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Monday, August 30, 2010

DIY Performance Video – Part 2: Post-Production

Last month, I described the pre-production planning process and the DIY video shoot done with the band Sugar Water Purple. Now let’s step through the DIY post-production process used to finish up the video.

First, I wanted to recap a few decisions we made in the pre-production process that came up in reader comments to last month’s story. (See the link at the end of the story to read Pt. 1)

One reader pointed out that we used a stationary camera position for the 5:00+ song and suggested having multiple cameras would have made the video more exciting. While this is true, a multi-camera shoot would have required more time and editing than our project allowed for. The purpose of the video was to see what type of quality we could get sticking to a simple, one-camera, one-take approach.

Another reader questioned why we bothered to record the audio to a separate device, instead of taking the audio mixing board output and plugging it directly into the cameras. While this is an option, the audio recording capabilities of most consumer-grade video cameras do not offer the type of headroom that will make for good audio reproduction. Just look at the thousands of self-made performance videos on YouTube where this approach was tried to hear poorly balanced or distorted audio tracks.< Alternately, using the camera’s on-board microphone rarely results in a decent audio track for a full band. If you are a solo performer with acoustic guitar and vocals, you might get a decent result using the camera’s on-board mic, but using higher quality external mics and a separate audio recorder will always yield a better-sounding audio track for a band. That’s why we chose to do a separate live audio mix to the Zoom recorder and match the audio and video recordings up in post-production. The live mix came out clean and very representative of what the band actually sounds like live. This was one of the goals that the band was looking for, to capture what they sounded and looked like in a live setting.

While the band was packing up their equipment after the shoot, I pulled the SD Memory card out of the Zoom recorder and, using a universal card reader, downloaded the audio mixes for all four complete takes of “Before This Began” to my computer.

At home that night, I plugged in both of our cameras and, one at a time, transferred the video recordings to my Mac. The trick to making this a snap is to first open the iMovie application (which comes free on all new Macs). When I plugged in the camera’s USB cable, the software automatically recognized the camera and asked me if I wanted to import the video files into iMovie.

After clicking “Yes,” it took about five minutes to download the normal resolution video we shot with the Canon F200. Then I repeated the process for the HF200 camera, and that took a little more than 30 minutes to download the larger, high definition video files.

A few days later, Dan and I got together at my house and started checking the audio mixes. All four complete takes came out fine, but as we expected, take four had the best overall audio mix. The audio was saved as 16-bit, 44.1K .WAV files, with the complete song taking 59.7 MB of disc space. Next, we reviewed take four of the video recordings from both cameras. What we noticed was that the tripod we had used under the FS200 didn’t work properly, so each time the cameraman zoomed or panned the camera, there was a slight, but perceptible amount of jitter, which ended up rendering the footage from the FS 200 unusable. All was not lost, however, since our second camera, the HF 200, had a much sturdier, fluid head tripod that performed as expected.

In hindsight, shooting with two cameras was a good safety measure: had we only used the FS 200 video, we would have had to reschedule another shoot. A simple, but essential piece of equipment, such as a tripod, should never be taken for granted when making your own DIY videos.

The second thing we realized was that we had used the high definition mode on the HF 200 and the resultant video had much greater contrast and definition than the footage from the FS 200. So the second lesson is, if you can borrow a camera that is high definition-capable, take advantage of that to capture the original video in the highest possible resolution.

To complete the post-production process we faced four distinct linear tasks. These were:
1. Syncing up the audio recording with the video
2. Trimming the beginning and end of the selected video recording
3. Adding opening titles and the band’s MySpace address as closing credits
4. Posting the finished video to YouTube.

At the start of our post-production session, we had a complete video recording of the song and a separate complete audio recording of the song. The first thing we learned was that iMovie requires you to start the editing process by opening a “New Project,” which would become the finished version of the video. In my opinion, this is one of iMovie’s best design features, because as you edit your video in the new “Project,” your original source video is never changed, so you always have that as a back up.

Step One: Syncing Audio with Video

We had relied on our own DIY substitute for the electronic pulse and SMPTE time code that would have been generated by a professional clapper system. By focusing each camera on me while I held up a sign with the take number and counting down before clapping my hands, we hoped that we could adequately synchronize our separate audio recording to the video. Now it was time to find out if this would really work.

The raw video showing in our project window had the compressed and echo-y sound that was recorded using the HF200’s on-board mic. Dan went to the Edit menu and selected “Detach Audio,” which separates the camera audio from the video. This audio now showed it as a separate colored band underneath the video strip. Since we weren’t going to use any of the on-board audio, we deleted the track.

