The Top 11 FREE Music Platforms for Filmmakers | FREE Music for Videos!

Posted by Grant Patten on Mar 8, 2021 8:12:06 AM

The Top 11 FREE Music Platforms for Filmmakers | FREE Music for Videos!

FREE Music Platforms for FilmmakersSource: Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 579124129, Shutterstock

If you’re working on a low-to-no budget film/video project, you’ll probably have to use free music and the good news is, there are some very helpful platforms out there that provide a large variety of free music for download (many just ask for credit). So, let’s do a “resource round-up” of some of the best websites and online platforms where filmmakers can download and use music for FREE.

  1. ccMixter Music
  2. Bensound's Royalty Free Music
  3. Mixkit
  4. Free Music Archive
  5. Audionautix
  6. Incompetech
  7. Jamendo (subscription)
  8. Artlist (subscription)
  9. IMPACT (low cost kits)
  10. Adobe Stock audio (subscription)
  11. YouTube Studio and various YouTube channels

 

ccMixter Music | best free music for videos | free film music

Website: http://dig.ccmixter.org/

ccMixter Music logoLogo Source: The original uploader was Fourstones at English Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (no changes made)

ccMixter is a community music site, launched in 2004, that promotes remix culture and makes samples, remixes and tracks that are automatically licensed under Creative Commons (available for download and reuse in creative works).

The music on ccMixter.org is generally licensed to be used in any arena, not just the ccMixter site or a specific contest. The ccMixter site contains over 10,000 samples from a wide range of recording artists.

“You already have permission” is the site’s slogan and filmmakers can choose from a vast library of instrumental music, music for video games and music for commercial projects (all you have to do is give credit to the musicians).

Bensound's Royalty-Free Music | free background music

Website: https://www.bensound.com/

Bensound is a little more restrictive than the aforementioned ccMixter in the sense that filmmakers cannot remix using any of the Bensound audio tracks; however, the tracks can be used independently as long as Bensound.com is credited. Filmmakers can adapt the music for their films/videos by editing the length or adding voice over.

If you cannot or do not want to credit Bensound or need high quality files, there are license subscriptions available (Standard, Extended). French composer Benjamin Tissot created the site.

Mixkit | royalty-free music for filmmakers

Website: https://mixkit.co/

Mixkit is a website for royalty-free music from Australian company Envato. Limited tracks can be downloaded free and a subscription is required for unlimited downloads.

All tracks come with commercial licenses and are ready for any project. Unlike some other platforms, the tracks on Mixkit can be used with no attribution required.

These tracks are great for background music in YouTube videos, podcasts, online advertising and more. Music is categorized by genre, such as hip-hop, lo-fi, cinematic, jazz, acoustic and more.

Free Music Archive | free music for filmmakers and videographers

Website: https://freemusicarchive.org/

The Free Music ArchiveLogo Source: Bronwyn Bishop, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons (no changes made)

The Free Music Archive (FMA) is an online repository of royalty-free music, established in 2009 by community radio stations based in New Jersey. The music tracks are provided under Creative Commons licenses and can be freely downloaded and used in other works.

FMA launched with an emphasis on curating high-quality works in a manner “designed for the age of the Internet.” Users can tip musicians via donations and there is also a premium content tier available, called Tribe of Noise PRO.

Audionautix | free background music | no copyright music

Website: https://audionautix.com/

On Audionautix, all music is composed and produced by the same musician – Jason Shaw, who is based in Pennsylvania. He plays multiple instruments and also uses sound samples, loops, drum machines and software synths where appropriate.

This music is royalty-free for filmmakers and videographers to download and use (even for commercial purposes), as long as they provide credit. Specifically, the site’s music is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Optional donations can be made via PayPal to support Shaw’s work.

Incompetech | free background music | no copyright music

Website: https://incompetech.com/

On Incompetech, all music is composed and produced by the same musician – Kevin MacLeod, who is based in New York. MacLeod has composed 2,000+ tracks of royalty-free music and made them available under a Creative Commons copyright license. This license allows anyone to use his music free, as long as he receives credit, which has led to his music being used in thousands of projects.

