music licensing

The Best Fucking Opener Song Ever!

I give to you the best one ever created. The @blacksailsstarz opening title sequence. Written by the incredibly talented composer: Bear McCreary (Walking Dead, 10 Cloverfield Lane). 

Stop. Watch. Listen

Now, even if you haven’t seen the show, I’m willing to bet you know what it’;s about just by listening. (It’s a great show BTW, but that’s besides the point)

Listen to the instrumentation. It’s so dead on. It’s so Pirate-y. It’s exciting and thrilling. You can hear how the rhythm sways like water crashing against a ship. You can feel the chorus sway with rum in their hands back and forth singing as the ship sails into battle. 

And what’s that? A Hurdy Gurdy!!!! Seriously!?? How awesome is that. 

My favorites are the piano stabs. On an old console piano, slightly out of tune, it’s just a brilliant choice. You know, the modern piano is credited as being made in the early 1700s, and the Republic of Pirates, which existed at the same time,  most likely did not even have one.  And so, it is even a more inspired choice and fits perfectly. I can just envision a beer and rum soaked piano on Nassau in the corner of a pub when I hear it. I literally mimic them on my leg every time the show comes on. 

My god, it’s damn near Metal in its enthusiasm and swagger. 

Originally posted by horrormoviestuffandmore

Now that you’ve heard it, let’s go behind the scenes. Have you ever heard a Hurdy Gurdy rock so hard? No, I think not. 

And here are the Black Sails Singers:

It is the best Opening Title Song ever. Perfect in composition,  tone, instrumentation, and performance, 

Artists like Steven Tyler, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Dr. Dre [and] Sting have recently filed comments with the Commerce Department strongly objecting to the notion of creating a compulsory license or expansion of fair use for digital sampling and mash-ups.

Heidi from FYeahCopyright is attending South By Southwest with Anne Jamison to talk about fanworks and transformative use on Tuesday, March 11 at 10 AM. Unfortunately, neither can stay until Thursday morning, when musicians and reps from music publishers have their panel: Love the Art, Fuck the Artist: The Re-emerging Artist Rights Movement?

We’re not surprised that they’re doing this presentation as part of the Music section of SXSW instead of the Interactive session, which ends on the 11th. It’s easier to conflate illegal downloads and the low rates paid for streaming music with completely unrelated copyright issues like fair use when your audience contains fewer people who work with copyrights or in tech. 

We’re actually amused by their session summary, contrasted with SXSW’s “spotlight” writeup. The session summary talks about online distribution services, problems with labels and publishers, and only mentions fans as an aside, then notes that “heir property interest has been significantly devalued and their rights abridged.”

The rates of royalties for streaming audio are definitely something that needs to be resolved, as is the problem with illegal downloads and even the issue of fans uploading tunes - unedited, unchanged, just to listen to - onto YouTube and other video services. 

But that’s shouldn’t be in the same paragraph as complaints about fair use. 

However, the SXSW Spotlight summary about this panel conflates the topics:

Many songwriters and artists … believe there is much wrong with this so called “digital revolution.” 

For artists, touring is harder than ever and their copyright property has been drastically devalued.

[Some s]ongwriters and artists firmly believe that the modern day recording artist/songwriter is under siege.

[A]rtists like Steven Tyler, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Dr. Dre, Sting and Danger Mouse [sic] have recently filed comments with the Commerce Department strongly objecting to the notion of creating a compulsory license or expansion of fair use for digital sampling and mash-ups.

(Yes, I know it was deadmau5 but the piece says “Danger Mouse” so I’m not going to remove it; perhaps it shows sloppiness of the writing of the piece?)

Before we get into a discussion of the copyright issues, can someone explain why the “digital revolution” makes touring “harder than ever”? Since tour revenues are actually higher than ever, that doesn’t seem to be an honest statement of the industry overall, although it’s probably the case for some. 

Now for Fair Use. The artists mentioned above filed comments responding to the same IP Green Paper that the OTW, Wattpad, Google and other organizations, individuals and companies filed comments in last fall. Please note, the comment mentions Fair Use only once, but the main focus of the comments is that the individual - or corporation - that holds the copyright in a work should be able to control all usages of that work. Their arguments regarding compulsory licenses are multifaceted, but they mention a distaste for allowing third parties to use their songs to criticize the songs’ themes or the artist. We can see why someone wouldn’t want their song to be used to bully or insult others, or in connection with art they don’t believe in, but compulsory licenses would not necessarily allow for uses in ads. 

To quote TechDirt

[T]his concern is essentially meaningless. An unlicensed remix can still do all these things. The only difference is that the original artist goes unpaid. There’s only one way to control how people will use your creation, and that’s to lock it away unreleased. Rejecting a compulsory license simply cuts off a potential revenue stream, and instead of protecting artists from derivative works they don’t approve of, it simply ensures they’ll never be paid for the derivative works that will be created without their explicit blessing. 

The artists in question believe that the perspective of songwriters should be the paramount issue if Congress looks to modify the Copyright Act because “this is an issue that affects artists and songwriters first and foremost.”

But aren’t authors, filmmakers, visual/graphic/3D artists, architects, choreographers and computer code writers also affected as significantly as musical artists and songwriters? Why should the rules that apply to a bar of music also apply to a line of dialogue or a minor character who has one line in a film?

Would songwriters want to have to get a license before mentioning a book or film in their songs? If they want stronger limitations on Fair Use, it will impact the topics they’re even able to write about. “Music is very personal to the creator, so many creators staunchly oppose any derivative creations." 

