The Music Licensing Chickens Have Come Home to Roost in Wedding and Event Videography

One of the first questions a “new born” wedding videographer will undoubtedly ask is “I have this bride who wants to use [insert popular music artist of the day] for her wedding video. Can I use it if she gives it to me?” Or, “Can I use it if I buy it on iTunes?” Or some version thereof. Just for the record. The answer is unequivocally “NO!” (If you want the 4-1-1 on music licensing, I have a pretty thorough blog post on the topic, along with links to all the popular sites for legally licensing music: bit.ly/musicinfilm.

But for years, wedding videographers have used popular copyrighted music. Probably ever since the day cameras were 30+ lbs and came with 15+ lb battery packs. But before the days of YouTube, it was never an issue. You made a DVD or VHS tape for your client, give it to them, and that was it.

Even before YouTube, wedding videographers were posting clips from their favorite weddings online for the world to see. For whatever reason, even after the whole Napster thing, music labels just ignored it. Until now.

This year something has happened that as far as I know has never happened in this industry. First, professionally shot wedding videos started going viral. As I alluded to in this blog post, this has inevitably lead to some wedding videographers being sued. The wedding videography boards and Facebook groups have exploded with chatter about it. Vimeo, YouTube and blip.tv videos are coming down like cats and dogs. It’s mass hysteria!

Well. Maybe I’m being a tad melodramatic. But, I am not embellishing when I tell you that on one Facebook group, there are hundreds and hundreds of posts about this topic.

One of the wedding filmmakers who was sued this year has agreed to do a guest blog post for me. Due to the arrangement of his settlement, he can’t go into the specifics. But, this is someone who cares a great deal for this industry and has agreed to use this forum to share with you the experience he had.

Welcome Joe Simon.

Hi Joe. First tell me, who sued you and how much money did they get? Ha, just kidding. Seriously, though, what can you tell us? The assumption is that you got pegged because one of your videos went viral. But your videos were already getting tens of thousands of views. Was this super viral video the straw that broke the camel’s back?

I can’t discuss the details of the suit, but it is real. I did have a video that went viral, we had used a very popular song on it, someone saw it and brought it to the attention of the labels legal team and from there they came after us. Getting that letter in my inbox and as a fax was super scary. You always here “they’ll just send you a cease and desist letter and you take it down” and I always thought that would be true. But the letter that came through and they wanted a lot of money for damages, it the tune of $150,000 for one song. If that didn’t scare you straight I don’t know what would. I spent the next month or so going back in forth with the label to reach a settlement, it was a huge stress on my business and my life and I would never wish this on anyone else. I can’t say what we settle for but it looked like this $XX,XXX , which is a LOT of money for a small business.

I understand you’ve since started using legally licensed music for the videos you post online. What has that experience been like for you?

I had actually started using legal music last year in October through Song Freedom, but their library was quite small and it wasn’t long till I had used the songs I actually liked (their library is way better now and I still use them all the time). So I kept using songs that were not licensed till I got hit with the suit in July. After that I took everything down, my website was bare for a few weeks while I got everything situated. Now I only use licensed music, The Music Bed, Song Freedom and With Etiquette have been a huge help in getting new films up and with songs that are actually good. The amount of music now available is so, so, much better than it was a year ago. It doesn’t take me long to browse the above sites to find the songs that fit the emotion feeling I need. Sure you don’t have an unlimited library of music to work with, but these companies are constantly adding more music. I’m sure 6 months from now it will be 100% better than it is now.

What are the top 5 tips or things you’ve learned, that you can teach those wedding videographers out there when it comes to using legally licensed music?

1 – Read the fine print for the sites you are buying music from, each is very different and you want to make sure you are not violating their restrictions. Because if you do you are right back where you started, using music illegally.  Some have only one year licenses and others 5 year licenses. Always read the fine print.

2 – Educate your clients about the laws of music copyright.

3 – If you are using multiple music licensing sites make sure to check them all, they may have the same song and one could be cheaper than the other.

4 – Don’t just settle for the popular songs on the licensing sites, dive deeper into it and find the more obscure songs that will have the best impact on your audience.

5 – Make suggestions to the music licensing sites, they would love the help in finding music that you love to use and chances are they can get the songs for you! They can’t read your mind, help them get better music for all of us.

What’s the best way to deal with clients who ask for their favorite song in a wedding?

For the past 5 years we have ALWAYS selected the soundtrack for our wedding films. We ask the client for suggestions so we can work within their musical tastes, but at the end of the day we are selecting a soundtrack that is going to fit the emotion, location, personality and ambience of the event. So rarely have we used the clients “favorite song”, we don’t even use their first dance song. Some of you may scoff at this but think about it this way. When you go to see a movie how often do you think “that movie was awesome but I hated the soundtrack”, you don’t because the music in the film fits the film. The soundtrack was created to enhance the vibe and emotion of the story. You might not listen to those songs on your ipod, but in the film it fits and you love it. This is how we create our films, we select a sound track that fits that couple, that story, that emotion! I tell my couples that I want them to watch their film and hear songs they have never heard before. From that day forward every time they hear that song it will take them back to that emotion they felt in their wedding day as they relive it though our film. It’s very powerful! Their film would not have the same emotional impact if you are using “Etta James” or some other tired song that they have a memory tied to a different event in their life.