MacLeod is the subject of a documentary film titled Royalty Free: The Music of Kevin MacLeod. See also: the official YouTube channel for Kevin MacLeod.

Jamendo | royalty-free music for commercial use

Website: https://www.jamendo.com

Jamendo Licensing, founded in Luxembourg in 2004, offers royalty-free music for commercial use via a subscription service. Their catalog offers low-priced music licenses for use in audiovisual projects (advertising, film, television, video games, mobile applications, YouTube videos, etc.) They currently offer a 2-week free trial.

Users can listen to MP3 audio files (96 kbit/s) and download in MP3 (192kbit/s) and Ogg Vorbis formats. Jamendo offers musicians the opportunity to publish their music free under Creative Commons. The name “Jamendo” is a portmanteau derived from two musical terms: “jam session” and “crescendo”.

Artlist | royalty-free music subscription service

Website: https://artlist.io/

It is free to signup to Artlist, which offers limited royalty-free music downloads. To get unlimited downloads, you’ll need to purchase a subscription. Filmmakers can use the music on YouTube, Facebook and any platform worldwide; there are no limitations and monetization is allowed.

Licenses do not expire. The music on Artlist is primarily from indie musicians. The website has a nicely designed filtering system that allows you to find the perfect song for your project, quickly.

IMPACT | royalty-free music IN LOW COST KITS

Website: https://www.impacttrailermusiclibrary.com/ 

The IMPACT Trailer Music Library is not totally free but their music bundle kits are reasonably priced; they offer multiple kits to help convey various cinematic moods. All tracks in these kits are royalty-free and fully licensed in perpetuity on any media.  

Made by experienced film industry composers and sound designers, IMPACT delivers high quality soundtracks specially designed for syncing to trailers and produced with the filmmaker in mind.

Adobe Stock audio | free music for video editing

Website: https://stock.adobe.com/ca/audio 
Adobe Corporate LogoLogo Source: Adobe Inc., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (no changes made)

Adobe currently offers a 1-month free trial to Adobe Stock and that includes 10 free music tracks. Adobe has their music tracks categorized by various genres, including electronica, pop, epic and inspiring; there is even a film category for “bold and evocative music tracks for cinematic projects.”

The music on Adobe Stock is royalty-free and can underscore a mood or add a new energy level to video productions, podcasts and other creative projects.

YouTube Studio | YouTube royalty-free music

Website: https://studio.youtube.com/

YouTube Studio’s music library is constantly expanding and many of the tracks in this library can be used free (under the YouTube Terms of Service). Music from this library is intended solely for use by creators in their YouTube videos and other content that they create for YouTube. Creators may use music files from this library in videos that they monetize on YouTube.

YouTube offers music tracks categorized in various genres, including dance & electronica, hip-hop & rap, ambient, cinematic, classical, holiday and more. Audio tracks are also searchable by mood, such as angry, bright, calm, dark, dramatic, sad, etc.

There are also channels on YouTube that are dedicated to royalty-free music, such as Royalty Free Music - No Copyright Music and Audio Library.

Film Equipment Insurance | Short-Term Film Production Insurance | Musical Instrument Insurance | Post-production Studio Insurance

If you’re reading about free music platforms for filmmakers, chances are that you’re a filmmaker or editor yourself or somehow involved in the film/video industry. You’ll likely want to insure your film/video gear, short-term productions, musical instruments and/or post-production studio.

Front Row’s Short Shoot insurance policy (Canada) is a good option for insuring your short-term film projects. Coverage for up to 15 consecutive days of filming. The coverage is available online, 24/7. Covers rented gear, rented locations, rented props, sets, wardrobes, and more. You can get a quote in two minutes and purchase a policy 100% online. If you are in the US, please complete this form.

Front Row’s DigiGear insurance policy (Canada) is a good option for insuring your filmmaking gear, including your film camera(s). Also available online. Quotes in 2 minutes; policies available in 5 minutes. Shop from your phone. If you are in the US, please complete this form.