Apply that concept, that phrase, globally. 

Derivative creations include using song lyrics on an unrelated screencap (or a related one, frankly), quoting a bit of a song within original story - or even atop a post or article or school paper explaining why the song means something to you. You’re creating a derivative work when you’re videotaped playing a pop song in music class, or a sing along, Karaoke-style. 

Right now, all those derivative works are legal. 

There’s also a lot of songs about stories, people and things. Laurie Anderson, Spin Doctors, REM and Five For Fighting can write songs referring to Superman. But if there are no derivative works of any kind, could they? Could Barenaked Ladies mention X-Files? Would It’s The End of the World As We Know It, You Get What You Give or We Didn’t Start the Fire even exist? And how many songs mention The Wire?

We’re exaggerating here, to make a point. There’s no copyright in a title or the name of a person - at least not under current law - but current law also spells out a number of compulsory licenses and types of fair use. 

Those parameters should not become narrowed.

Strip away legal fair use and critics can’t quote lyrics in album or concert reviews.

Strip away legal fair use and you can’t create parodies, so there’s no more content from How It Should Have Ended. 

Strip away compulsory licenses and schools can’t host concerts with music created in the last century. 

Strip away legal fair use and fanfic, fanart, vids and cosplay come to an end. 

They’re not going to get their way; Congress isn’t looking to strip away fair use or end the practice of compulsory licenses. There are real, serious issues to debate and discuss to balance everyone’s right to be inspired, to create, and to make awesome things, music, stories and art. 

But those debates aren’t going to happen if a small group of super-successful songwriters declare war on their fans. 

Here’s a parallel: authors have known for years - and tv networks, showrunners/producers, movie studios and comic book companies also know - that they find success in working with fans, not suing them and not screaming at them when their creativity is inspired by another’s words. It took a while for companies like WB and Viacom - in 2000 and 2002 they were still fighting fans to hold more rights than the law explicitly gave them, and that’s why the parameters of fair use have been clarified by US courts in ever-broadening terms in the last ten to fifteen years. 

But when songwriters say things like compulsory licenses will "discourage many artists and songwriters from releasing their music in the first place” they’re declaring war on fans. They’re saying that the potential possibility of someone using a song in a way they don’t approve of will keep them from sharing their creativity and works with the general public - even though they know that they can’t control their songs forever. Sting, one of the writers to sign onto the letter, spent 2006 focusing his talents on reinterpriting 16th century lute songs, so maybe they only want to have control for 500 or so years. 

(And as a side-note to the songwriters who signed onto the above-referenced Comment: no, moral rights do not give European artists an absolute right to control derivative works. Such an exageration undermines the arguments they’re trying to make.)

(And as a historical reference point, check out this law journal article about the disputes involved in creating the first compulsory license for music, in connection with player pianos in 1909; we don’t agree with the conclusions re abolition of compulsory licenses (though we think that hte compulsory license rates should be adjusted for inflation) but the historical background is fascinating.)

(Lastly, it’s a little ironic to be lectured on the importance of artists having control over their works throughout the period of copyright by someone whose band covered a Beatles song in the oft-reviled movie Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Mr Tyler can complain all he wants about how horrible it would be for his Dream On to be sung over a scene that “denigrates women” (page 7 of his letter) but he performed The Beatles’ “Come Together” without John Lennon’s consent, next to a woman tied to a dollar sign; later in the sequence she falls to her death. Disingenuous, Mr. Tyler. Almost hypocritical.)

Rhymin & Stealin
  • Rhymin & Stealin
  • Beastie Boys
  • Licensed To Ill

Beastie Boys - Rhymin & Stealin (Def Jam Recordings 1986)

Cover That Song: One Way To Get Your Music Licensed For Film And Television

Photo by Jeffrey

This Flavorwire article about the 20 Most Overused Songs in Movies and TV made me laugh this morning. As a former film and television music supervisor, I have been asked on multiple occasions to clear and license the below songs for projects.

In films, the songs don’t always end up making it into the final cut. Sometimes the director will decide that the well-known song is overused or, often, not worth price tag, and sometimes someone from the crew (i.e., the music supervisor) will gently suggest that perhaps a less overplayed song would be better for the scene. And sometimes there is a compromise: the song is licensed, but another recording of it is used.

In advertising, the search often is more focused on thematic elements. It’s not uncommon to get a brief that calls for something “quirky,” which could mean anything, but often means something happy/feel-good or driving, something catchy, and something positive that doesn’t sound like it came from the bottom shelf of a music library. Commonly requested themes include “brand new day” or “sweet and juicy,” and yes, the below songs do turn up on list in brainstorming sessions. In those cases, unless a client absolutely insists on paying for the original recording, which may well be unavailable because of exclusivity clauses from prior licensing activity, the music director will search for cover versions of the song. 

So why don’t music supervisors just license more original music from indie bands?

Keep reading

No Sleep till Brooklyn
  • No Sleep till Brooklyn
  • Beastie Boys
  • Licensed to Ill

Artist: Beastie Boys
Track: No Sleep till Brooklyn
Album: Licensed to Ill
Label: Def Jam
Year: 1986

I never really took to rap or hip hop.  They entered the cultural gestalt just a bit too late to hit my sweet spot.  For the record, your personal sweet spot is everything you liked from the ages of 13 through 18.  This is your base musical taste, the foundation upon which all the subsequent musical taste is built.

Regardless, though, who couldn’t like No Sleep till Brooklyn?

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