The first response email we send to clients talks about music and how important it is for us to select their soundtrack, if they aren’t comfortable with this then they are not the right couple for us. Your couples need to have total trust that you will create the best film for them, if they don’t then they are just holding you back from doing the best job for them.

A lot of wedding videographers feel like they can’t be competitive unless they use popular music. But I’ve seen a few of your recent clips online with legally licensed music. They still look amazing and are filled with emotion. What’s your comment about that?

This is BS. If you have to use popular music to be competitive then you have a lot more problems then just music. You clients shouldn’t be selecting you based on your music, you should be creating a style and feel they can not find anywhere else. Like I said above educate your clients and they will understand the reasoning behind it. Look at our site, all of our films have licensed music and all of our films still have the same emotional impacting stories. Don’t determine your success upon the music you use, create your niche and go after the couples that love that style!

It’s actually pretty awesome that when our clients get their films, they will email and tell us how much they love the music and want to get a list of music used so they can download the songs! And you know what, every time they play that song they will think of the film you created and the emotions that they felt as they watched their film. That is awesome!

Any final words or wisdom you’d like to share?

I’m not trying to scare anyone but the law is the law. I’m not bitter and I’m not trying to get more business, we are booked through September 2012 and I turn away countless couples every week. So I can tell you that music is not limiting our successes and I’m not trying to make other people use licensed music.

But I will say that using music illegally is like playing russian roulette, maybe you will get sued, maybe not. I just want everyone to know that the threat is real and you have to make the choice to run the gauntlet or be in the clear. Personally I have been wanting to run my business like this for years, but the music selection wasn’t there and I was being lazy about it. But with the licensed music choices now and knowing they are growing everyday it’s a good time to make the switch. As an artist I feel much better about myself because I hate it when others steal my work and I don’t want to be a hypocrite making excuses about why I would steal music.

Do make sure that if you are using licensed music you are building the costs into your packages, you might have to take a hit for a few films making the switch but in the long run you will be so much better off and sleep better at night. Good luck!

This latest wedding clip from Joe, edited with legally licensed music from Song Freedom and The Music Bed.
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87 Responses to “The Music Licensing Chickens Have Come Home to Roost in Wedding and Event Videography”

  1. Wow, great Q&A, much appreciated. I’ve been using stock music for years and it’s great but this is certainly a more defined reason to move completely away from copyrighted music and it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out with everyone.

  2. To be accurate, stock music IS copyrighted music… that you have purchased the right to use. The right to use it is called a license.

    Even popular copyrighted music can be licensed, but it’s not easy and it is expensive, and there are “Clearances” specialists who handle it. Stock music is designed to be easy to license and relatively inexpensive compared to popular music. Sometimes you pay a flat one-time fee, sometime a fee per use, depending on their terms

    The takeaway for folks should be that one way or another you have to pay to use music legally in your video… unless you write it and perform it yourself!

  3. It is just amazing how the (big) music industry players continue to miss opportunity to make money. I am dying to use licensed music and just waiting for more of it that fits my needs to become available. Sure it is trickling in but after you use your favorite tracks the picking gets slim in a hurry. So excited to see what becomes available in the next year and to get over the worry of using the big label’s music. I haven’t seen bandcamp.com mentioned anywhere – great place to connect directly to an artist to license music and to support someone who actually gets your money. Whatever Joe paid the artists will get zip from it.

    • Jason, it would cost the big labels far more in staffing costs and overheads than virtually any wedding/event videopgraphers would be willing or able to pay to license an individual song.

      • That is not strictly true. Virtually all of the discussion here appears to be based on the current copyright law and licensing practices here in the United States. However other countries have “sync” (music for film/video) licencing available almost as easy and inexpensively as “mechanical” (sound-only) licenses are available here in the USA.

        • Richard is right. My understanding is that Austrailia and the UK have some kind of licensing of popular music. Why in the world they are able to do it and we here in the U.S. totally baffles me!

  4. Ron, so glad you blogged about this, I was hoping you would! btw… not only does the Music Bed have quality music their customer service has been amazing since I’ve been buying licenses through their site. Right now they have an offer through the end of December to trade in an illegal song for permission to use one free licensed song to help re-edit a video already posted, to help cinematographers and photographers keep their work posted and viewable to potential clients! :)

  5. What is this Facebook forum with all the comments? I want to read.

    • Trust me. You don’t. :) But if you’re crazy enough to dive in, you can request to be added. It’s a private group. Wedding Cinema & Wedding Photography.

  6. Very timely and informative as is your forte Ron- thank you and Joe for tackling this hot topic!

    I can’t help but be left with more questions, and I know I am not alone. So Ron, in your personal opinion, is this the end of event video as we knew it? Or perhaps just how we market ourselves? If it’s the intention of the recording industry to really ‘go after’ any and all instances where someone is using popular music as a backdrop in their videos or just more popular and successful ones who are driving a lot of traffic on the web? Do we dare jump to the conclusion that if we have any clips online, oh I don’t know, like a demo clip showing one or several couples dancing their 1st dance or a trailer/highlight using some old standard or pop song, we will be considered a pirate and forced to walk the plank by the entertainment industry lawyers?

