As an audio producer, I am sometimes given music from clients to mix with their project, for example, a voice over with background music.
When I ask if they have the appropriate license, they sometimes reply “I found it on the web”, “it was given to me by a friend”, “it’s free to use because it’s royalty free music” etc.
My reply is just because someone gives you a piece of music and says it is royalty free, does not mean it is free for anyone to use. All royalty free music license agreements vary, but you must always have the appropriate license to use it, which normally involves a fee.
The following examples are a guide to help you determine whether you can use a piece of royalty free music.
1. The client has supplied the music
When working on a client’s production I am happy to include their music, whether licensed from Media Music Now or elsewhere. In this instance, as long as they are the license holder, I can incorporate the music with voice, sound effects etc. But, the client should always have the appropriate license and this is not the case if it arrived freely via email or a friend of a friend gave it to them on CD.
After finishing a client’s audio production, I have no further right to use their licensed music. Furthermore, I have no right to pass it on for anyone else to use.
The right to use the piece of music is given only to the person that has paid the license fee. They can instruct an audio producer or video producer to use it in their project / production, but afterwards the producer does not have the right to reuse it. Better still, they should delete their copy after completing the project.
2. You have licensed the music
I often incorporate music that I have already licensed for use in my clients’ projects. This comes in useful when a client has a low budget and cannot afford the additional music licensing costs.
As the license holder I can incorporate this pre-licensed music into projects I am working on.
The client does not receive a copy of the music. They can only have the music combined with their project (for example, with a voice over).
If the client wants a copy of the music, they too must purchase a license agreement from the music supplier.
Although terms vary from vendor to vendor the rule of thumb is: –
- You should have the license documentation in your name
- Your client supplying the music should have the licensing documentation in their name
I hope that helps clarify. Please feel free to leave your comments and share your experiences.