The Double Edged Sword of Pro Wedding Videos Going Viral

Clip from Tony Romo's wedding trailer shot by Joe Simon Films

Boy, the professional wedding filmmaking industry has had an exciting past three months, most notably because of the same number of viral videos by three leaders in the industry. First David Robin’s “Dirty Bit” wedding day music video. Next up was Loyd Calomay’s “Inception Reception” concept video. Now, last week, BMX and wedding filmmaker extraordinaire (and soon to be guest on Crossing the 180) Joe Simon’s wedding day trailer for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. The video was picked up by Yahoo Sports and in one day got around 800,000 views. ONE DAY! But then by the next day the video was gone. Removed from YouTube and switched to “private” status on Vimeo. I don’t know why? Some speculate it was due to copyright music violation. Whatever the reason, as a colleague on Facebook put it, the recent popularity of these professionally shot weddings may be a double-edged sword.

I’m sure the music industry has known about copyright-infringing wedding clips for years. But when they were only getting a few hundred or maybe a few thousand views, that wasn’t worth getting all ruffled over. But now that some of them are getting into million-view territory, we may see a greater crack-down on these videos. And it’s not just in the wedding business either. A few weeks ago I wrote about Vimeo taking down Jeff Harrell’s funny FCPX spoof presumably due to copyright issues. I think it’s safe to say it’s starting to come to a head. Facebook already automatically detects copyrighted music and prevents them from being posted.

I would love to see leaders in the industry start creating wedding trailers with legally licensed music. I know StillMotion has been doing this for a while (although, it doesn’t hurt that they are part owners in the service from which they get that music).They have clearly shown that you can use a service like With Etiquette or Triple Scoop Music for your weddings and still make viral-video-worthy films.

What do you think?

25 thoughts on “The Double Edged Sword of Pro Wedding Videos Going Viral

  1. I think music was not the reason Joe pulled that clip, it was the trash talking on the associated blogs & Joe pulled it at the request of Tony & Candice. This music situation has been WAY over analyzed & debated. The real situation is how that clip was perceived in the real world, not well by many. That is the big question, not music. Let get past that one, It’s up to the industry to figure it out, they are too bust trying to hang onto their world to worry about us. Brides want their fav artists & we give that to them, you could lose biz if you go to royalty free, which let’s be real here….is usually 2nd tier talent. Sorry, just keepin’ it real.

    1. hey steve,

      spend some time on WE and i think you’ll find many tracks that compete with and in many cases are better than popular tunes. it is a hand crafted piece of music by a small independent artist versus something written by somebody, performed by somebody completely different, and often produced in a way to be as commercially viable as possible. i agree we need solutions that don’t hurt our business and take us back a step in what we do – that is what we are trying to provide through WE.


      1. Yo P. , you know I wasn’t putting down the service WE provides, I actually would LOVE to rather use cool sounding Indie artists. We usually design the soundtrack for the B & G so it’s not that we have to follow their requests.

        I just speak of using popular tunes because that is what most average event filmmakers in the country come up against. If they refuse a brides request, that bride might move on to a company that does use pop tunes.

        WE serves a purpose for all the reasons you stated, but some budgets are too small to add more overhead. Who would I talk to about a one time free usage of songs from WE? Who would that be 😉

  2. thanks ron, great post.

    we founded with etiquette to help with things like this. we saw a need to help independent artists get their music into the world and on the other side was the many creative fields (photo, cinema, design) often needing soundtracks but being stuck with tracks that they couldn’t reasonably license (as companies were too big to even write them back) or tracks that didn’t elevate the piece.

    the key, to us, to helping this shift into doing things the proper way is to provide great tracks first and foremost, make the cost reasonable, and make the process simple. the amazing part of all of this is how the backing we have received from the industry has translated into tangible support for the artists that are a part of WE, it makes a real difference in their lives and is tangibly supporting their art.


  3. as more higher quality music continues to become available to license, licensing will increase. hopefully. at least then people will have NO excuses…

  4. I agree. Just like images need to be probably licensed so do songs. The only problem though is sometimes trying to license an old song or a song that has a lot of meaning to the couple and it’s not available to license via triple scoop or similar affordable sites. There has to be a good balance somewhere. I tried to license a song I wanted for a photo slide show I wanted to do and when I called stating that it would be on Youtube/Vimeo from the company that had it, the fee was $2k per “needle drop” b/c it was going to be on the web. The song was under 3min and to use 2 or 3 tracks it would add up quickly.