    Personally I can envision it being practical to move to using ‘canned music’ or royalty-friendly music for some sample clips for the online portfolio. But no use of popular music in a documentary event video? Game Over. If I am to believe the record co’s lawyers want to remove all instances of online use of their artists work in videos shared online, then that leads me to believe that documentary videography has hit a wall. We either don’t publish anything on the web or what silent movies? Spinning media, some say is dead or dying, but it’s only a partial solution since ‘technically’ this isn’t legal even for private use to share video with popular music that is unlicensed in those event films.

    I can only assume if the record industry has had it’s worst year and wants everyone to pay up, DJ’s are next. Especially those who stopped carrying actual vinyl and purchased CD a long time ago in favor of a large hard drive with a boatload of music on it. How many dj’s do you think can produce all the documentation to prove they OWN all those tunes? How many of them can or will start tracking how many times they’ve ‘performed’ or played those tunes for money at events? Will the suits go after them next? If I am to believe that the record companies are serious then what is next? By the letter of the law, as interpreted by folks recently, no use of popular music is legal for any reason without paying a fee and getting written permission that they, up-to-this-point have been completely unwilling or unable to do in a timely fashion. Per the RIAA and their lawyers : ‘All your music are belong to us’

    So when they outlaw all poplar music in event video only outlaw film makers will have popular music in their films? Do we operate our websites like an old ‘speak-easy’? Start sending demo discs out in plain brown wrappers? Or band together as a group too small to be ignored and make ourselves heard somehow? Right now I’m overcome by a lot of feeling right now, I’m mostly disgusted that none of the alternatives are much good in the long term.

    • “How many dj’s do you think can produce all the documentation to prove they OWN all those tunes?”

      Here’s the core of the issue, as I see it. (Full disclosure: I am both a photographer and a songwriter, with copyrights in both arenas)

      Those DJs own nothing but the plastic disc and its packaging, plus the limited LICENSE to the music recorded on it, which license is for private play, not public performance. DJs do not “OWN” the tunes they play, period.

      This is the part people have a hard time getting… when you “buy” recorded music you’re merely buying a license to listen to it personally, not to do anything else with it. The big DJs (DeadMau5e etc.) do pay for performance licenses. The big clubs and and bars and hotels do pay for on-site licenses for their venues. None of that gives a videographer any right to use published music without an explicit license to do so. Period.

  7. Marshall Levy of Maverick Productions (http://www.therealmav.com/) posted this on that wedding videography board. I cannot tell you if this is right or not, but it sounds pretty good to me:

    The artist who creates a work owns it from the moment it is fixed in tangible form. For composers, this means a written score (or recorded artifact for an electronic work). For choreographers, it means a notated record of the movement or, more commonly, some form of video. Registration with the Copyright Office (part of the Library of Congress) is not legally necessary, but should a dispute arise, prior registration is the best way to prove ownership. Works created “for hire” (for instance, advertising jingles) belong to the employer. Composers and choreographers should be sure their commissioning contracts specifically state that their works are not to be created as a work “for hire.” Instead, the commissioning contract should include only a license to the commissioning party for the right to use the work for a specific purpose and time. All performances, whether premieres or in repertoire, should be licensed by the artists who hold copyright (or their agents), usually in exchange for licensing fees. A new license should be issued each time a set of performances takes place and it should specifically exclude any uses not described therein so that fees are not inadvertently waived. Additional licenses may be issued for use of the work other than as a live performance, e.g. audiovisual broadcast, DVDs. A license should cover a specific period of time, and never be granted in perpetuity for any fee. Creation and use of audio and video recordings of the live performances (i.e. music and dance together) should be provided for in the commissioning agreement or other contract.

    Use of these recordings is typically restricted to rehearsal, performance, and archival purposes, although the agreement may allow a certain number of minutes to be used for marketing or publicity purposes. When a commercial film, video, recording or broadcast of the work is planned, a separate agreement is negotiated for recording fees, royalties, and any other necessary licenses.

    It’s important that collaborating artists and their commissioners discuss all possible uses of the work, above and beyond those of the initial live performances.

  8. Ron and Joe! Great post. Thanks so much for the information and honestly. I fell terribly for Joe :-( I have always known this day was coming for us in our business becoming completely Legit with our music. I don’t know why I am still so surprised.

  9. Great post. I want to use licensed music for an Ipad slideshow to show to clients – you wouldn’t believe how hard it is in the UK to find out how to do this, and then when you do, how much it will cost. Perhaps if these costs were more affordable, people would be happy to pay? Suffice to say I used royalty free music….

  10. Great article Ron and Joe. I’m not surprised that this litigation is coming down so hard, especially with some of the amazing wedding movies that have gone viral…it’s just an awful shame that it was handled with exorbitant fines on good people like Joe. We’re all on notice.

    The silver lining on this dark cloud is that new music artists will be given a chance to be heard and earn a living. I’m sure that legal music will experience a rapid growth as we all clamor for more songs.

  11. Ron great post! Joe is such a great inspiration for our industry it’s sad to hear what happened.

    For several years I too used “Top 40″ music but an article you wrote sometime ago really turned me on to using royalty free music. So I gave it a go. I actually prefer the music and my clients loved it and have commented on how wonderful the songs are and how they are not the “‘same ole’ same ole’”.

