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Sourcing Licensed Music

Lesson 36 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

Sourcing Licensed Music

Lesson 36 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

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Lesson Info

36. Sourcing Licensed Music


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Spark That Inspired Me


What Are Family Films?


Gear for Family Films


Camera Settings for Video


Frame Rates & Slow Motion


Picture Profiles & Color Grading


Settings for Audio Capture


Lesson Info

Sourcing Licensed Music

The first thing that I do, once I've pulled all of the photos and the videos into the respective folders, then I start looking for music. The things that I'm looking for are usually something that's gonna match the personality of the family. There might be some lyrics that work, if I'm looking at songs that have lyrics in them, where it matches perfectly with a story that they've told me about their past, or the way that they feel about their kids, or anything like that. I'm looking for lyrics that are really, really going to be meaningful for them. I don't choose a lyrical song, or song with lyrics, just for the purpose of having a song with lyrics. I don't choose a cinematic song just for the purpose of not having lyrics. I'm really intentional with that, and I'm also aware of how much audio I have. So, if I have a lot of audio that's gonna be great, I'll lean probably more towards a cinematic song that is more instrumental. I very rarely will pick a song that is intended to be with ...

lyrics, and choose the instrumental version of it. It's very rare that I'll do that. The reason for that is that it rarely builds in a way, you don't get the same... It might build, because songs with lyrics also build, but it just feels different. A lot of times, it's really repetitive and you don't notice that when there's lyrics over the top, but it's structured in a different way. It's definitely more structured than a cinematic song. A cinematic song is a little bit more abstract feeling, there's definitely a gradual build usually with a cinematic song, it builds up into a crescendo. In musical terms, you've got a crescendo, which means that the volume gets louder, usually more instruments that are added a lot of times, and when I talk about a build, that's usually a crescendo. A decrescendo is when it goes back down, so when the audio kinda starts to fall away, the music starts to fall away. The cinematic songs tend to have a pretty obvious build to a climax point, and then it kind of falls away to the end, right? That tends to be the way they work. Songs with lyrics usually have a verse, and then a chorus, and then a verse, and a chorus. There might be a bridge, and then there's usually an ending. Depending on the song, they can all be very different. But, when you are choosing a song that has lyrics, it's intended for lyrics, and you just choose the instrumental version, then you still have that same sectioned-out bit, and it just feels different. So, if I'm looking specifically for a song that doesn't have lyrics, then I'm going to lean towards cinematic when I'm doing my search. People are always like, "Where do you buy your music from?" It's really important for people who are new to this, you cannot use popular music that you hear on the radio for your family films. It's not okay. You need to license it, and if you try to license that music, then you would pay thousands of dollars in order to do so. You really need to respect the artist. We are all photographers, we're all artists here. You would hate it if someone just went out and took your photos and started using them for their business, right? That's not okay. So don't do that to these artists who are on the radio. It just doesn't work. And the thing is, is that these days, places like YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, they will find out. They have things in place to stop this from happening. You might have seen this already, you might find it hard. Don't put all the work into editing a film to music, then try to upload it, and realize "Oh crap, they won't let me put this up here." Because it's copyrighted music. So what you need to do, there's lots of websites out there where you can purchase music in a legal way that you can use for your business. My preference is Musicbed. Musicbed is one that I love using. I feel like they have the best music. They are on the more expensive side. So, you're looking at a promotional use license of around $199 US. You need to bill that into your pricing if you're planning on spending that for your film that you're doing. That's a per-use license. So, you're not buying it, and you can use it on five other films. You can use it on one film, okay, and then you need to repurchase it if you plan on using it again. That is the license that allows you to use it for your business. If you're planning on putting your logo at the end of it, this is the license you need to purchase. There's a personal license, and a wedding use license, which is okay if you're just giving the film to the client, and it's not gonna be online. It's $50. It's not gonna be online, you're just giving it to the client, it doesn't have your logo at the end of it, it's not also doubling as promoting your business. It's the promotional license that you need if you're planning on having your logo at the end of it, putting it on your website, or putting it on your social media, or putting it on your business Vimeo page. So be really aware of that. Soundstripe is another really great option. This is a place that I've started going to. It's more of a subscription based website. I don't know what it is by memory, I'm gonna say like $15 a month or something, and you can pay it annually as well, and you get access to the entire catalog, and you can just choose however many songs throughout the month that you wanna use. You still need to create a license for it, but it's included in your monthly price. You're not paying extra for it, and you can use that for your business, and you can even use it for paid advertising as well. So, that covers you. The Soundstripe license covers you. What's also great about Soundstripe is that that license covers you whether you are still subscribed to Soundstripe or not. Be very wary of some of the ones that are out there. If you're subscribed, and then you end your subscription, you need to make sure that the license still covers you after your subscription runs out. Otherwise, you need to be subscribed for the entire time that you have that song on your website used in a film. So, check that when you're looking at other websites that offer a subscription based model. Musicbed I think is gonna come out with a subscription based model, but I haven't seen that yet. I think at the moment it's still pay per use, but I could be wrong about that. Although, I just purchased one and I didn't see that anywhere, but I think that's coming. So, those are the two ones that I use the most. There's other ones, Triple Scoop, Premium Beat, there's lots out there. So, do some research and figure out what you like. What I like about Musicbed is it's a lot of independent artists and the music is good. And for me, music is such a big deal. Having a music background, I can just pick music and it just feels different, so I'm really particular about the songs that I use. I never use the same song for another family. It's one time, I never go back and do another family with the same song. And yes I do worry about running out of music eventually. I really hope they just keep adding, but they do, they keep adding to the catalog and I just hope that I... (laughs) There's always something, I'm always like, "I really hope I can find a song today." But I usually do, because every family is different. One of the things that I do when I'm looking for music is, in both websites you have the ability to create a playlist for yourself, and within the playlist, I have one that's called Family Films. So I'll be listening to music, and if I hear a song that I'm like, "It's not right for this family, but it's a good song that might work for another family," I'm gonna pop that in my playlist, and then the next time I come to look for songs for a family, I go to my playlist first, and it reduces the amount of time that I need to spend searching through music. Makes things a little bit more efficient for me, and saves me time. So, those are kinda my tricks for finding and sourcing music. I tend to lean towards a singer/songwriter kind of vibe if I'm going with lyrics. I usually will put in, you can often sort through genre, you can sort by mood a lot of time as well. So, like happy, or love, or carefree, things like that. You can sort by beats per minute if you want to. So if you want something that's medium paced, slow, fast paced, things like that. I don't often go with fast paced music because I'm using slow motion, so it's really important that the song matches the pace of the footage as well, and if I was doing that, there'd be a lot of cuts. I'd have to make a lot of cuts in my slow motion. It just wouldn't fit as well, and I also can get into sorta really moody music as well. But the main thing that I'm looking for is just emotion. I just want music that's gonna move me, and that I love listening to, because I'm gonna be listening to it over and over, for a really long time. So, it needs to be something that's not annoying, and is beautiful, and that I feel not only fits the family, but also fits my brand. That's really important. I think you really need to match the two, and typically that's gonna not be a problem, because people are probably booking you that love your stuff and love your style anyway, but it's something that I always think about. I want to make sure that whatever music it is that I'm putting out there is something that I'm good with my brand being associated with. Again, I guess that kinda goes back to the fast paced stuff or the slow stuff, so it depends on what I feel about the family, and also what I think is gonna best suit my brand. You had a question, go ahead. I was curious if you don't mind sharing some of your go-to filters. You know when you were talking about happy and love on Soundstripe, what are some of your favorite go-to? Yeah, happy and love. (laughs) Love, they're sort of different, Soundstripe and Musicbed have some different ones, beautiful, serene, singer/songwriter for sure. Folk sometimes, if I'm feelin' a little country. But yeah, Indie sometimes, although you have to add other filters with that one, and then, cinematic. So, definitely cinematic, 'cause I'm looking in that genre for that, and then you can do cinematic and then a mood. So cinematic and hopeful, or cinematic and carefree. So, combining the two is good, and that just helps save you some time. Another thing that I do is when I pull up a filter, I skip page one, and I just go to page three or page four. 'Cause I've probably already heard all the ones on page one, and page two. So, I skip. Then, I might listen to some stuff that I hadn't heard before. Then, sometimes I'll do a really, really basic filter, or I'll go in to see whatever they've added that's new, that's brand new, or I'll do a really basic filter. On Soundstripe recently they had, sometimes I'll go into their playlists, because, I think, there was one that was recent that was like a sittin' by the fire playlist or something like that, that was acoustic... (indistinct audience comment) Hmm? Yeah. (laughs) [Woman In Audience] Was it young and free or free and young or something like that? No, but I've seen that one too. Okay, that one was next to the campfire one. I know what one you're talking about. There was like a campfire one, and then there's also one that's like a minimalist one. I've gone into that one too and searched. So, the thing about Soundstripe song is you've just gotta be careful that it doesn't, it's not too cutesy. That' what I find about it, it's kinda really corporate cutesy, a lot of the stuff. So, you kinda really have to search. It's like finding a needle in the haystack kinda thing with Soundstripe. But the song that I did for the Nolan family, which is one of the first films that I opened with earlier in the class, that was a Soundstripe song, and that was really, really beautiful, so they do exist, and they are adding stuff, and they're a Nashville based company. So they're always looking, they're in the music scene, they're always looking for more. I think they're just gonna keep getting better, that's my hope anyway. I wanted to touch too, very quickly, before we move on, is that the promotional license for Musicbed doesn't allow you to boost your post. It doesn't cover paid advertising. It only covers promotional. Just know that, okay? So, Soundstripe, it does. So, if you want to boost your post on social media, and you've used a Musicbed song, you need to contact them and ask them for a quote for an upgrade, alright? So just don't get called out on that.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Shot List Worksheet Template
Shot List Worksheet Example
Ideas for Your First Film
Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Adam Nicholls