Front Row’s insurance for musical instruments (Canada) is a good option for insuring your musical instruments, including guitars, violins, drums, etc. You can get a quote and purchase a policy online in just a few minutes, or read more about the coverages available on the instrument insurance site.

Post-production studio insurance is also available in Canada and the US.

Refer a Friend to Front Row Insurance

Based on customer demand, we’ve setup our referral marketing program and if you refer a friend to Front Row, you could win a $15 Amazon eGift Card OR be entered into a random draw to win a $99 Amazon eGift Card! (depending on your province)

About: Front Row Insurance Brokers Inc. is an independent insurance broker that specializes in the entertainment industry – specifically, the film industry. Front Row works hard to provide insurance protection for a very low cost. Should a claim occur, Front Row works diligently with clients and insurers to expedite the payment of claims. Offices in: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, New York, LA and Nashville.

Disclaimer: Informational statements regarding insurance coverage are for general description purposes only. These statements do not amend, modify or supplement any insurance policy. Consult the actual policy or your broker for details regarding terms, conditions, coverage, exclusions, products, services and programs which may be available to you. Your eligibility for particular products and services is subject to the final determination of underwriting qualifications and acceptance by the insurance underwriting company providing such products or services. This website does not make any representations that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss, or type of claim or loss, under any policy. Whether coverage exists or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any policy depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss and all applicable policy wording.

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Topics: musical instrument insurance, Short Film Insurance, DigiGear, Best of

Video: What is a Premium? What is a Deductible?

Posted by Grant Patten on Apr 28, 2020 7:54:34 AM

What is a Premium? What is a Deductible?

Disclaimer: the deductible amounts disclosed in this video are current to April 2020 and are subject to change.

What is an insurance premium?

An insurance premium is the amount of money an individual or business pays for an insurance policy. Premiums are collected and kept in reserve in order to pay out claims as they arise. The insurance company must anticipate how much premium they will need to collect in order to have the funds available to pay out losses when they occur. In layman’s terms, they have to make an educated guess.

Wondering why your premium has changed? Well, the changes in premiums this year are a reflection of the overall loss ratio on the insurance program. In order for an insurance program to remain viable, the amount paid out in losses cannot exceed the amount collected in premiums.

What is an insurance deductible?

A deductible is the amount of the loss that you are responsible for covering before the insurance policy will respond. Say you have a USB drive stolen. Replacing it would cost $60, but your deductible is $350. Although, “technically” the claim would be covered, it is below your deductible, so the insurance company wouldn’t be responsible for paying any part of the claim.

Another example: you drop your camera, but it only costs $200 to fix. Although it is the kind of damage that would be covered under the policy, you are responsible for the first $350 of the loss. In this case, again, the insurer would not have any responsibility to pay the claim, because the expense was not more than the $350 deductible.

If you damage a $500 lens, though, you would pay for the first $350 (your deductible), then the insurance company would cover the next $150.

A review of the Front Row online insurance program deductibles (in Canadian dollars):

Photography insurance (photographer.frontrowinsurance.com) deductibles:

  • Equipment deductible: $350 per occurrence
  • Photographer’s Enhancement Pack deductible: $500 per occurrence
  • Theft from an Unattended Vehicle deductible: $2,500 per occurrence
  • Outside Canada and United States of America (“Out of Country”) deductible: $750
  • General Liability deductible: $500 per occurrence

The deductible applies to any one incident, not per item. Only one deductible, whichever is highest, would apply per claim.

DigiGear insurance (digigearinsure.frontrowinsurance.com) deductibles:

  • Owned Mobile Equipment  - $1,000
  • Owned Fixed Equipment - $1,000
  • Rented Equipment - $1,000
  • Lessors' Contingency Coverage - $1,000
  • Commercial General Liability - $1,000

Short Shoot insurance (shortshoot.frontrowinsurance.com) deductibles:

The rented equipment deductible is $1,500 per event. This applies to any one incident, not per item.