    I would really encourage anyone struggling to find great royalty free music to try out the sites listed in the article above (Song Freedom, The Music Bed, With Etiquette and even TripleScoop). It may take a little bit of time and money to find that perfect song but in the end you are left with a more original product that your client will cherish and in the end is not what it is all about?

  12. The agreement we have in Australia only covers us for use of copyright music on client DVDs which is for private viewing only. It does not allow us to use this same music with our clips on the internet, so we’re pretty much under the gun here too.

    I personally think it is easier to weave a complete soundtrack out of music that is not recognisable versus using music that everyone has heard before.

    Great blog post Ron!

    • Thanks for the comment. At least with your arrangement you are covered for DVDs. Here we can’t even do that. If a wedding videographer delivered a DVD to a client with an illegal song, and that client ripped it from the DVD and posted it, that videographer would be on the hook. If I were that videographer, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that every time I delivered a DVD, there was a chance a client might rip it and post it online.

      Glad you liked the post.

  13. Nice educational post – with loads of photogs moving into the video world thanks to HDSLRs this sort of info is vital to avoid legal battles we can’t afford. Thanks for the info!

  14. The song on here is “Disarm” by Ben Rector – what Royalty Free site did you find that on?

  15. Thank you Ron and Joe! You guys are awesome! Thank you for being so open and helpful!

  16. Really useful article and shall def be looking at suggested sites – but there are licences that can be bought so you can use popular music to avoid this problem

    • Here in the US Sharon there are no licenses for using popular music. That’s the whole problem.

      • I once worked for a company when I was in my early twenties fresh out of college and I stressed the need for buyout catalog (they were a startup company who I had to teach about everything yet I was the “newbie”) and they did buy some serviceable stuff. 10 CDs worth of music. Maybe 100 tracks? That was used (abused) for every production for about 7 years. lol When I started my own business, I bought from the same company (Fresh Music Library) but I have only duplicated three discs from what they used. One was from the original 10 they had used for 7 years – because it was actually useful. The other two were new discs bought shortly before I left at my insistence for something new to work with for a change. But I can still hum those tunes from the original 10 CDs! lol So you do get used to them as part of your soundtrack choices.

        I do a lot of sports related videos and I try to find tracks that sound like they could be used in sports videos and NFL films productions. Most people don’t know what they are hearing, but they know when it’s wrong! So the key is like Joe had said, find the right music for the video’s emotional impact. For most things, it’s not that hard. It either works or it doesn’t. You’ll know right away. But for videos like weddings, I have avoided those since before college. Brides are insane! lol You really do need choices of songs like what Joe has presented here. Sounds like U2 but didn’t cost the same as U2 would have. it’s a win win, except for U2, although they didn’t really lose anything in the process.

  17. In the UK we can license popular music for wedding videos for client use via the Peforming Rights Society (PRS) and their MCPS Limited Manufacture License.

    It allows for a variety of productions to use popular music as long as you pay the relevant fee applying to your production. For example, to license one of our wedding videos for 5 copies to be made for over 120 minutes (I think) of popular music this can be done for about £25. This is easily done online through their website (google PRS and then check out the MCPS LM section).

    Obviously, this doesn’t really cover online stuff so this is something that people still need to be careful of! I know lots of people who continually use popular musicon their online productions or post clips of their wedding videos online (us included) and kinda hope they don’t get caught. I suppose as long as your videos are not that popular online or your name is Joe Simon, Still Motion or Paper Crane then chances are you’ll be okay!

    With Ettiquete is a great site and the artists make superb music which works really well with modern well shot wedding films or other such productions.

    • I use PRS and MPCS to license all of my wedding DVD’s. I even have it in my T&Cs that all copies should be purchased through us to be covered legally etc. PRS also do online licencing for streaming only-so your clients are unable to download them-and I think the rate depends on how big your company is and your revenue. It was a couple hundred when I started out but well worth every penny as I know that, to some couples, a popular music track means a lot more to them than one I pick. There’s nothing better than that feeling you get when you’re driving somewhere and your wedding video song comes on the radio. I still get that butterfly feeling when I hear our track and that was two years ago! My clients have great taste so I end up adding my tracks to my I pod (I download from Amazon as I tunes annoys me!).

  18. Curious if the damages are the same if the video isn’t for commercial purposes? For example a personal project that no money was collected or made on. Note: I’m not asking if it’s okay to use copywrited music for non-commercial use, I’m just wondering if you get in less trouble than $xx,xxx damages when you used it in a commercial setting.

    • Clayton, there are different royalty rates for how a video is distributed (e.g. broadcast TV, web, DVD, etc.), so yes, I would assume that damages would be different. Joe’s case is one where a web video got hundreds of thousands of views online (I think almost a million). I doubt he would have even been pegged otherwise, esp. since his videos and those of a number of other high profile wedding videographers have been getting tens of thousands of views on their videos for years.

      • Great post, Ron I agree, I believe when a videographer starts going viral is when the police start coming out, however it’s a clear warning to all of us to get our house in order.

  19. The music companies need to be taught a less. Start distributing videos that are cut to fit popular songs – but give a dummy soundtrack and a link to a tool that lets the client add the song themselves. Maybe then they’ll start microlicensing.