Next, we minimized the iMovie app, opened the folder with the separately recorded audio mixes, and dragged the audio track onto the computer desktop. Then we dragged the .WAV file over into iMovie and dropped it right over the camera audio track in the project window.

While the audio import was a snap, getting it in sync with the performance proved to be a bit more challenging.

The audio mix landed roughly three seconds ahead of when the video performance actually began. Dan was able to click on the beginning of the audio track and drag it to the right (later in the project window) and after a few tries, we had the visual of me clapping fairly close to the sound of the handclap on the audio track from the Zoom.

It only took about ten seconds of viewing before we realized that we were still out of sync, but by a much smaller amount.

The other thing we noticed was that the newly imported audio volume was a bit low. By double-clicking on the project video, the Inspector pop-up menu box appears, which allows you to fine tune video or audio for your project. Dan selected “Normalize Clip Volume,” which boosted the audio level nicely for the overall audio mix.

Watching the drummer and matching up the sticks hitting his hi-hat and cymbals was one good way to check our sync. The song’s chorus also featured some aggressive chords on guitar, which was another visual “hit” that had a correspondingly clear audio element we could check. The third cue we looked at closely was our singer’s mouth, and the sound of her breathing on the audio mix. What we discovered as we worked to accurately sync up the audio and video was that the original hand clap sync only got us so close.

In other words, the video and audio of the handclap would appear perfectly in sync at the top, but when we closely watched the band’s performance, and the “hits” we were tracking, we found that we were still off by a few frames. (Each second of video is broken down into thirty smaller units, called frames.) It actually took us about 30 minutes of painstaking experimentation before we finally had the sync close enough to move on to the next step.

Although it was tedious and time-consuming, we had proven that we could marry a separate audio recording to the video successfully, resulting in a much better audio track than the on camera mic had captured. Dan and I agreed the extra hassle in recording audio separately and syncing up had been worth it, as our mix was clean and had a full frequency sound that no on-board camera mic would have captured.

Step Two: Trimming the Video Recording

Dan set the spots where we wanted the live performance to begin about five seconds before the music began. The most intuitive way to do this is to use the software’s “Precision Editor,” which shows as a small gear wheel when you roll your mouse pointer over your project’s video clip. Then you simply drag the little handles at the front and back of your project video to determine where the project’s video will begin and end. (If you want more precision, holding down Option and then using the left or right arrow allows you to adjust the Trim Point one frame at a time.)

The day of the video shoot, I had instructed the band to freeze for about fifteen seconds between takes, being sure to mute their instruments completely and avoid talking or making any noise. This proved helpful as Dan set the start point at five seconds before the song started (to allow for a fade in to set the stage) and ended (for the fade out). We played back the entire video recording back in high definition to confirm that we liked the start and ending points before moving on to adding the titles.

Part Three will detail the process of adding titles and publishing the video to YouTube.

Special thanks to Dan Faughnder, Erik Urbina, Ralph Roberts, Middagh Goodwin and the band Sugar Water Purple for collaborating on this project. Thanks also to James Gonzalez, Jeff Crawford, Jace Hargis and Dave Chase for the loan of various pieces of video and audio gear.

by Keith Hatschek for

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

DIY Performance Video Part 1: Pre-Production and the Shoot

As I was filling my car with gas the other day, a television was blaring commercials to me at the pump. Video has become the ubiquitous window that allows us to glimpse the good, the bad, and plenty of the ugly aspects of 21st century life. According to the latest Nielsen Television Audience Report, there are now more televisions (2.93) in the average American household than there are people (2.54), and an average of two computers per four-member family. We are a video culture, so for anyone working to build a career in music, one of the best tools to use in creating a buzz is video.

Videos come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets. They can serve many different purposes. Many bands make a video of every live performance to review and improve their show. Others work with top filmmakers to create elaborate mini-movies with six-figure budgets. Some use video as a documentary medium, recording life on the road, or the making of a new album. With the explosion of low-cost, high-quality video equipment and software, making videos is within the reach of any musician who wants to use the medium for his or her benefit.

Just how easy and how affordable making your first performance video can be is the subject of this two-part story. Before starting any video project, it’s important to determine realistic expectations for the amount of time and money you want to invest. It’s also essential to decide who the audience for your video will be, as well as its purpose. For example, hard-core fans of an established band will relish a backstage and tour bus shaky-cam diary. However, labels and managers will likely want to see a more polished video product.

