Hello to the readers of Film Threat and to those filmmakers who Googled the search words: getting, copyright-free, music and film. Good news for everyone, your days of hanging out at smokey clubs listening to garage bands are over. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the millions of independent bands looking for exposure on MySpace.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tamera Sturgis and I have just completed my first documentary, titled “Under Pressure: Diary of a Cage Fighter’s Wife.” The film is loaded with Rap, Rock, Metal and Classical music. I had never shot, written, directed or edited, anything other than a home movie before I started this project. After the film was shot, I began asking anybody and everybody if they knew anyone in a band. I have been an over the road truck driver for the last thirteen years, so as you can probably guess, I don’t spend a great deal of time hanging out with garage bands.
Intro music was one of my biggest concerns. When the fighters come to the cage, they enter the stadium as music is playing. I contacted the music companies to inquire about the rights to these songs. Do you know how much money they want to use 30 seconds of a song? If you do, please let me know! (editorial note: it can be a lot of money) They never responded to my calls or emails. So, Kid Rock, if you stumble across this article, please tell your record label I would like a call back.
After getting the cold shoulder from Kid Rock’s label, I knew I needed to remove the songs and replace them with songs from an independent artist. I kept editing the film hoping that eventually, some day, I would find a couple of local bands to donate some music to my project. Some time later, I got a phone call from my friend, Jim Davis. He knew this guy named Anthony D’amato, who had some great songs that would probably work for the film. Jim told me “Go to MySpace, look up D’Amato. You can listen to his songs and see if they work.”
The songs were awesome! I put one song on the soundtrack and I used one for the film’s trailer. I then spent the next 72 hours on MySpace listening to artists. I was like a kid in a candy store: I can use that rock song for this fight, this classical song for that interview and this rap will be perfect for the fighter’s intro music. You have to look hard, but you can find music that rivals anything you have ever heard on a Steven Spielberg film.
Once I had a good selection of songs, I began contacting the bands and asking them for the rights to use their songs. I had a system. I would download their song (most of the bands allow you to download their songs) then I would place it roughly on the scene. I would then upload the scene to YouTube, send them a message asking to use their song with a link to the clip on youtube. The next couple of days were spent waiting with fingers crossed. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” were the responses I was getting.
Each deal was different. The typical deal went like this: I would give them some monetary compensation and they could use footage from my film for a music video, if they wanted. It was that easy… almost. Everyone is busy. Getting the simplest of things done on a film can take forever. I made it as easy as I could for the artists. I sent them a release along with a self addresses stamped envelope. They just had to sign the contract and send it back. If you try this yourself, be prepared to remind the artist that you sent the contract five months ago and again two months ago. The contract will probably come back with pizza on it, but hey, it has their signature.
The music I got from MySpace turned my glorified home movie into a contender. I recently got an email from a movie reviewer, “Liked your film, it was great and especially liked your score, it was perfect. I will definitely be giving you a positive review.” My score??? I guess he is talking about the classical music I got from Dominic Frasca and the band 13 strings. Since, I have had many similar responses.