    • Wow John,

      Your thinking brings to mind my reaction when I hear about someone who openly breaks a law with a “creative” approach. It makes me wonder what they could do if they put their thoughts to less, harmful, injurious and illegal pursuits.

      “Music companies..taught a lesson” It’s the artists music. Do you want to teach them a lesson too?

      • The original spirit of Copyright law was to protect authors of artistic creations from theft by corporations and unfair sale or distribution of their works of art; NOT to make millionaires or billionaires even wealthier. As a musician with nearly a hundred copyrighted songs, and a studio owner who has helped protect clients’ work for more than 20 years, I take exception to the statement that “the law is the law.” The truth is that in America, the law has always been malleable, flexible, and open to interpretation, (by design), by judges and lawmakers. And where the law has been bad, only breakers of the law have been able to affect change where voters have not. Just take a look at the civil right movement- we actually had segregation laws in place that had to be broken to call attention to them. I am not advocating theft. I am, however, advocating change. If you are creating a video for private viewing, you should be allowed, without restriction, to license that music for a set fee. For some corporate giant to come along and cry, “you injured us” is ludicrous. If they had licensed the music for use in the video, and it got nearly a million views, how much would they have made? Claiming THAT amount makes sense, but trying to teach some small business a “lesson” is abusing the law for pure profit. It’s greedy and wrong. The RIGHT thing to do would be to create a system whereby the little guy can license the work for resale in a synchronized medium. That makes sense, and I can’t see anyone taking objection to that except lawyers. Surely authors and composers would benefit from the increase in revenue, and you would decriminalize those just trying to earn a living.

    • I wonder if they will track down videographers from 30 years ago? You know, when they would tell the client to bring their favorite music with them for use in the video? ;-) Guys who have retired or out of business? They will only go where they can make the most profit or largest splash to get their name in the paper.

      That said, I find it easier to use buyout music. That way you don’t get anyone saying they hate Bon Jovi or Celine Dion and then end up hating your video work because of the music you used. When Joe says people go into the video with already preconceived emotional impact from music, they really do! It can be both good or and/or bad emotional links. But if you offer something fresh and new, and it fits, then you win and so do they. I don’t do weddings but I do sports videos and they also work better when using buyout catalog music. You don’t have to contend with lyrics that say one thing while you are showing a team on the field doing something totally different. lol

  20. Interesting read…all the more reason for indie musicians to find their niche. Many talented, unheralded bands out there looking for opportunities such as this to expose their names a bit more. #Indiemusic is the way to go.

  21. Dirty Record Companies December 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    What whiny a-holes. I’ve purchase quite a few CDs from hearing them on websites or videos, and even gone to concerts due to discovering artists this way. Every musician I’ve talked to could care less, but it’s the record companies showing why everyone hates them again.

    • I disagree, strongly. I know many musicians and their families who have seen their income decline drastically over the last dozen years or so because their royalty checks have withered as illegal file sharing has increased with the growth of the internet.

      The principle is simple… the person who creates a piece of music or a written piece or a piece of visual art owns what they created, and someone else has no right to use what they created without permission, and if they so choose, payment for same.

      I would expect photographers to understand this principle better than the public does. After all, the stock photo royalties of most photographers has undergone a parallel decline. One good friend ran a very successful photo agency for years, but he’s recently thrown in the towel because image thefts are way up and royalty payments are way down.

      Would you call him whiny? I wouldn’t.

  22. great post Ron!! Thanks for taking the time to put it together. On another note, can one imagine how much more income photographers would get if they themselves would respect their own copyright and value of their work instead of giving it ALL away to wedding third parties (e.g. wedding site venues, wedding coordinators who easily pull in 6 figures, and high end wedding magazines/blogs). But unfortunately with such an in easy barrier to entry in photography and almost everyone seems to be hungry for attention or “being published”, a bunch of new photographers don’t care much about intellectual property, even if it’s their own! Sorry for changing topics, I know this is a whole other beast. But it seems like if a big record company does this, it’s okay. But if an individual artist/photographer talks licensing, or getting paid for their images being used online or in print, they are “greedy/selfish” b/c everyone else is giving it away. RANT OVER!

    • Thanks a good point Alexis. But as you pointed, those photogs have ulterior motives for giving away those photos. Record companies obviously don’t have the same motives nor need it.

  23. I thing there is a misunderstanding on the part of many people on just who owns and controls copyrights. It is not just the label that has skin in this game. In fact, more likely than not, lawsuits for using copyrighted music illegally are just as likely to be initiated by the song publishers rather than the labels themselves. Some of these publishers are small, Mom/Pop operations that receive their livelihood from the administration of the copyright to one big hit. Many times they are the families of the artist, especially in the case of older songs. Keeping track of how those songs are used is their job. They also serve as gatekeepers to prevent every soap or auto company in the world from using their song to advertise, something the songwriter may not want under any circumstances. Contrary to what some may think, theses songs DO have a fairly finite royalty amount per quarter attached to them… And as time goes on, that amount gets to be less and less as radio play dwindles to oldies stations and (you guessed it) use in movies, TV and advertising. It is NOT a never ending free flow of money that some seem to think it is. Yes, for a big hit the money can be lucrative, but even with the biggest of hits the numbers start to shrink as the months or years go by. These publishers then start to more aggressively protect their ownership of copyright, looking for infringements to go after. It is NOT necessarily the labels who initiate the legal action, although the labels may get involved and serve as the legal channel for both their interests and the interests of the publishers involved.

