April 19, 2014

A Cautionary Tale On Using Unlicensed Music

The use of music, in its various form and situations, is one of the most misunderstood activities in the wedding industry. This can include use of background music on a website (an inherently idiotic idea for reasons other than licensing).

Music can be used in presentations, performances, and the like. In this example, the culprit is use of unlicensed music as part of a wedding video music bed. Almost any music may be licensed, if you jump through the proper forms, pay the piper, and comply with the limitations of the licensing agreement.

From a practical standpoint, major music and publishing companies can’t be bothered (or charge enough money) to allow proper use of songs from their catalog to accommodate a videographer and their client.

As an industry, we are well past the point of simply viewing wedding video clips on our own DVD or VCR. We know about scads of social media platforms, especially the big ones, such as YouTube.

Publish a video, featuring unlicensed music, and one takes a serious risk. A good outcome would be having your video deleted. A bad outcome would be having the video go viral and then receiving a bill for the money owed to the licensor.

The linked blog is a cautionary tale of mega-proportions. And should you think it can’t happen to you… well, you’d be dead wrong.

This is a MUST READ!!

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Blog

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  1. Andy, great article!! With so many ‘newbie’ DJs and Videographers out there, this is becoming a real problem! The problem of course is those of us who purchase and use our music LEGALLY at wedding receptions and such are having to compete with those who do NOT buy the music or use legally obtained music for weddings.

    It hurts everyone when the illegal businesses do this. The artist doesn’t get paid, the agents, advertisers office staff and more don’t get the income either.

    It’s getting more and more difficult for legal disc jockeys and video folks to get wedding business because the competition isn’t paying for something we must pay for and thereby allowing them to offer lower prices to brides and grooms for their services. Same goes with insurance, business licenses and in many cases even the tax man!

    I ask that EVERYONE try to educate the VENUES as well as the brides and grooms that they need to ask to SEE the licenses, insurance policies and such before allowing a disc jockey OR videographer to do business with them. Several wedding venues in our area are now requiring proof of these things at least 2 weeks in advance.

    It’s simply a matter of teaching them how to spot professionals as well as protecting everyone (bride, groom and venue) against lawsuits from unlicensed and uninsured businesses.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Alan,

    Thanks for the comment…

    Actually, the licensing gets more complex than this. There are several different types of licensing that apply in different situation.

    For example, owning a CD gives license for personal enjoyment. For disc jockeys, generally, performance (playing for an audience) is covered under the overall licensing paid by the venue or producer (for both live and recorded) under a blanket agreement.

    The ‘mechanical reproduction’ of a song by a videographer into a wedding DVD is what I’m focused on, in my blog, and the attached article. And THAT requires very different licensing.

    Everyone needs a “Philadelphia Lawyer” just to run a small business.


  3. Great blog. I always get nervous when I see websites and dvds with popular songs on them. These people are asking for a lawsuit. Royalty free music might cost a pretty penny, but not as much as a lawsuit.:-)

  4. Paul,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Your instincts on this are right on the button.


  5. Great article Andy!

    Always informative and sharp with great content!

  6. Pugh Ridley says:

    Calling it a “huge risk” is a bit of an overstatement. There are countless videos on the web with unlicensed music. I’d guess the majority of wedding videographers use unlicensed music. Those videos now get posted to website and social media sites.

    You’ve linked an article that brought one very high profile case to light. (How many videographers are going to film the wedding of a Dallas Cowboys QB who is regularly in the tabloids?)

    Should we license our music? Yes. It’s easier than ever to find great music at websites like Music Bed and YouLicense, along with a host of others. Will it be a battle, and do we lose business to companies and videographers who continue to use unlicensed music? Yeah, maybe a few jobs here and there.

    But the hyperbole by this post and in these first few comments irked me. Cease and desist letters usually come first – record labels and publishers know they’ll lose more money in a lawsuit then they could win against Joe Wedding Videographer.

    Good message, but overstated. Enough with the sensationalism.

  7. Point taken. I have downgraded the modifier from HUGE RISK to SERIOUS RISK.

    Thanks for your comment.


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