Musical instrument insurance (musicians.frontrowinsurance.com) deductibles:

The equipment deductible is $250 per claim. Again: This applies to any one incident, not per item.

SOLO Theatrical Insurance (stagelive.frontrowinsurance.com) deductibles:

The deductible for Each Occurrence is $500.

Event insurance (events.frontrowinsurance.com) deductibles:

  • Rented Equipment Coverage: $500 Per Claim
  • Rented Tents/Marquees: $250 Per Claim
  • Wedding Enhancement Package Coverages: $250 Per Claim
  • Birthday Party / Bar/Bat Mitzvah / Anniversary Package Coverages: $250 Per Claim
  • Cancellation Coverage: None
  • General Liability, Each Occurrence: $500 for claims of Bodily Injury / Property Damage
  • Tenant Legal Liability: $500 Per Claim

Workplace Office insurance (workplaceinsure.frontrowinsurance.com) deductibles:

There are various deductibles under the Workplace policy. The deductible will depend on the coverage. For example, the deductible for theft of office property is $500.

Get Insurance with Front Row

Whether you’re interested in film insurance, photography insurance, event insurance or another insurance product, consider Front Row Insurance for your insurance needs.


Related:

Topics: musical instrument insurance, Short Film Insurance, Entertainment Insurance, film insurance premium, Office Contents Insurance, Theatre Insurance, event insurance, photography insurance, DigiGear

Musical Instrument Theft Prevention: What You Need to Know

Posted by Meghan Stickney on Jan 24, 2019 10:39:53 PM

Musical Instrument Theft

musical instrument theft preventIon

Unfortunately, there seems to be an increase in musical instrument theft as of late, but there are some actions you can take to protect yourself and your band.

We’ve provided some tips and tricks for how to guard your instruments, as well as some information on how to insure your instruments so you are protected in any worst case scenario situations.

1. Anonymity

  • One of the best ways to prevent your instruments from being stolen is to remain as anonymous as possible – in terms of your band and your instruments.
  • Avoid having band stickers on your vehicle and instruments, so that you aren’t a clear target.
  • Tint or paint your windows or buy blinds, so people can’t see into your vehicle, your rehearsal space or any place you store your instruments.

2. Security

  • This one might sound obvious, but there are a few critical steps you can take to make sure that you’re keeping your items as secure as possible. These include the following:
    • Install an alarm.
    • Develop a protocol to make sure that your vehicle is locked at all times. Even when you’re loading in, and may be making several trips to a nearby space. This happens a lot with bands and musicians and presents a target for thieves.
    • Chain all of your gear together in your van or trunk so that if the thief does a smash and grab they will not be able to get away quickly.

3. Parking

  • Many instrument thefts happen overnight, so it is important to be careful about how and where you park.
  • Park your vehicle back against a wall whenever possible so it’s harder to get in the back doors.
  • Park in the underground garage of your hotel rather than the surface lot.
  • Leave your vehicle at a tow truck yard: they are manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The cost is usually reasonable for the protection provided.

4. Keep Records

  • In the unfortunate case that something does get stolen, it’s important that you have the proper records. It helps with the investigation and increases the chances of your property being found.
  • Take pictures of your instruments – this way you’ll have an image to present should something be taken.
  • Keep a record of serial numbers. This way investigators will absolutely know if an instrument is yours or not.
  • Store a copy of the appraisal if the instruments are older than 5 years. Vintage gear will have the best claims settlement if there is an appraisal to refer to.

In the unfortunate event that your gear is stolen, you’ll really only be protected from losses if you’ve chosen an insurance provider that specializes in instrument insurance for professionals (like us). Most homeowners policies will not insure instruments and gear used professionally or damage caused by airlines, so be sure to source a policy for professionals. This ensures all of your bases are covered and the tools of your trade will be protected.

In terms of protecting your instrument at airports and on planes: Rule No. 1 is to never check instruments with your luggage, unless it’s impossible to transport as hand luggage. Keep watch on your instrument while in the airport terminal. Consider using a Velcro strap to attach it to your trolley to prevent a snatch-and-grab. Hiding a Tile [Affiliate Link] or similar tracker in your cases results in a good recovery rate for stolen gear. These products are especially valuable for vintage gear.

