EDITORS NOTE RE-POST: This was originally posted on 1-29-10. It is a really good post by recording artist Jeremy Horn about the use of music on your website.
Photogs are always looking for great music to use on their websites, customer slide shows, and animotos. Most folks are unaware that music isn't free to use in public forums like websites etc. You may or may not know that most major label or "signed" recording artists do not own the copyrights to their own music. So that tune you hear on the top 40 station driving to work each day doesn't belong to the guy or gal who is singing it anymore. Even if you found them on facebook or twitter and asked him or her to use the tune, they couldn't grant you that right. Even if they wanted too! To use the tune it would mean getting a mechanical license from their record company to legally use the music. This of course has a cost, (blah, blah, blah, bummer I know.) This can be a hard expense to justify when you are just starting out or income is tight and sadly, this is where the line blurs on what is wrong and right. Many artists' music ends up on websites and in photographer's products without proper credit and or under the label's radar. Before you say, "Come on, it's just music!" Remember it would be just like you doing a session for a client, who bought a basic set of prints and then copied the pictures freely at the local Kodak photo maker without your consent. Stealing intellectual property is still stealing. There's just no way around it.
For any artist or photographer starting out can be difficult. Money is tight. You work for the love of the craft and because it's your passion, hoping one day it can become a full time occupation. Photogs want their work to come across as hip and fresh. They want the music they use in their projects to reflect who they are as an artist. They use the music to connect the soul of their work to the soul of the client. Everybody knows a good tune pulls at the heart strings and helps make an emotional connection. The end result is that mom wanting to buy every picture you took of her little Johnny or that bride remembering how special her wedding day was and wanting those extra shots in her wedding book. It's pretty safe to assume modern working photographers need great music. Giving most people the benefit of the doubt and honestly believing no one likes the idea of stealing intellectual property from another artist, I would like to offer a suggestion. Embrace an independent artist.
Believe it or not there are a sea of amazing indie musicians out there who are dying to just have their music heard. They have no ties to anyone, have total control of their careers and work hard at making great art. They would love to have you use their material. Through a simple social networking message or email you may find yourself a new creative partner. As partners you can mutually benefit. If you find an indie artist who you love, reach out to them. Don't be scared to at least try. Most musicians off stage are not rock stars. They are just normal people like you and I trying to make a living. They are really flattered when people appreciate what they do. If they are a local artist or a touring act, offer to do a local session or shoot their live show when they are in town in exchange for the right to use their tunes in products or in media outlets like the web. Give them the same writes with your photos. More times than not they are going to gladly say yes. Artists are always in need of content for websites and trade mag write-ups. Great photos are killer for promotional material and blog posts. Who knows, that pic you took could end up in Rolling Stone? Crazier things have happened.
Indie musicians in general are broke so they think they can't afford to hire a "professional" photographer. Thus the sea of terrible album covers and packaging out there with do it yourself artwork and photos. (We've all seen them and got a little nauseous, I know.) The best part of trying this route is if you strike up a friendship you can begin to promote each other within your own circle of influence. Clients and fans will ask, "I love that song who wrote it?" or "That's an amazing picture who took it?" And you can say "Oh a really brilliant artist/photographer friend of mine..." and in that simple act you just widened the fan and client base for you both. It's a smart, simple way to get what you need for your business and in return help a fellow artist. I'd call that a win, win situation.