    I have worked and lived here in Nashville for 20+ years. I know many songwriters, publishers and other music Industry people who also feel that the copyright laws are not effective in the new world of YouTube for sync purposes. However, the overriding problem is that with all of the different interests involved, (there can be many songwriters and publishers who have a stake in writing and owning a particular song) there is no agreement on how to update and administer new laws or solutions. I have attended many music industry conferences that have panels endlessly arguing these very issues, with no resolution. It is how the pie is divided that is the big, contentious elephant in the room for the world of Internet licensing. It is not necessarily the big labels preventing a solution… It is the small publishers who survive solely from revenue generated from one song. They right now negotiate their own prices for the use of the song(s) they administer. The would lose that ability if they were to become part of some blanket agreement for web use of copyrighted music.

    I know explaining this doesn’t make it all any better, but at least people may get a better sense of the issues involved, and that it is not just greedy record labels. The copyright owners are more than likely individual families of the songwriter in many cases, or the songwriter themselves. They may be “greedy” to some, but at least here in America when you write a hit song you are entitled to the fruits of that song, including ongoing royalties, however big or small they may be.

    I will hasten to add that anyone who thinks writing a hit song is easy should come to Nashville and talk to the hundreds, even thousands of songwriters who struggle their entire careers to write that one song that becomes a hit, even a minor one. Then you might better understand why having the copyright to a hit song is so valuable, and why it’s usage is so protected. It is not just greedy, soulless corporate interests keeping us videographers down… It is a bigger issue that affects real lives and incomes for people who sacrificed very long and hard for that one hit song. In the case of major artists with many hits, again… Just because they are successful in spades doesn’t change the fact that they did something extraordinary to earn their money/success. Writing a hit song is NEVER easy. Who are we to judge if someone has too much success, therefore entitling us to steal from them?

    All that said, I hope for the day when a system/solution is eventually worked out.

    • Wow. Thanks so much Bill for this insightful comment. You are dead on. If you don’t mind, I will copy and paste this comment in one of the Facebook groups where this discussion has been heated.

      Thanks again.

    • Thanks Bill. I was one of those struggling songwriter’s for many years, so I view this from both sides.

      The only way this will be solved is in the political arena. A new law will have to be drafted and only congress can make it law.

  24. Obviously this story is nothing more than an advertisement for the videographer and the music licencing companies. Wake up people, they are insulting your intelligence with these elaboorate advertising scams.

  25. We are just a small company but had a similar thing happen to us, and it was a scary email to get.

    If you are looking for licensed music to use, go with themusicbed.com or youlicense.com.

    At first it was a pain, and a lot of brides have particular music in mind when they think of their wedding highlight film. But we never have any complaints after they see the video with the original music. In the end I think it is a positive and sets your company apart from all the other videographers out there using whatever the hot new song is.

    • Hi Jim. Thanks for commenting. Can you elaborate more on what happened with you. Was it just a email that threatened a suit? You don’t have to name names. Thanks.

  26. If only the music industry would make it easy and affordable for our industry to participate, it wouldn’t be much of an issue. When they put impossible obstacle’s in our way, nobody benefits.

    If they would make a one stop clearing house, everyone could subscribe, everyone makes money, everyone wins. It looks like we’ll need an act of congress for this to happen. They balked at Apple when they made iTunes available. They said, why would people pay for music they can download for free. They soon found out that most people actually want to do what’s right and pay for the music. They also found out that they now can make billions on selling music online.

    Well, they could make millions more, if they would just let us participate in a fair and easy process. Suing someone to make an example is not profitable for the record industry. Only lawyers make money off of this. Making their music available for the industry would put more money in their bottom line. Why then, can’t they see the big picture with their small minds.

    • Well put. Once again, the greed, incompetence, and shortsightedness of the record label industry is what is hurting it. And once again they want one person to pay for everyone’s sins.

      Well this settles it. I will NEVER pay for another album again for as long as I live.

  27. Malisa Pankiewicz March 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Hmm Well I was just searching on yahoo and just came across your blog, in general I just only visit sites and retrieve my required info but this time the useful info that you posted in this post urged me to post here and appreciate your diligent work. I just bookmarked your site. Thank you again.

  28. Am I really going to post my name! August 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I find it funny how all these alleged ‘suits’ are always followed with links to licensing sites. Complete and total marketing ploy on behalf of Song Freedom, Triple Scoop… etc. “Hey, lets use big time names like D.R and J.S, hook them up with free music and have them scare the bejesus out of everyone else (who look up to them).” #TripleScoop, #fatwallet, #laughingmyassoff. If label companies really wanted to crack down on the wedding videographer, they would have done so a shit load of years ago. But, it’s totally not worth their time. They’ve got much bigger fish to fry. People, get a life. Move on.

    • So are you saying Joe Simon is lying about his suit Mr. Anonymous? I assure you he’s not. So yes, it makes sense that if a high profile videographer gets sued, he’s going to look for a resource for legal music. Joe was actually already using The Music Bed before he got sued. But there’s nothing wrong with a high profile individual using their celebrity to advertise resources that help others “get legal.” And yes, in a case like this where a small business is concerned, it’s worth getting the bejeesus scared out of you.