For this DIY project, I contacted a local eight-piece band, Sugar Water Purple, and asked them if they would like to have me put together a live performance video to help promote the band. They agreed. We discussed possible dates, what song they would like to record, and I arranged to attend a rehearsal to meet the band and listen to some of their original songs.

My next step was to make decisions about some of the technical aspects of making the video. Generally speaking, there are three stages to making any music video: pre-production, the actual video recording (usually dubbed the “shoot”), and post-production. We’ll cover the first two steps in this article and go through the post-production process in the second part of this story next month.

Sugar Water Purple and crew at the DIY video shoot.
The first step was deciding the purpose of the video shoot with Sugar Water Purple. Basically, it would serve as a promo video and another tool to refine their stage presence. The next step was to determine the budget. Basically, the budget was as close to zero dollars as I could keep it, as I planned to borrow all necessary equipment to create a finished video. The next decision was one that would impact the post-production timeline significantly: to shoot one continuous take of the performance, or to use two or more cameras and then edit between the different camera shots to create the finished video.

Based on the goals agreed to with the band and the amount of time I had available for the project, I decided to shoot one continuous take, in order to save time and effort in the post-production phase. Multi-camera shoots utilize editing or live-switching between cameras or shots and are a more complex undertaking. They can require days or weeks of post-production, depending on the level of detail and quality for which you are aiming, and a proportionally larger budget.

As a safety measure, I decided we’d have two video cameras recording each take, so that we would have a choice of two versions for each take of the song. The next important decision was where to shoot the video. One of the keys to making a decent quality video is to find a setting with adequate lights. (There’s no such thing as too many lights in the world of video!) Daytime hours at a club or concert venue often provide an ideal setting. I contacted Middagh Goodwin, a friend who operates a local non-profit music cooperative, the Plea for Peace Center, in my hometown.

He agreed that we could use the stage, lights and sound equipment in the club to shoot a video on a Sunday afternoon for a small rental fee. I visited the venue during a load in before another concert and decided that I would use black plastic sheeting available at any hardware store to cover the side walls on the stage area which were a little the worse for wear. The wall directly behind the stage was already painted black. Having a black background eliminates distractions from the focal point for the video, the artist. Although the stage was small, the band had performed there before and assured me that they could squeeze in the available space. There were two adjustable-height lighting trees, each with four lighting instruments and a separate dimmer for each one. The materials used to color each light, called gels, and were red, blue, purple, and yellow, which I decided would be adequate for our project.

Yamaha MG 16/4 sound board used for the mix.
With the venue and lighting requirements set, the next pre-production decision centered on how to handle the audio. Sound is usually the most overlooked element in DIY video production. How would we get the audio from Sugar Water Purple’s live performance onto our finished video?

As reported in the recent Echoes post, “Using Video as a Learning Tool,” most consumer video cameras have a very inexpensive microphone that is designed to capture audio at a family reunion, wedding, or vacation destination – but definitely not the sound of an eight-piece band. I decided we would do a live audio mix of the band, similar to what would be done if there were an audience at the venue. We’d send a separate mix to an audio recorder, which like our cameras, would be borrowed. During my site visit to the venue, I found out that the Yamaha MG 16/4 mixer, power amps and speakers, 8-channel snake, six dynamic mics, assorted cables and mic stands would be at our disposal.

Zoom H4n digital audio recorder used to record the stereo audio tracks.
I downloaded the operation guide for the mixing board and found out that it would allow for ten XLR audio inputs, which would have to be enough for the audio track for our video. I contacted a friend and he offered to lend me his new Zoom H-4n pocket recorder for the audio recording.

Next, I made a few calls and tracked down two video cameras and tripods, which I could borrow over a weekend. Both were flash memory devices, so there would be no video tape or disc to worry about, making the recording process that much easier. One was the Canon FS 200, a very small, but high quality video camera that has a list price of $299. The second was a Canon Vixia HF 200 (street price $750), which is capable of recording in high definition. Each camera owner also loaned me a tripod and the attendant cables for charging and downloading the video to a computer via USB.

We had settled on a particular day and time for the video shoot and then went over how many mics and direct boxes would be needed to record the audio. This resulted in the first compromise we had to make on the project. Working with the band’s trumpeter, Dave Creel, I had developed an input list that called for 12 channels. After checking the house sound board and realizing we only had 10 XLR inputs on the board, we decided to do without the two background vocal mics, which for “Before This Began,” only occurred in one brief passage. Here’s our final input list.