GET Music Instrument Insurance | Instrument Insurance | MUSICAL INSTRUMENT INSURANCE | GUITAR INSURANCE | VIOLIN INSURANCE

Many music professionals rely on Front Row for their tour and instrument coverage. We offer the advantage of one-stop online shopping with low rates, flexible options, and excellent service. For more information on how to insure your instruments, click here.

Refer a Friend to Front Row Insurance

Based on customer demand, we’ve setup our referral marketing program and if you refer a friend to Front Row, you could win a $15 Amazon eGift Card OR be entered into a random draw to win a $99 Amazon eGift Card! (depending on your province)

DISCLAIMER: Informational statements regarding insurance coverage are for general description purposes only. These statements do not amend, modify or supplement any insurance policy. Consult the actual policy or your broker for details regarding terms, conditions, coverage, exclusions, products, services and programs which may be available to you. Your eligibility for particular products and services is subject to the final determination of underwriting qualifications and acceptance by the insurance underwriting company providing such products or services. This website does not make any representations that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss, or type of claim or loss, under any policy. Whether coverage exists or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any policy depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss and all applicable policy wording.

Amazon Associates Disclosure: Front Row Insurance is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This post may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you.

 

Related:

Musical Instrument Insurance 101: How to Protect Your Instruments
Tips & tricks to guard your gear
Protecting instruments at home
Protecting instruments at airports
Protecting instruments on tour
Musical tour insurance
Band on the run
Tribute bands and liability
Protecting your guitar
Protecting your drums
Protecting your keyboard
Protecting your violin
Protecting your saxophone
How to make a claim
What is my gear worth in event of claim?
You may not be covered under homeowners
Front Row’s musical instrument policy
Insurance for SOCAN members
How to compare musical instrument insurance cos.
Blurring the lines of music infringement law

Topics: musical instrument insurance

Music Instrument Insurance: You May not be Covered under Homeowners

Posted by David Hamilton on May 3, 2016 12:49:30 PM

Music Instrument Insurance: You May not be Covered under Homeowners


You arrive back at your van to find the window smashed and your instruments missing. You take out your phone and call your insurance broker to report the claim under the homeowners policy that you purchased. An adjuster is assigned.

The claims adjuster does a  web search and sees that you have played some small gigs. Because you occasionally perform for money, your gear is now considered commercial equipment and as such, not covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy, which is intended to cover “personal” musical gear that is not used for commercial purposes.

You tell the adjuster that you only played twice in the last 12 months and made less than $300 for the performances.

The adjuster shrugs, “It doesn’t matter, even if you busk 10 minutes for $10, you are a professional and your gear is considered commercial and is no longer covered under a homeowners policy”.

This is a difficult, pricey lesson that is better learned before there is a loss. Our experience tells us that many professional musicians assume they are covered by their homeowners insurance policy when in fact they are not.

If you perform for money, check your policy and make sure your coverage is appropriate. At Front Row, we have created a 5-minute online insurance solution.

Available to SOCAN members at: musicians.frontrowinsurance.com

The policy term is for 12 months and coverage is provided throughout Canada and the USA.

All equipment is covered for replacement cost for theft, damage, fire and loss of use. The online link ensures industry-low prices:

  • $10,000 equipment coverage: $100
  • $1,000,000 location liability coverage: $75; $2,000,000: $100. Liability covers property damage and bodily injury to third parties. Pays legal fees too.
  • $500 deductible for gear

"We wanted to make the insurance process easier, faster and cheaper for musicians," said David Hamilton, President of Front Row, "Given that an insurance company underwriter is not involved, the cost to process an instrument insurance policy is much less online and we have passed the savings onto the musician. Although the instrument policy is online, we are still available to answer questions by email or over the phone if required."

