Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Tip: #65: Sourcing music for your film

By Itsuka Yamasaki (Producer)

It is important to realise that you cannot just use any music from whatever source without permission. The music must be either written for, or cleared (licenced) for your film. We would like to suggest some possible routes you could take to source music for your film, providing that you are not after any really famous piece of music (which is both expensive and difficult and worth avoiding).

1. Use your composer all the way

If you have a composer on board, it is an option to ask him/her to do all the music, including opening and ending themes, any kind of background music (car radio, music played in a club scene etc) as well as the general score. In this case, the fee is as much as you negotiate with the composer and you only have to worry about one contract.

Ambleton Delight composer Iain Cameron.
His score for the film was nominated for a Best Score award.


MCPS acts as a kind of agent for professional musicians. To clear a piece of music, you only deal with MCPS online and you don’t need to obtain copyright separately. The rate will vary depending on the form of your film, but for Ambleton Delight and the trailer, I have calculated it would have cost 3750 GBP.

3. Other production libraries

There are other organisations and individuals that offer production music with varying costs. There are so many of them but here are a couple we can recommend:

Audio Network: http://www.audionetwork.com
Audiojungle: http://audiojungle.net/

4. Royalty-free/Creative Commons

There are some musicians and composers who write and provide music for free, as long as you credit them with a specific attribution and or mention the Creative Commons licence. Although be careful as there is some low quality material (midi files etc) out there!

A good example of such a high quality Creative Commons composer is Kevin MacLeod: http://incompetech.com/

4. Scout up-and-coming musicians.

This is the path we took with Ambleton Delight. We searched online and offline for artists with great music and we asked them if would they let us use their music free of charge in return for promotion. The only disadvantage is that you need to draw the contract yourself for each piece of music, but we believe it was well worth it!

To simplify the task, (with some exceptions) we only selected self-managed British musicians without a record deal. By this we were making sure that one person (or one group) held all the rights involved in the piece. Another thing to note that we made sure that the contract covered the entire production (trailers, website, Making Of… anything related to the film), not just the film itself. This saved us a lot of time and money.

Brighton band "Swallowing Shotguns"
provided some of their metal music for the film.

You can check out some of the excellent songs used in Ambleton Delight from here:


Regarding the legal side of music rights, there are good articles that offer relevant information such as these.



"DO THE RIGHT THING: The world of music licensing made simple" by Audio Network