The band had been recording their new album at their rehearsal space, and while attending practice, I noticed that they had good quality mics on the kick drum and overheads. They agreed to bring those to the video shoot. The venue had six working dynamic mics, so I got on the phone and called a local sound man who agreed to loan me another Shure SM-58, two direct boxes, some black gaffer’s tape, and 6 AC extensions cords. The other friend who was loaning us the H-4n digital audio recorder, kindly allowed us to raid his studio for 12 mic cables and two ¼” – ¼” cables to go from the sound board to the Zoom’s inputs. I asked three colleagues to act as crew, Ralph and Erik would each operate a camera, and Dan would do the audio mix. Here’s our gear checklist:

Gear Checklist
Microphones/DIs – drum mics provided by band; 6 mics at venue; 1 SM-58 and 2 DIs on loan
Camera Gear – 2 Canon video cameras on loan
Audio Gear – Zoom H-4n digital audio recorder with card reader; Headphones and 1/8” adapter; 12 XLR mic cables; ¼” output cables for stereo mix; all on loan
Miscellaneous – Black plastic sheeting; black gaffer’s tape; case of water; AC extension cords

As the day for our shoot drew closer, I asked the band to send me an MP3 of the song they had chosen for the video, so the video crew could familiarize themselves with the song’s arrangement. Next, I hit the hardware store and bought a 20’ x 50’ (4 mil thickness) roll of black plastic sheeting and the grocery store for a case of water. As I drove around town collecting all the gear on the Friday afternoon before our Sunday shoot, I realized the pre-production phase of making the video was over.

The Shoot
The crew met at my house at noon. We headed down to the venue and began our set up. I had asked the band to arrive at 1:30 PM for the load in, figuring that by 2 PM, we would be setting sound levels, tweaking light placements and ready to start recording by 2:30 which would allow us to record until 4:30 PM, as we had to be out of the venue by 5 PM. I had decided that rather than recording a variety of songs, we’d focus on getting a really strong performance of just one song, which we all had agreed would be a plus for promoting the band.

The first thing we did was to clear the stage area and measure, cut and hang the black plastic sheeting on the stage’s side walls. Then we set up our mics and stands and tested each one. We discovered a few buzzing cables and replaced them with some of the cables we had brought. (We marked every cable we brought to the venue with a piece of blue painter’s tape, to avoid any confusion on the load-out, as to what gear belonged to whom.) We moved the lighting trees to the far edges of the stage to maximize room for the band and decided that we would turn the house speakers toward the band, which with the three floor monitors, would allow the band to hear one another. Dan decided to send a separate Auxiliary (Aux) mix to the musicians onstage. He’d then use the board’s main faders and Control Room stereo output to feed the stereo mix to the Zoom.

The Canon HF 200 and Velbon 607 fluid panhead tripod.
Since the band would be playing live with Dan in the same room, we brought headphones that he would use to adjust the stereo mix during recording and to check playback after each take. We did a test recording with each camera and the Zoom and awaited the band. Meanwhile, Erik and Ralph experimented with their camera settings, zoom capabilities and practiced how to use the tripod to smoothly move the camera horizontally across the stage (called “panning”).

We decided not to take any chances on battery life and plugged both cameras into AC power. As it turned out, there was quite a difference between the two tripods. One was bare bones, a no frills model, which turned out to be less than ideal.

The second was a much better tripod, the Velbon Videomate 607 Mini-Pro Panhead (Street price $85 with carry bag). It featured a damping system that greatly minimized any shaking or jitter when the camera was panned. With the inexpensive tripod, every time we panned the camera across the stage, there was noticeable jitter. Any jitter will likely be a real distraction, so if you don’t have access to a better quality tripod with a fluid head, it’s worth buying or renting one for your video shoot if you plan on making any camera moves at all while recording.

The Canon FS 200 camera with its view of the stage during set up.
At 1:30, the band called saying that their Sunday morning gig at a local church had run long and they would be late. They arrived around 2 PM and quickly set up. We had to experiment with where to place everyone and in the end, squeezed in the band by carefully angling the three horn players and moving the light tree on their side of the stage onto the floor. We were ready for the first run through of the song. As the band ran down the song and Dan worked on his audio mix, I adjusted the lights to try to ensure every member of the eight-piece ensemble was lit adequately. Josh, the keyboard player, was in the back corner and hard for the camera to see, so I grabbed an incandescent work light and used it to illuminate the wall behind him. This added just enough depth so that he became more visible to the camera. Problem solved!