    I’m sure for personal home use it’s okay, but to put something on the web, it’s a whole other beast.

  5. What about putting the onus on the music industry to make a license agreement that makes sense for wedding films? While some services have spring up to fill the need, their selection is still not wide enough to fill the gap between fully legal usage and bad stock music.

  6. Ron, As I’ve mentioned to you in the past, why do the Aussies and wedding filmmakers in the UK have the option to buy a blanket sync license for popular music to use in the production of wedding films? Seems kind of strange that many (if not all) of the same labels are operating here in the USA and we can’t seem to get momentum together to push for this licensing? (I understand that those licenses typically do not include web distribution) But the record companies should really wise up and realize that they could rake in millions/year in additional revenue by implementing tiered licensing of popular music. If I do 20 weddings per year and license music at the With Etiquette rate of $100/track you’re looking at $2000/yr, and how many wedding filmmakers are there in North America? I’d venture to say at least 2000 – I’m sure theres many more but Im just keeping the numbers conservative. So thats $4 Million. Per year. That the labels wouldnt normally see. I wonder how much it costs them to bring a case to court? And do you think litigation is a sustainable revenue model? Why do I need to figure this out for them – its their business. I’m in the camp of believing that the record labels are totally baked. They lack the innovation to save themselves.

  7. I don’t think there is any topic more contentious and filled with landmines than this one. Recently I was pretty upset by a situation where I lost a bride’s interest because I wouldn’t use a popular song she wanted due to copyright – and lost her to a competitor that had no problem doing it. I vented about it on an industry forum. The lack of support for my position on a pro forum was astounding to me. Many, many people in our industry do NOT want to face the truth about this issue. Others reluctantly acknowledge a problem but refuse to try to move forward with a solution, fearing they will end up getting saddled with more money to pay out for every wedding – it’s easier just to steal it.

    You are right, Ron – these viral videos are a double-edged sword, and while this particular clip may not have been taken down due to copyright, the time is coming when ANY clip with copyrighted music will be identified through soundprint identification, tagged for removal, and taken down – possibly along with a nastygram from the copyright owner claiming damages. YouTube already does this, and so does Facebook. It’s foolish to think that Vimeo won’t be soon doing the same thing – they have to follow the law just like the other services, when it comes right down to it. They may be skirting the issue right now, but not for long. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

    The bottom line for me is that when others do use music illegally and I don’t, it gives them an unfair business advantage. Typically clips that use music that is already well-known and popular have an emotional advantage for the viewer immediately, whereas unknown music does not evoke the same emotion right away… the song has to earn the viewer’s emotional investment. That is truly an unfair advantage when dealing with brides who don’t understand why their best friend’s wedding video highlight has Jason Mraz or Black Eyed Peas, but hers doesn’t, especially when she wanted the song.

    Every time I near the edit for the highlight clip, I start to get frustrated – because I know the search for a great song that I can afford to use gets harder and harder with each bride. Each time I ask myself if I should just throw in the towel and join the rest of the “don’t ask/don’t tell” crowd. There is one thing that helps me continue not doing it, tho – and that is when I look for a song, I’m not biased by what is popular. I find a song that truly matches the couple as I see them, and for the most part I think this eventually means more to the couples than if I had used BEP’s “I Gotta Feelin’. I compare it to a filmmaker finding just the right song for the movie – many of the best songs for films are never hits, or become hits because they were in the movie, not the other way around.

  8. I think that it is hard to get the bride and groom to think about the copy write of music. I personally barely listen to major music releases I prefer digging through the for songs to listen too which often are becoming songs to edit too.

  9. I was gonna write a blog about the exact same topic, but I waited for Ron to write it since he is so much better at writing…
    I was more concerned about wedding film in general, a little bit less focusing on music licensing, but I do see where you are coming from Ron. That’s the first thing I worried when DR’s music video went viral.
    I believe that most of negative (or rather stupid and ignorant) comments from flat out losers that understand nothing about art of cinematography or anything to do with wedding itself. They were mostly being negative about Tony Romo and Texas Cowboys instead of Joe’s one of the best trailers that he’ve created.
    On my blog post (that’ll never be releases) mentioned about your “haters will always be haters” blog post. I think basically those haters of Tony Romo commented with nasty negative words.
    As for the music, what are Canadian and Australian folks doing for their rights? I heard it’s something much better than US.