SEE ALSO: MUSICAL GEAR : INSURANCE AND PROTECTION WHILE ON TOUR

FILMMAKERS AND HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

PHOTOGRAPHERS AND HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

Related:

Musical Instrument Insurance 101: How to Protect Your Instruments
Tips & tricks to guard your gear
Protecting instruments at home
Protecting instruments at airports
Protecting instruments on tour
Musical tour insurance
Band on the run
Tribute bands and liability
Protecting your guitar
Protecting your drums
Protecting your keyboard
Protecting your violin
Protecting your saxophone
How to make a claim
What is my gear worth in event of claim?
You may not be covered under homeowners
Front Row’s musical instrument policy
Insurance for SOCAN members
How to compare musical instrument insurance cos.
Blurring the lines of music infringement law

Topics: musical instrument insurance

Front Row Insurance Expands to Nashville - Welcoming Tom Corley

Posted by Mike Groner on Mar 4, 2016 4:55:28 PM

MUSIC INDUSTRY INSURANCE VETERAN TOM CORLEY

Front Row Insurance, specialized entertainment insurance brokers, is pleased to announce the opening of its new Nashville office to be headed by experienced entertainment professional, Tom Corley. Front Row is a specialized insurance broker with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Los Angeles.

Tom Corley InsuranceWith over 25 years of experience, Corley has worked in the music industry alongside artists Ronnie Milsap, Waylon Jennings, Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Dolly Parton, Kenny Chesney, Restless Heart, and many others. As a Producer for AEG Live and TBA Entertainment, he handled many tours including the CMT Tour featuring Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert and Rascal Flatts, Reba/Kelly Clarkson Tour, and Kenny Chesney’s Stadium and New Year’s Eve concerts. In 2001, Corley also assisted and relocated the CMA Music Festival performance stages from the Tennessee State Fairgrounds to the stadium downtown and worked there for the first two years.

“We are delighted to welcome Tom into Front Row," said David Hamilton, President of Front Row Insurance Brokers. "Tom's long history as one of the top tour managers in the world gives Front Row a deeper practical understanding of the risks our clients face associated with touring and live events. Tom is a rare expert that can identify the risks of the music industry that should be transferred to the insurance companies: new and existing clients will benefit from Tom's expertise. Front Row is a specialized entertainment insurance broker: our volume with the insurance companies will allow Tom to offer his clients the best protection at the best possible premiums available in the marketplace. Everyone working in the music industry that seeks Tom out will be better protected and a lot happier after hearing some of his entertaining stories!"

Corley’s new role is effective immediately and he is looking forward to putting his skills and experience to good use. “For over 25 years, I purchased this type of insurance and I am now delighted to offer these products to my peers in the entertainment industry,” says Corley. “With Nashville’s continuous growth in the entertainment industry, everyone in the music and film industry, theatre companies, and photographers can now get expedient, affordable entertainment coverage they need with Front Row.”

Topics: musical instrument insurance, band tour insurance

Musician Liability Insurance: Make Sure Your Band's Tour Is Protected

Posted by Steve Beatty on Jul 28, 2015 1:53:00 PM

shutterstock_157247915

Liability Insurance for Musicians

When someone gets hurt or you damage property such as a venue, a hotel room or a studio, you could be facing a tour liability claim. They can be costly to defend and to settle, if you are negligent and are responsible to pay the other party for their injury or damage.

To reduce your risk, make sure you only engage contractors or service providers who have insurance and who are able to add you as an Additional Insured to their policy. As an Additional Insured, their insurance company is obliged to defend you if the actions, or inactions, of the contractor for the claim against you.

Most tour liability insurance policies will provide worldwide coverage, provided that the claim is brought against you in Canada or the USA. You may want to consider expanding this to include claims brought anywhere in the world if you have assets in other countries, or if you are travelling to countries with less predictable legal or political environments. Carefully review the insurance requirements of contracts such as venue agreements and equipment rental contracts.

As a final point, be sure your policy does not exclude claims related to injuries to performers. You’d be surprised just how many policies prospective clients bring me that have this type of exclusion.