Thinking ahead to post-production, I knew one of the key challenges would be to seamlessly combine the video and audio recording of the song. Professional film and video teams rely on an electronic clapper system that sends an electronic pulse to all the recording devices being used on a shoot, thereby allowing easy synchronization in the post-production phase of the project. Staying with our DIY plans, I simply made up a paper cue sheet with the song title and take number written on it, then stepped on stage before each take. Erik and Ralph zoomed in on me while I verbally counted down to a handclap, which was recorded simultaneously on the audio and video recording devices in real time. We planned to use this handclap to synch up the two recordings later in post-production.

I had told the band that since we would be filming complete takes, if they made a significant mistake to go ahead and stop. Over the next hour, the band did four complete takes of the song, interspersed with a few false starts. After the first complete take, I asked the band to look and listen to what we were getting on video and audio, so that they wouldn’t be surprised later when the video was completed.

Although we were limited to 8 mic and 2 line inputs, Dan was able to craft a clean audio mix that the band loved.
After a few suggestions on the balances between the various instruments and a discussion about whether more or less camera movement fit the mood of the song, we got back down to recording and completed takes two, three, and four. Dan was tweaking his mix and by the fourth take, he felt he had a workable balance for the stereo mix of the song.

Again, we asked the band to listen to take four and approve the mix. They also looked the video to ensure that they were happy with the results. I also listened carefully to the mix and spot-checked both of the video recordings. Everyone agreed: take four was the “keeper.” We began the process of tearing down the gear. Using a digital memory card reader, I actually started the post-production process by downloading the stereo audio mixes from the Zoom to my MacBook Pro computer as the band and crew packed up. Using the card reader, the download took less than 2 minutes for all the various 16-bit, 44.1 Hz audio takes we had recorded. By 4:45, we were loading our cars, shutting down the lights and locking the Plea for Peace Center.

Everyone was smiling as we drove away and I felt we had a very productive day. The real proof would come when we started the post-production process a few days later. To be continued…

by Keith Hatschek Source

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sampling Safely – A Primer to Avoiding Lawsuits

The use of samples is a staple of many genres of music. With the advent of sampling technology in the 1980s, musicians, producers and recording engineers began to experiment with incorporating clips of historical and/or significant audio recordings as an element in new records.

Prior to a landmark case in 1991, which codified sampling practice and the consequences for using samples without proper permissions, the record industry turned a blind eye toward the increasingly popular practice. However, once legal precedent was clearly set, record companies began to insist that producers and artists deliver signed licenses for any samples used in a new recording prior to the label pressing the CDs.

What is the process for getting permission to sample someone else’s music? We’ll start off explaining the steps, which on the surface seem fairly straightforward. Then we’ll talk about the practicalities of actually getting samples “cleared,” the term used to describe this often-misunderstood part of the music business.

The Road to Sampling Safely
Let’s start off with a hypothetical case using an actual song that we might want to sample for a new recording. Before we go further, it’s important to understand that if you want to use a sample of an existing recording, you actually need two distinct clearances due to copyright law. The first is the copyright embodied in the underlying musical composition – called the song copyright. The second relates to the copyright embodied in the sound recording itself – which is referred to in music licensing parlance as a “master license.” The publisher that represents the songwriter normally controls song copyrights. The record label that originally financed the recording and release of the commercial recording you wish to sample normally controls master rights.

I picked the song “Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock, released on his 1962 debut album as a leader on Blue Note Records – catalog number 465062. Aside from the fact that the song is an instantly recognizable classic, it is also a song with the added benefit of having a single publisher. (The more recent the song, the more likely there may be two or more publishers with joint copyright ownership, which can make clearing your song more time-consuming.)

The following grid shows the research information needed before I can begin requesting sample clearances.

Locating publishers and their contact information is relatively easy, as both ASCAP and BMI have excellent search indexes. If you are having difficulty determining publisher information, be sure to first double check that you are spelling the name of the song and/or artist who recorded the song, or the songwriter correctly. If you still come up with a blank, your next stop should be the SESAC website or Limelight by Rightsflow. Assuming you have located the publisher and their contact information, it’s time to move on to the record label.

Surprisingly, the bigger the record label, the harder it sometimes is to find their contact information. They aren’t in the business of communicating with consumers, so you’ll need to use an online directory or a printed directory such as the Billboard International Buyer’s Guide or the Musician’s Atlas, both of which may often be found at larger public libraries and online.