      And you’re right, music companies could’ve started cracking down a long time ago. But does it matter when they crack down? Is it worth your business to find out?

      I also find it interesting when people use the term “get a life.” Who here does not have a life? Joe because he took the time to answer the questions? Me because I blogged about it? The readers and commenters for taking the time to read and comment? Who seems to have less a life? Those people who are willing to educate others and themselves, or those who trash others behind the veil of anonymity? Just sayin.

  29. Hello. What exactly do you do with the dancing portion, with the music? I mean, they are dancing to a specific soundtrack, not one that you can put in in your editing. Do you just try to find a song that you can buy rights for that matches fairly well, and use that? Or is the ‘highlight’ video posted above all that that couple will receive? Do you not produce a video of the full ceremony? Thank you!

    • When I shot weddings, I always created a montage of dancing clips set to one song. Just pick a song that fits the kind of dancing. Just about any fast paced song will do. And yes, I would produce a full ceremony edit.

      Most wedding filmmakers still use copyrighted music in the private DVDs they send to clients. The wise ones are just not posting any of those clips online. They only post online highlights edited with properly licensed music.

      • Thank you! I am a videographer who is just eyeing the wedding video work, And I think it is something I will love; I already do some video work.
        I sure wish there would be a company to sell us rights to these songs that are already popular. I don’t believe BMI deals with this.
        Even if I don’t post it, the private DVD would still violate copyright, though, correct?

        • Yes, the private DVD technically violates copyright as well.

          SongFreedom does have some popular songs, but you have to pay for their renewal every year.

  30. Can we use musics from different countries.. im excluding USA

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Snapshots » Using music – better safe than sued - December 7, 2011

    [...] The music licensing chickens have come home to roost in wedding and event videography [...]

  2. The Music Industry Beast is Stirring « JEFF | WOOD | VISUALS - December 8, 2011

    [...] In the USA there has been some recent news that has shaken the wedding movie industry world wide. Joe Simon and two other big names have been sued by record companies over the illegal use of copyrighted music. Find more details about Joe’s case here on the Dare Dreamer Magazine blog. [...]

  3. Dare Dreamer Magazine: The Music Licensing Chickens Have Come Home to Roost | Kelly On A Tangent - December 9, 2011

    [...] The Music Licensing Chickens Have Come Home to Roost in Wedding and Event Videography | Dare Dreamer…. [...]

  4. Podcast Rewind with Joe Simon, Kirby Ferguson and David Robin | Dare Dreamer Magazine - December 10, 2011

    [...] filmmakers. I want to publicly say thank you to Joe Simon for being so open about his ordeal in this written interview that was like the “suit heard ’round the [...]

  5. Copyright Law and Creative Use « thejohncotton - December 11, 2011

    [...] recently read this article about how wedding videographers are getting sued by copyright owners for using songs without [...]

  6. A Valuable Lesson About Excess from Amadeus | Dare Dreamer Magazine - December 12, 2011

    [...] is most applicable to how many photos or videos you decide to put in your online portfolio. (Given last week’s events, for a lot of you, your online portfolio’s have become considerably sparser). You should only [...]

  7. Using unlicensed music on your site? Better read this! | Focht Creative - December 12, 2011

    [...] can read the article HERE [...]

  8. Wedding Photographers Sued for Using Music Online; Tony Romo Video Was Biggest … | - December 12, 2011

    [...] as a fax was super scary,” photographer Simon said in a conversation Dawson posted online at Dare Dreamer, a magazine for video producers. “I did have a video that went viral, we had used a very [...]

  9. License to Soundtrack | El Paso Photographer - December 12, 2011

    [...] came across an interesting article from Dare Dreamer Magazine through Twitter yesterday. The article focused on the use of [...]

  10. Great Deal from Songfreedom!!! 50% off for TBAPVA members!! | TBAPVA - December 13, 2011

    [...] is a hot topic, and if you haven’t started using licensed music, now is definitely the time. Dare Dreamer Magazine wrote an excellent must-read article for all video and film professionals on the risk of using [...]

  11. Unlicensed music….the bad and the ugly, and not much good. » KB Image Photo - December 13, 2011

    [...] Read this. [...]

  12. So, you want to use copyrighted music, huh? - December 13, 2011

    [...] you want to use copyrighted music, huh? – Today, 07:46 PM You may want to check this out [...]

  13. Dallas Wedding Photographer Amy Karp :: underwater wedding photographer in dallas - December 20, 2011

    [...] and more with a one time fee. If you are streaming music without the artists permission, you are streaming music illegally. This would be a very expensive lesson to learn. Check out this site, some really great tunes to [...]

  14. It's Christmas Eve. Let's wrap! | The Collective - December 24, 2011

    [...] Viral Videos + Non-licensed music don’t mix – If you are using non-licensed music on your website or slide shows, this interview on DareDreamer Magazine may do enough to scare you straight. [...]

  15. The Top 11 Feather-Ruffling Posts of 2011 | Dare Dreamer Magazine - December 31, 2011

    [...] #2 - The Music Licensing Chickens Come Home to Roost [...]

  16. Getting sued for music in slideshows/videos - January 4, 2012

    [...] http://daredreamermag.com/2011/12/07/the-music-licensing-chickens-have-come-home-to-roost-in-wedding… [...]