Front Row Insurance Brokers Specialize in Musician Liability Insurance: Learn more

To read more on Tour Insurance click here!

Topics: musical instrument insurance, concert insurance, band tour insurance

Blurring the Lines of Music Infringement Law - 3 Perspectives in One

Posted by Jeff Young on Jun 17, 2015 12:59:23 PM

Marvin Gaye vs. Robin Thicke and Pharrel Williams (Blurred Lines)

Marvin GayeImage credit: Shutterstock

For many years of my life, I have had the pleasure of enjoying three simultaneous careers. I am a senior member of the Bar of British Columbia, Canada focusing on entertainment law, I am a member of the State Bar of California, USA, regularly dealing with my colleagues in Hollywood, and I am a music producer and composer with a current co-write on the radio and a cue on a currently airing TV show. Very rarely does a legal case affect me in all three of my careers at once. The recent music infringement lawsuit between the Marvin Gaye estate vs Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over the songs Got to Give It Up (by Gaye) and Blurred Lines (by Thicke/Williams) does exactly this. As a result, I thought it would be interesting to present my commentary from all three of these perspectives, separately.

From the American lawyer’s perspective

The general understanding among attorneys practicing music law in America is that a composition infringes on another when there are substantial similarities between the melodies of one song versus that of another. The precedent setting cases have all generally ruled that similarities in chord progressions and general rhythmic feel – or as some would call it, the “groove” – does not constitute infringement. You need to have melodies that sound alike. In fact, mere similarities in the groove of a song is usually considered a genre. There is no copyright in a genre and there is no copyright in a chord progression.

In comparing Blurred Lines and Got to Give It Up, there is clear evidence that Thicke and Williams meticulously copied the groove of Got to Give It Up. There are also some similarities in the bass line of the two songs, but those similarities do not seem substantial. On a pure legal analysis, it would not seem like this was a case of infringement. However, the case went to a jury, who may have been influenced by the apparent bad attitude and demeanor of Robin Thicke in court. Also, no one in the public has seen the musicologist reports that stated that there was in fact compositional infringement, not just a copying of a feel, groove or genre.

Furthermore, jury decisions only decide individual cases based on fact. No reasons are delivered and technically, no legal precedent is set. The message to any disgruntled music creator is that regardless of the existing law and established precedents, if you take an infringement case to a jury, you may still win if you can convince them there was some form of copying, regardless of what aspects were copied and what the legal precedents say to the contrary.

What does the American music lawyer typically say when asked by a client who wants advice on what they can do before going into the recording studio? Prior to this decision, the advice given would be that the client can copy a feel, groove or genre, but you cannot copy melody lines, hooks (or lyrics, if any). Following this advice, the client is told that they will likely going to avoid a lawsuit because prior cases have held that it is reasonable to assume that we are all influenced by the feel, groove and genre of the music that we listen to and like, and that alone does not amount to an infringement. Now, while the American attorney can still technically say that the law really hasn’t changed, he or she will now have to further advise the client that any disgruntled music creator can still file a lawsuit, choose a jury trial, and convince the jury that there is infringement anyways – particularly if that client isn’t liked by the jury.

I have always believed that certain issues such as music copyright infringement should not be submitted to juries because juries lack the legal training necessary to make the correct legal decision. There is a tendency to ignore established law and go with what seems intuitively right based only on the facts, and decide accordingly, sometimes even when the judge’s instructions are otherwise. That leads to bad law. Juries in America are not obliged to give reasons, so we will never be able to tell if they understood what the law really was to begin with. This kind of uncertainty is scary. Really scary.

From the Canadian lawyer’s perspective

Canadian music lawyers will likely never face a case like this one. Music infringement cases are not decided by juries in Canada. They will be decided by judges who must provide legal reasons that at least can be appealed if the reasons appear incorrect. Also, an American trial jury decision with no reasons provided has no legal weight as precedent in Canada. So as a Canadian music lawyer, if a client asks me how to avoid infringement, I would still advise that you can copy a feel, groove or genre, but avoid copying melody lines (and lyrics, if applicable) and you are likely going to avoid a lawsuit because we are all influenced by the feel, groove and genre of the music we listen to and like the most.

