February 23, 2015

The Many Benefits of Using Royalty Free Music

While some production budgets include thousands of dollars reserved for securing musical rights, royalty free music is an effective and overlooked alternative for cash strapped enterprises. With comparable selection and quality in addition to being significantly more affordable, the benefits of using royalty free music are vast even beyond the more desirable price point.

The Obvious: Prices Are Significantly Lower

Whereas it may cost thousands to secure rights to a popular track, the vast library of available royalty free music includes pricing that entitles you track rights for less than $100. In some cases, it’s possible to use a track for only a few dollars. Additionally, it’s easy to save with bulk download plans, which start at $199 and provide a variety of selected royalty free music that never expires.

No Legal Complexities to Worry About

Even after paying a high price to secure rights to music, popular songs or those that are not royalty free can present a myriad of legal issues when used in across multimedia formats. In an age where music giants like Universal issue legal threats daily to those who are merely downloading their music for personal use, it’s no wonder that using non-royalty free material for commercial purposes poses a significant legal risk. The cost of litigation with a major corporation will make the initial licensing fee seem like chump change.

Alternatively, royalty free music provides a way of purchasing a song for cheap as well as the right to use it for at least 99 years without any additional licensing fees. This is because royalty free music is pre-cleared, meaning no further licensing application is required to clarify ownership/rights. Most importantly, this means considerably fewer headaches and no legal battles.

No Sacrifice in Discovery, Quality, or Selection

CSS Music’s extensive digital audio worldwide network provides thousands of quality songs at CD level quality, available in formats like MP3, Apple Lossless, AIF and WAV. The database is easy to search through, with a variety of hand-picked genre pages that cater to most imaginable styles and tastes. One can also search by Tele-Trax code, Title, Redi-Trax Waveform, or your own descriptive keywords. Plus, you can listen to every track before you purchase it to ensure the song is highest quality and that it suits your needs.


The legal details of many popular songs are often messy. Song ownership is often divided among multiple owners (someone may own the rights to the verses while another person owns the rights to the chorus) or organizations to account for. With royalty free music, one can be assured that they have flexibility to use the song in any capacity without a legal obstacle. Whether they want to use just a snippet of the track for a commercial or want the whole track to play for a film scene, there are no legal repercussions for flexible usage -- something that is accommodating to all artists.

With more affordable pricing, fewer legal complexities, no sacrifice in quality, and overall greater versatility, the perks of royalty free music are enough to make you forget about jumping through hoops and blowing your budget on a license from a major label. Feel free to start digging into our database today to find the ideal music for your project.

February 18, 2015

Tips to Secure Rights for Your Indie Film's Music

Music in film can have an extraordinary impact on the final overall product, whether serving as an atmospheric score or aptly placed pop song. In terms of a quality final product, music can be just as important as the screenplay, actors, and production. It’s also one of the trickiest to navigate from a legal perspective in terms of ensuring that you have the proper rights and licensing.

While securing rights may be daunting initially, filmmakers realize how essential it can be to obtain that certain song, an inclusion that can hammer home a dramatic moment that serves as the film’s thematic core. The tips below will provide independent filmmakers, even with a small budget, the best chance to secure music rights:

Hire a Music Supervisor Early in Production

While it's understandable that indie filmmakers will only want to hire essential roles, a music supervisor certainly fits that description. Hiring a quality music supervisor is recommended for new and veteran filmmakers alike. Filmmakers often have so much on their plate that it's impossible for them to cover every facet in their minds in regard to music-related legal grey areas. There are too many potential challenges to tackle it on your own.

Even before the major production starts, a music supervisor can sit side-by-side with a filmmaker and go over the screenplay, detecting any points that may present a legal challenge. Then, they will use their expertise to remedy the issue. One example is a line of dialogue that may slightly recall a copyrighted lyric or melody. While a busy director may overlook this, a seasoned music supervisor won’t -- potentially saving thousands in legal fees and many hours of work.

Consider MFN (Most Favored Nations) When Browsing Rights

Legally, there are two aspects of a song -- the master, which is the actual recording, and the synchronization rights, which account for the lyrics, melody, composition, etc. Synchronization rights generally prevents filmmakers from taking a song, assembling a cover/modified of that song, and using that without permission. That’s never recommended.

When examining rights on a track-by-track basis, it's common to come across songs that are owned in segments; one person may own the chorus and another may own the verse or intro. This is where something called MFN (Most Favored Nations) becomes relevant, ensuring that all parties of ownership are compensated evenly if the song is used in the film. MFN is very common language in contracts for music rights, so filmmakers should be aware of its role -- which is essentially to ensure none of the right holders are getting an unfair shake.

Budget Music Based on a Film’s Overall Budget

Oftentimes, filmmakers find themselves in a financial hole by over-committing finances to music. While music can greatly contribute to a film, it’s not advised for an independent filmmaker to devote more than 5% of their film’s budget to the music. “If your film costs $1M, then $20,000 – $40,000 is a good nominal range if you have a dozen cues, but it all depends on the amount of music your film calls for," explains KCRW’s resident DJ Dan Wilcox. Of course, if an independent film’s topic directly involves music then a slightly bigger music budget may be essential, but a music budget should never be the lion’s share of an overall film budget.

Express Fairness to Artists and Labels

It rubs labels and artists the wrong way if they’re aware your film is, say, paying $5,000 to use one track but only $500 to use theirs. To prevent this and make everyone feel equally wanted, ensure artists and labels you’re in negotiations with that every track used in the film is on equal financial footing. For example, if your music budget is $10,000 and you need ten songs, then setting a strict value at $1,000/track will keep finances in check as well as ensuring the artists and labels that they’re on equal footing, which is a professional and prudent image to exude.

If budget allows, it’s recommended to hire a lawyer in addition to the music area. Although this is pricey, it will cover all potential problem areas in regard to music rights and licensing. If a lawyer is out of budget range, then the extensive resources here on CSS Music - from affordable single tracks to free music cue sheets - will be of great help as well.