As a general rule, the larger the record company, the more critical it is to get your request to the right department, as most major labels have ten or more departments and employ a wide array of people. Your goal is to get your master sample request into the hands of the label’s Licensing Department, or the Business and Legal Affairs team, who will likely route it to a Licensing specialist. If the label is an indie, the same person who answers the phone may be the licensing coordinator. Many indie labels also proudly list their contact information on their web site, because they want to speak with their customers (and many are happy to negotiate a sample license.)

Requesting Permission
Did I mention that in addition to sending in your sample request forms, you’ll also need to send in a CD-R or an MP3 of your finished song (or a rough mix) so the copyright owners can hear exactly how you will use the sample?

As a result, if you can find the email contact information for the person in the licensing department you will be working with, and the copyright owner allows electronic sample request submissions, do so. This will save the time of writing letters and mailing CDs to them.

Here’s a link to a copy of a sample clearance form that you can use as a model. It includes all the pertinent information that a music publisher or record label will need (excluding your song with the sample included) to reach a decision. This one is based on the form used by a major publisher and as you will see, they want you to mail in a CD that includes:
1. The originally sampled song
2. Your new song with the sample included
3. A lyric sheet for your new song.

Regardless of First Amendment free speech rights, some artists don’t want their music sampled if, in their opinion, the new song might include strong language or other objectionable references.

Sample Request Form

Once you’ve sent in your sample clearance requests, it’s basically a waiting game until you hear back. If you haven’t already done so, you might use the time to come up with a few backup samples that might serve the same purpose in your new song. Having some alternates will save heartache later on, if your requests are declined.

What Will It Cost?
Here’s where things get a bit more complicated. In the case of the master clearance, according to veteran music attorney Donald S. Passman’s indispensible reference book, All You Need to Know about the Music Business, the fees master owners charge for samples is “around three to eight cents [per copy], sometimes more … they’ll also want an advance.” A sample advance is a prepayment of royalties before you have sold any copies of your new recording. Passman goes on to say that publishers will almost always “Insist on owning a piece of the copyright, songwriting royalties, and publishing income.” How big a share they’ll ask for depends on how significant the sample is to your new recording. If it’s a small component [in their view], the range might be 10-30%. However, Passman goes on to say that, “If you’ve lifted an entire melody line, or their track is the bed of your song, they might take 50% or more.”

So although you may be able to secure a master license for a few pennies on each recording sold, the song’s publisher more often than not will ask for a percentage of ownership in your new song. As many a music attorney has advised his clients seeking sample clearances, “When you use samples, you give up a piece of ownership and income of your new songs.”

Some publishers may accept a one-time fee for very minor sample uses, but there is no hard and fast rule. So get ready to use your negotiation skills to try to land the best rate possible for your sample clearances.

Save Time and Money with Replays
Increasingly artists have started to secure only the song sample copyright clearance, and not the master rights. Why? Because with the increased sophistication of affordable recording technology, musicians can create a replay, which is the sound of the original recording, which copyright law allows. Since you won’t be using the original sound recording, you’ll only a single clearance to proceed, from the song’s publisher, assuming you can recreate a convincing sound-alike in your own studio. This can definitely save time and money.

S-O-S for Sample Clearance Help!
If the maze of research, sample requests and licensing jargon seems a bit much to work your way through, especially if you are busy focusing on creating your music, you can hire a sample clearance house to assist you with researching ownership and negotiating the necessary permissions. You’ll still have to pay for the various clearances, but the advantage is that a music licensing professional already has contacts at most publishers and record labels and may also be able to help you negotiate the most favorable rates possible. A list of sample clearance houses may be found in the story links following this article.

Remember, there are some artists who strictly prohibit any sample use of their music, such as The Beatles. As a last resort, if an artist you want to sample can be reached online or by their MySpace of Facebook page, send them an informal request and see if they will help you get in touch with the handlers who can make it happen. On some occasions, the artist’s involvement might be just the recipe to get things done quickly, especially if they think your sample use is creative or novel.

Alternatives to Sampling
While there’s really no substitute for a substantial historical sample, there are musicians who are creating beats, sounds, samples, and musical elements that are available for low cost or even free of charge, especially for non-commercial projects.

Check out the communities at online collaboration sites like Indaba or MixMatchMusic to find possible sources for original samples that might fit the bill for what you are looking for. You should also check out the many music clips available through Copyright Commons, an informal collective of musicians, authors, poets and visual artists who offer various usage options for their works as an alternative to the “sample and pay” model.