However, most clients that come to me in Canada don’t just want a Canadian hit. Their dream is to have a hit in America on American radio. Therefore, it would not make sense for Canadian lawyers to completely ignore the Blurred Lines decision. In other words, while this decision has no formal effect on Canadian law, it will likely have some effect on Canadian music creators, especially those whose creative works cross the border, and it would be unwise for a Canadian entertainment lawyer to not point that out.

What is the result for Canada? Well, we now have one single jury in America rendering a decision (a decision involving their own interpretation of music law that they do not have to provide reasons or account to anyone else for) likely affecting the future behavior of most of the music creators in another country for a long time to come, even though the laws of their own country does not require them to behave that way. Bizarre.

From the Producer’s and Composer’s perspective

In the film industry, scripts are reviewed, potential infringements are identified, and the resulting clearance reports get sent to entertainment lawyers to review and to render opinions as to whether changes to the scripts are needed. This is all part of the “errors and omissions” process that because of the history of lawsuits in that industry, has become common and standard, if not virtually mandatory. Basically, the lawyers have to tell the filmmakers what is allowed on the screen, or not.

This “clearance process” also happens, in a lesser degree, with books. Literary publishers often retain lawyers to engage in a “libel read” of a book to identify possible legal risks before the book is released, and sometimes, risky portions of the book are edited out.

If the results of the Blurred Lines case continue in future jury decisions in this manner, the state of legal uncertainly may become such that major labels releasing records may become so concerned that they will have to adapt a similar process for the music industry. After all, this case resulted in verdict of over $7 million!

In other words, the “clearance reports” will have to be done by qualified musicologists who will review the entire album and identify potentially infringing phrases or “hooks”, and then submit those musicology reports to entertainment lawyers who will then render opinions on what can be left in and what has to be removed.

If this sounds ridiculous, I would remind you that I’m sure this seemed as ridiculous to filmmakers and book authors of past eras, but lawsuits in those industries have now made clearances commonplace. Basically, lawyers will have to tell the music producer what is allowed on the records, or not.

I’m not sure I would ever like this – even if I’m the lawyer clearing my own work!

As a composer, I am often asked by film directors to create “sound-alikes”, especially when the film is independently made and there is no budget to license a major hit song. A “sound-alike” is a music cue that copies a feel, groove or genre, but does not copy melody lines (or lyrics, if applicable) in order to avoid a lawsuit. Now, in view of the Blurred Lines case, this approach may not work anymore. Some questions that arise for the music composer: Is it reasonable to force all of these independent films to only license the hit music track when the director is only looking for a similar feel, groove or genre? How will these multi-million dollar awards affect the future careers of upcoming composers if they are living in fear of lawsuits for everything they try to create with an established feel, groove or genre?

In Conclusion - Music Infringement Law

The Blurred Lines decision introduces significant uncertainty into music infringement laws. This uncertainty is aggravated by the fact that juries are not required to render reasons for their decisions.

It is my understanding that Thicke and Pharrell have filed an appeal of this decision. I sincerely hope that the appeal will succeed at least in part – specifically, from the point of getting clarity on the legal principles involved.

I am much more concerned about that than which side winds up with the $7M. I just want the lines of music infringement law to be less blurred!

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JEFF YOUNG
- The Lawyer's Lawyer
- Educator and formerly practiced in-house with VANOC and UBCP
- Music Producer, composer and expert snowboarder
- Called in BC (1988) and California (2010)

Jeff Young, J.D. | Barrister & Solicitor | Trademark Agent (Canada and US) jy@arenaltman.com | Direct: 604.563.1192 Member Law Society of British Columbia, Canada | Member State Bar of California, USA (inactive) ALTMAN & COMPANY | Business and Entertainment Law Suite #202 – 2245 West Broadway Ave., Vancouver BC V6K 2E4

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Topics: musical instrument insurance, Entertainment Insurance, Film Producer's E&O Insurance, Altman & Company