Worth a watch! Courtney provides a clear and organised class, she is also very passionate about what she does which is always nice to see. She has a great back story which is fantastic. This course is good for beginners who have some knowledge in photography and want to learn more about video. I would recommend that people do not refer this class to the bible of filmmaking as I feel you can expand further on what Courtney teaches. Some useful tips for beginners but some methods I personally feel can be taught differently. I feel a gimbal is a useful bit of kit if used correctly. You can still use a gimbal when in manual mode providing you follow the basics rules! Obviously if Courtney prefers not to use a gimbal then that's also fine but I wouldn't discourage students from exploring useful filmmaking tools. Slow motion can be achieved with 50/60fps however I feel other frame rates should have been discussed like 120fps. I liked that Courtney engaged with the students as it gets them involved and will help them remember what they have learned during the class. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your knowledge

a Creativelive Student

Courtney's work is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I feel lucky that she has chosen to share her process and that this class is available! After watching all the videos and trying my hand at this video thing, I am feeling really encouraged and inspired to do more- both personally and professionally. I appreciate the way that she breaks things down in the video and that she shares her thought process. A really great course!


Courtney’s course completes me! I have storytelling “holes” in my film previously, but this course helped fill those holes to create a flow and a film with emotion. Not only is the course wonderful (and well worth every penny) but Courtney is wonderful as well! I had such an amazing experience at Creative Live!!!!

Student Work