Best of luck with your sampling and remember that you wouldn’t want someone profiting by using unauthorized samples of your original music, so play fair and practice safe sampling.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and does not purport to provide any type of legal advice. If you are unclear or have questions about any aspect of sampling or other music copyright issues, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney — or a music licensing professional, such as those referenced below.

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Echoes and the author of two books on the music industry, Golden Moments: Recordings Secrets of the Pros and How to Get a Job in the Music Industry. He directs the Music Management program at University of the Pacific and plays guitar in his free time.

Story Links

Copyright 101: a handy online tutorial that will walk you through the basics of what a copyright is and how it works (courtesy of the Library at Brigham Young University)

Copyright Criminals: a 50-minute documentary that looks at the practice of sampling, how it is policed and whether or not the originators of some of the most sampled music actually receive any compensation from sample fees.

All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman (highly recommended!)

Creative Commons: New Ways of Doing Music Business – a fascinating 36-page study of artists who are using the principles of Creative Commons licenses to forge new ways of making, collaborating and sharing music.

A summary of the landmark 1991 case between Biz Markie’s label and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s publishing company, including audio samples of the original track and the sampled version (Courtesy of UCLA Copyright infringement project)

Sample Clearance Companies

The Rights Workshop

Diamond Time Ltd. (press the buzzer on the right side of the screen to “enter” the offices)

Creative Clearance
Read more: Sampling Safely – A Primer to Avoiding Lawsuits — Echoes - Insight for Independent Artists

by Keith Hatschek on August 9, 2010 in Fast Forward, Recording & Mastering

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why are we so obsessed?

So I was searching for the new "The Way You Lie" video from Eminem and Rihanna and I stumbled upon this news cast. Take a few minutes to look at it, I'll wait....

The way you lie controversy

Ok you done? Alright let's move one...

I have several issues with the statements made by the "reporters" (and I use the term lightly. Following celebrities around doesn't classify as journalism in my book, but that's a story for another day) in this "news" segment.

First off let me say this, the video is indeed quite powerful, so kudos to Mr. Mathers and whoever else was behind it, but its not controversial at all. I mean I've seen worse imagery on Family Guy! But that's not really my issue... My issue is with the fact that these people have the nerve to say that Rihanna shouldn't be recording this kind of song in light of her very public domestic abuse issues with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. They also hint that Eminem's roller coaster relationship with ex-wife Kim is reason enough for him to tone it down too.

I say, shut the fuck up you idiots!!!

Now that that's out of my system here's where my issues arise.

With both these talented individuals (More so Eminem than Rihanna), we THINK we know them and their lives. News flash people: WE DON'T KNOW SHIT about Marshall Mathers or Robyn Fenty! We hear their stories on the news and the blogosphere, we listen to their music, we follow them on twitter, but we don't know 2 shits about them as people. What we as a society need to realize is that we are far too obsessed with fame. Eminem, Rihanna, Tiger Woods, Lindsey Lohan, etc. have jobs just like the rest of us. Their job is to entertain you and me! That's it. They owe us nothing more, and nothing less. The sooner we all realize that the better! I don't care about Lindsey Lohan's drinking problem, and neither should you, that is unless it affects you personally. My uncle has a drinking problem, but no one is making a big deal out of it. My friend is on house arrest, but he's not asking for a fashionable ankle monitor. My brother has knocked down twice as many women as Tiger did, (and waaaaay better looking too) but he's not apologizing to anybody about it. I mean whatever Mr. Woods decides to do with his dick is not gonna change his golf game. And it certainly doesn't change anything in my life or in anybody else's for that matter. Of course his family, but I mean the general public. Likewise, Rihanna's ass whoopin doesn't make my penis any less erect when I think about those naked pictures of here, and Eminem's firestorm relationship doesn't make my head bob any less when I hear his music.

Don't get me wrong I have my opinions on the things I've heard. Tiger shouldn't have gotten married if he wanted to fuck ugly porn stars, Linsey needs rehab, (and possibly therapy), Eminem, well he prolly needs a whole team of psychiatrists, and Chris Brown is wrong for bustin ole girl upside the head, but none of that affects me! But you know what does? The oil in the Gulf, the unemployment rate, the senseless killing that youngsters are doing EVERYDAY in our neighborhoods. That's news. Those are the things we should tweet about. Those are the things that should make us fighting mad, but alas...we are a culture obsessed with fame and the famous. We spend all of our time worrying about, who's fuckin who in Hollywood, or who adopted the African baby, and sit and wonder why America is making a counter clockwise decent down the drain... Think about it people!!!

