Representatives from music provider Killer Tracks, including Vice President – Sales Anna Maria Hall
, and Vice President – Production Carl Peel, 
recently hosted an evening of information on music clearances and sound design at Film Independent. Here are some of the highlights.


Two Music Clearances You’ll Need

Master Use: Rights to the recording of a particular song.

Intellectual property rights:  The right to use that song. (e.g: rights to use a cover of that song)

Music publishers own the copyright. Record companies own the recording rights. Start with publishers rather than record companies because if you acquire the intellectual property rights you can still work with the song (such as record your own cover of the song). Let the music publishers and record companies know what the expectations are for your film. If your film will just play small festivals, let them know. They will usually try to work with you.


Three Routes to Scoring Your Low-Budget Indie Film

Work with an inexpensive composer. One cost-cutting route is to hire a junior composer from an intensive graduate music composition school. They’re often highly skilled and eager to add credits to their resumes.

Use music libraries. Production music libraries, such as Killer Tracks, are often less expensive and time consuming than buying the rights to pre-existing songs.

Hire up-and-coming bands to score the film. This is a practical way to craft a distinct sound for your film that is catered to each scene and won’t break the bank.


The film 'Bellflower' was able to license popular music for discounted rates. A rare story in indie film.

The Slippery Slope of Temp Love – Beware!
The term “temp love” is often a reference to experimenting with popular music on a temporary basis while editing a project. Filmmakers become attached to the music and can’t imagine the film without it but they can’t afford the rights. Prevent this heartbreak by avoiding music you know you can’t afford. One rare success story of “temp love” is the case of the low-budget, Film Independent Spirit Award-nominated feature Bellflower. The filmmakers were able to gain clearances to very popular songs through non-traditional means. Read the Bellflower case study for more information.


Lessons in Failure – Time-Sensitivity Vs. Music Clearances
Killer Tracks’ VP of Production Carl Peel recalled when he “failed the most” while working as a sound designer on an independent film. “I didn’t give the writer/director clear expectations” of what the music clearances process entails. Two weeks shy of submitting the film to The Sundance Film Festival, Peel had just begun to reach out to music publishers for the rights to the film’s music. “I knew it took forever to hear back from the music publishers, but [the filmmaker] didn’t know that. We were in a rush.” This last-minute scramble to finalize a film’s music is a common indie filmmaking dilemma.

It typically takes two weeks to get a response from music publishers. Regardless of who is managing the music, be sure to let your production team know the time constraints for clearing music far in advance.


by Lee Jameson for Film Independent

January 30th, 2012 • No Comments

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