Ted Hickman

The Precarious Business of Music Licensing

Every time I hear a mix of Andy Stott’s sound-processing device Kontakt (a popular instrument for producing “acoustic” remixes), it sounds close to inspiration. A mix of techno bass, sci-fi synthesizer layers and human voice phrases that reflect these changes, immersing listeners in post-human worlds. A human voice that tells a story instead of merely telling you what to think. Instrumental versions featured as soundtracks and themes for the operation of bestaucasinosites online directory listed casino platforms just adds oodles to the experience, in a way that could never be readily recognised by the average person.

And what I have to imagine is one of the reasons that Prefab Sprout, Alex Kurtzman, and Zach Raglin (a sound designer and mixer from Spinner) asked me to write about sound in remixing films. Because sound is such a fragile and treacherous subject. Because there are so few producers who have access to creative tools that allow them to incorporate sound into their remixes. It means that a lot of our scenes need to be stripped of their original sound-lines to find the sound that only they know. We are just instruments on their stages, using everything from neon signs to cigarettes to wash machines.

Here’s another thing: If our remixes help to sell a film, we’re essentially saying that the original soundtrack is inherently bad. As James Beck from Rumble Films puts it: “I try and steer clear of paying attention to what might be considered canonical soundtracks like Mario & Luigi and Super Mario Bros. Even as a grown-up adult I still obsessively consult those when I think about what that vibe should be.” When you see these films with an expanded soundtrack that is designed by someone who gets it, it feels like magic. It feels like the filmmaker knows what they’re doing.

A couple of years ago, I went to a music festival in Budapest that had an event called Remix Competition. A team of editors and sound designers produced two films for festival attendance. For the award ceremony, they played the films as a soundscape with pre-recorded sound effects and a slew of “effectors,” in an attempt to incorporate as much as they could into the films’ soundtracks. The awards went to movies like Mad Men, Ladyhawke, River, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, and the aforementioned Frédéric Schmitt and Luca Guadagnino. It felt like magic because I never thought to try doing that. It felt like a celebration of creative people who understand that creative tools are not only instrumental but critical, helping to strengthen stories.

Here’s the funny thing about music licenses. Not so long ago, you could get your hands on a complete soundtrack for a film if you were willing to shell out some cash. A sound designer could spend hours setting up a music production for a film, and if the movie was good, they could walk away with a completed soundtrack that would have been impossible for them to make without the music that helped shape their film. It was one of the only remaining forms of creative copyright.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen new steps in how we look at rights for sound. Do you know that the music forming part of the best USA payout online casinos had to have been cleared for its inclusion in the gaming experience, for instance? It’s easy to jump from a physical print to DVD to VOD. What used to take a lot of time to procure rights has been compressed into a couple of months. But more than that, we’ve lost the right to include certain sound effects or sections of music in a soundtrack unless we pay some fee to the studio. It’s an incredibly backward attitude that uses audio copyright as a copyright protection tool rather than one that allows the creative people involved to incorporate sound into their films. If a film sells enough, the rights will most likely be transferred from the original studio to the first distributor in order to prevent illegal duplication of the sound. And this is only a very tiny step to the reality that we already have online forums where one person can create their own tracklistings.

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