Bottom line is this:
Keep it all in perspective. Why worry about the celebrities that are on drugs when lil Susie is strung out in the alley with a swollen belly. The shit is real folks. Get a fuckin clue

-Se7en Owt

P.S. Couldn't leave you without the actual video. Enjoy!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Katy Perry Faces Demand To Pay Beach Boys For "California Gurls"

And she'll have fun, fun, fun, till her lawyers take the money away...?
"California Gurls" may be intended to evoke images of the cool Pacific Ocean surf, but Katy Perry may be in a hotter kind of water over her smash hit's homage to the Beach Boys' "California Girls." The latter song's writers, Brian Wilson and Mike Love, have both gone on record as being big fans of Perry's tune. But the company that owns the copyright on behalf of Love and Wilson, Rondor Music, is more interested in compensation than flattery.

Roncor has reportedly threatened to sue if Perry doesn't hand over royalties on her single, which has sold more than 3 million digital downloads, and tied a record by reaching that figure in just 11 short weeks. If Wilson and Love do end up getting a piece of that action, needless to say, they'll be able to buy themselves and their grandchildren a lifetime supply of Hawaiian shirts.
Perry has borrowed song titles before and not gotten in trouble for it. Her breakthrough hit was "I Kissed a Girl," which bore thematic as well as titular similarity to the Jill Sobule single of the same name. If anything, Perry would have seemed to be in less danger with "California Gurls," which bears no similarity to the Beach Boys' oldie beyond the title. Well, except for the line "I wish they all could be California girls," uttered late in the song as part of a seeming improv by guest rapper Snoop Dogg. As far as Rondor Music is concerned, that one borrowed lyric crosses the line from tribute to plagiarism.
The dispute went public in a big way today after a report in the New York Post publicized Rondor's threat to sue Perry. But any attentive Rolling Stone readers already knew that trouble was brewing, if they got past her barely-lingerie-clad cover shoot to the accompanying story. In the article, Perry seems to be saying she's taking Snoop Dogg's line off the album version of the track, due to a demand that Wilson and Love should get credit and compensation.

"As much as I want a Beach Boys credit on my album, we have to take it out," Perry says in the Rolling Stone article.
That's right: When Perry's sophomore album, Teenage Dream, comes out August 24, Snoop will no longer be heard wishing they all could be California girls. Which may make the copies of the song that have already been sold collectors' items--all 3 million of them.
One of her managers is quoted in the Rolling Stone piece as saying: "You want a Brian Wilson credit, not a Mike Love credit." She responds: "Well, you said it, not me."
It's possible those remarks put an end to Love's sense of being flattered. Just a few weeks ago, Love was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying: "I think she's really clever. We have a lot in common now: We both have done songs called 'California Girls' and we've both kissed girls and liked it...[It] obviously brings to mind our 'California Girls,' it's just in a different vernacular, a different way of appreciating the same things. The Beach Boys have always accentuated the positive, and hers is a positive message about California Girls, so what's not to like?" In Billboard magazine, Love even referenced the rap portion of the song, saying, "I think it's probably a stroke of genius to have the king of canine cool, Mr. Dogg, do his thing."
Wilson, for his part, also waxed appreciative to the L.A. Times, at the time. "I love her vocal," he told the paper. "She sounds very clear and energetic...The melody is infectious, and I'm flattered that Snoop Dogg used our lyric on the tag. I wish them well with this cut."
Rondor has reportedly said that it's taking the action on behalf of Wilson and Love, but the two Beach Boys (who continue to be professionally estranged from one another) both said through their reps that they have not initiated any of this action themselves.
Odds are that this will all be settled out of court, though we can amuse ourselves considered the possibilities for followup lawsuits. Maybe Perry could sue Snoop for bringing on this trouble with his overly referential lyric. Maybe Snoop could sue the marijuana industry for impairing his judgment.
And Perry has said that the "U" in "Gurls" is an homage to the '70s cult rock band Big Star, who introduced the misspelling into the pop vocabulary with their song "September Gurls." No word yet on whether the Alex Chilton estate plans to sue for its own cut of Perry's royalties.
What do you think, readers? Do Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and their publishing company deserve songwriting credit and a cut of Perry's royalties for Snoop's fleeting homage? If Perry goes broke because of it, will this put an even bigger dent in her already evidently limited clothes budget? And would that be a bad or good thing?

Source yahoo music