  17. The Top 3 Music Licensing Terms You Can’t Ignore | Dare Dreamer Magazine - January 5, 2012

    [...] film and video industry, particularly weddings and events. For the first time wedding videographers were sued by major record companies for the use of popular songs. Naturally, given these circumstances, small [...]

  18. CINEpiphany – Stunning Example of a Cinematic Wedding without Copyrighted Music - January 10, 2012

    [...] on licensing music and the legality behind using licensed music for wedding movies, I came across this article at DareDreamerMag.com. It was an interview with Joe Simon of Joe Simon Wedding Films and I was very [...]

  19. The Music Licensing Chickens Have Come Home to Roost in Wedding and Event Videography « Good4URadio.com - March 25, 2012

    [...] by admin On March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized With No Comments December 7, 2011 by Ron Dawson63 Comments One of the first questions a “new born” wedding videographer will undoubtedly ask is “I have [...]

  20. » Joe Simon vs. Coldplay - April 13, 2012

    [...] I heard about this awhile back & almost didn’t want to touch on it cause I figured it’d be too sore of a subject. Last summer Joe Simon shot Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo’s wedding & released a trailer for the film online featuring the Coldplay song “Fix You”. The first place I saw it was on the local news & I rushed to my computer to see the whole thing. The shit was really amazing. I was stoked that Joe got to do it, that he was able to share it & the amount of exposure it got. And thats where it should have ended. Well a few months later, he gets a fax/email that says the record company is coming after him for use of the song. As a small business owner, that had to be the worst feeling in the world. Without going into specifics, Joe speaks pretty candidly about the whole experience & gives some sound advice to working professionals. Check out the interview here. [...]

  21. Music Licensing and Song Choices for your Wedding Film | white dress media - April 13, 2012

    [...] sued for using copyrighted music without getting licensing or permission.  (You can read about it here.)  Even though WDM is not as well known as this company and it’s unlikely we would get [...]

  22. How to Legally Use Music in Your Films and Videos | Dare Dreamer Magazine - April 24, 2012

    [...] Now, with all that said, in practice, it’s apparent the record industry is not currently as invested as fighting this issue as it was the likes of Napster. I say that because there are literally thousands of violating wedding video clips online that record labels aren’t forcing to be taken down. (Facebook does have the power to recognize copyrighted music and remove it. I’ve seen that happen to a number of videographers I know. Same goes for YouTube. Although, sometimes YouTube may keep your video up, but it may then add advertising it splits with the copyright holder.) Who knows if and when the industry might start making examples of companies. So, beware if you be one. (UPDATE: since writing this post, the record labels HAVE started suing wedding videographers. Read this!) [...]

  23. Songs for your video: Why we choose them | Wedding Fanatics - May 30, 2012

    [...] Dare Dreamer Magazine wrote an article explaining the “rules of the game” for music licensing and wedding videos. If you’re curious, check it out here. [...]

  24. A new shift | Lucent Weddings - August 1, 2012

    [...] videos which used non-licensed music went viral. (read an interview about the lawsuit with Joe here). As a small business owner and a homeowner, this was a HUGE eye opener for me. A lawsuit of this [...]

  25. Music Licensing and Song Choices for your Wedding Film – White Dress Media – Currently Under Construction - August 1, 2012

    [...] a well known wedding filmmaker who got sued for using copyrighted music.  (You can read about it here.)  Even though WDM is not as well known as this company and it’s unlikely we would get [...]

  26. Using unlicensed music on your site? Better read this! | The Creative Orange - January 7, 2013

    [...] You can read the article HERE [...]

  27. A thought or two about music « First Impressions Video (714)979-3850 - February 2, 2013

    [...] the country and he recently shared a story about another filmmaker, Joe Simon, in his blog post, “The Music Licensing Chickens Have Come Home to Roost in Wedding and Event Videography.” Ron gave me permission to link to his story; I encourage you to take a peek as it unpacks this [...]

  28. Your (legal) Wedding Music - Love Note Cinema - February 19, 2013

    [...] Unfortunately, many high-profile professional wedding filmmakers out there are still using unlicensed (stolen) music. We’re not going to name names – they know who they are. Usually they surface after being slapped with a big lawsuit – like this videographer who settled a crippling five-figure case for copyright infringement. [...]

  29. Why Use Licensed Music? | Gator Bride - A Florida Gator Themed Wedding Blog - March 18, 2013

    [...] of the most infamous cases of illegal music gone bad is Joe Simon of Joe Simon Films. He put together a totally breathtaking wedding video to one of [...]

  30. Stealing Music – Video Storytelling for the Web - August 22, 2013

    […] An interesting post from a wedding videographer who got busted for using popular music without permission in one of his wedding videos. He ended up paying 5 figures or “$$ xx,xxx.00″ in damages, as he describes it because the settlement is sealed. So, at minimum that would be $10,000.00 and at maximum it would be $99,000. Ouch indeed! […]

  31. It’s Christmas Eve. Let’s wrap! | Andy Bondurant - December 4, 2013

    […] Viral Videos + Non-licensed music don’t mix – If you are using non-licensed music on your website or slide shows, this interview on DareDreamer Magazine may do enough to scare you straight. […]

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