios.
BTW, great trailer