  10. Great discussion everyone. Yes, I figured the video was taken down for reasons other than music. The blog post was prompted by an event industry discussion on Facebook where the assumption was made that it was taken down b/c of the music. Regardless, the issue is still an important one.

    I agree with Steve Moses to an extent. This issue has been discussed to death, but much of that discussion has been on industry forums when people new to the biz always ask “can I use copyrighted music?” That question gets asked so much it prompted me to write this post I think what is different now is the fact that we are starting to see professionally produced wedding videos reaching million+ views. As I said in the blog post, will this cause the music industry to take a greater heed in professional filmmakers posting copyright infringing music.

    Bill Vincent’s point about it not being fair to those videographers who “play honest” is understandable. If you decide to keep your videos total legal, you will have less of an advantage over those who do use popular music. It just makes it more challenging in your marketing and your shooting and editing to make something that blows people away regardless of whether you use Jason MRaz or not.

    To Brett’s point, for the life of me I have no idea why we can’t get a license here in the US like what the Aussie’s and Brits have been able to do.

    It will be interesting to see what happens.

    1. “It will be interesting to see what happens.” …Ron Dawson

      I can foresee how it will end…it will end with us all in jail singing Jason Mraz songs to express our freedom to do so….I for one will be humming Enya in a defiant manner.

  11. It’s cool to see more people licensing music for vids. I tell my clients straight up we choose the music for their online vid due to copyright laws. Simple and easy to understand.

  12. One of the thoughts that comes to my mind is that we have put ourselves across our own barrel, to some extent. In alot of situations where we are relying on “that special song” or songs that are the most conflicting from a copyright standpoint (at least as wedding videographers) we are referring to the highlight/trailer video much like what has been so high profile lately. I’ve heard many filmmakers refer to “Shooting for the trailer” much as photographers shoot for the photo album. We’ve put so much importance on this one style of film that it in some ways now determines how we perceive our business. That great hit song makes a wonderful 2-3.5 minute clip of our best work and that get shared all over the web. Within our complete edits, though, we weave the music into the feel of the film so that it supports the moment instead of being the focus.

    Maybe part of the solution for us lies in rethinking not only copyright but also how we use music in our work. I know that when most of my clients bring up music they are specifically talking about the trailer. A paradigm shift away from that being the focal point of what they see as “my work” might help in alleviating my need to pull in that copyright infringed upon song. That’s not a simple solution, I must say. It would be as hard for me to do as anyone, but then it’s our dependence that got us here. Dependent relationships are hard to break.

  13. I have talking about this for years. Simply putting music by Elton John does not give you the right to use that music. What I don’t understand is how stupid iTunes is about this. When you go to buy songs, it should simply say $1.29 consumer use, $50 commercial web use only, $4000 local broadcast. They could generate so much more income. Who wouldn’t pay the $50 to have a true licensed copy of that music.

  14. Interesting… And Apple would be about the only one who could force that kind of licensing change too… If they went to the publishers and said this is what we’re doing, period… what could the Publishers do, realistically?

  15. Hey, I was redesigning our website 2 years ago. We decided that there were two commercial music tracks we really wanted to use. So I contacted BMI and ASCAP and was told that there was no way to license the music for what I was going to be doing. Also, one of the tracks was either Disney or Sony, and they didn’t even have an agreement with them at the time, so there was no way I could use the track without negotiating directly with the company.

    Truth be told, the music companies should allow the music to be used for a very small fee, or for free with an iTunes link either embedded or next to the video player. If the song went viral they would not doubt make a lot of money on the iTunes orders. But then, the studios and music companies are too busy suing soccer moms and teenagers to be bothering to adapt to the 21st century. I can’t wait for that first act that decides to do it all on their own and goes viral with a track that they sell directly through their own website. No agents, no managers, no record company BILLIONAIRES. Just fans paying the money directly to the musicians who worked hard to make a song that they enjoy.

    Just a hope, man.

    1. Actually for a number of years both small indie bands and more popular bands have sold albums directly to the public via the internet. Filmmakers are starting to do it now too. Now, more than ever, artists have the power to by-pass large corporations to make an living off their art.

      1. Ron,
        Yes it is starting to happen a bit. But the powers that be aren’t taking I lying down. And LiveNation pretty much has a monopoly on all the live venues. The last concert that I tried to buy tickets for had nosebleed tickets that started at $120.00! Needless to say it didn’t sell out.

        I’m on the side if the bands. Too much great music has been made without the bands making the lion’s share. Hopefully that changes going forward.

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