As an indie filmmaker, I personally know how tough it is to acquire mainstream music for a project. It’s possible but definitely not easy or cheap. But help is on the way. There’s a quiet revolution underway. In the old days, you had to be a major Hollywood filmmaker, TV studio, or ad agency with a wad of cash to acquire rights to mainstream music. Now soundtrack possibilities for videographers, photographers, and independent cinematographers are expanding to include legally licensed, heavy-duty hits, thanks to a platform called Songfreedom.
With 39% of the world’s population on the Internet and expecting quick, on-demand services, Songfreedom is the user-friendly solution for creatives who could never before access popular songs legally. CEO Matt Thompson described the service: “We scoop up the rights to thousands of songs and make it possible for everyday people to use the music without any hassle, and it’s all available with a single click online. Rights owners have been very gracious to try our little experiment, and it’s paying off big-time for everyone.”
Songfreedom, born in 2010, surprised the music industry when it was the first company to offer pre-cleared sync licenses from labels like UMG, Sony, and WMG; and large publishers like UMPG, Sony/ATV, Warner/Chappell, Kobalt, BMG, Disney, Downtown, and Roundhill. Cleared for use are top-40 tracks by Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, One Republic, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Rob Thomas, American Authors, Marvin Gaye and many more. Also obtainable are songs by well-known indie artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Tyrone Wells, and The Afters. No one else has been able to secure pre-cleared licenses from all of these rights-holding giants. Songfreedom is the only place to get mainstream music for as little at $59.99 for one-time use.
Another result of Songfreedom’s egalitarian feat is more royalties for songwriters and their co-owners. Industry insiders say major labels don’t do pre-cleared deals, but Songfreedom proves them wrong. It smooths out the friction and helps a vast web of music co-owners say “yes” to licensing for smaller-budget productions. The result is “found money” for rightsholders, with pay-outs of millions. “If you own or represent music that’s not yet on Songfreedom with all of these icons,” remarks Thompson, “you should really check into it.”
The “eureka moment” that led the CEO to found Songfreedom came when a buddy shooting a wedding tried to brave the unwieldy, expensive process of acquiring rights to use a song. He couldn’t get a response from a record label—not that he could have afforded the licensing costs anyway. “Videographers’ options were either to use really awful, royalty-free, 1980s keyboard music legally or to use something that sounds good illegally,” explained Thompson. “For every single usage, you had to get permission from every label, their artist, as well as every publisher and their writers (of which there could be several). Everyone had to agree if the money was right for the use. Instead, we negotiate a set of rights for a nominal fee, as long as the music is used for specified purposes.”
Not surprisingly, Songfreedom’s rapid growth has coincided with customers learning to use an exploding range of technological options. One in three weddings now uses a professional videographer. Choosing beloved music to complement the visuals adds emotional context and shows experiences in their best light. Fans want their favorite music in videos about life experiences like weddings, holidays, sporting events, church events, sweet 16 parties, and bar and bat mitzvahs.
At the same time, TV networks, filmmakers, and advertisers have jumped in with sync and music supervision requests. One decades-old company making both mega-hit records and blockbuster films prefers to license their own songs for video content through Songfreedom, rather than deal with its own legal department. Songs licensed by Songfreedom can be found in ads for companies like Nike, Budweiser, Miller-Coors, Disney, and Microsoft, to name a few. Creators of corporate training courses and podcasters have also joined Songfreedom’s clientele.
Songfreedom’s skilled curation by real humans and content from all over the world complement the company’s enthusiasm for strong customer service. Playlists recommending tracks (by genre, mood, tempo, artist, instrumentation, and more) make it easy for users at all proficiency levels to plug in simple parameters and find what they’re looking for. Mainstream, indie, and production music are presented as a straightforward digest of the massive content available.
A videographer’s only choices used to be to either tarnish the video and the brand by using disappointing music or to steal from other artists and risk being sued. Songfreedom’s platform proves plenty of the “little guys” are willing to do the right thing—to pay reasonable prices to use music legally.