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May 2001

Praise the Lord with Lute, Timbrel, and Royalty-Free Music!

By Carter Sayle

It would appear that the author of Psalm 150 didn't realize the future demise of the lute and timbrel as popular instruments, otherwise we might have been instructed to praise the Lord with synthesizers and electronic organs. It's probably also safe to say the psalmist didn't foresee copyright laws either. The phrase "praise the Lord with royalty-free music in thy videos" is noticeably missing from scripture.


All kidding aside, the copyright issue is a big one for churches creating and editing video. Every church should look at this issue seriously when putting music into their videos.


It should be known that it is indeed illegal to put a piece of copyrighted music into a video, even if you don't plan to sell it. Many churches believe that their CCLI license (Christian Copyright License International (www.ccli.org) will cover them when using music in their videos. CCLI does cover the public playing of music in a worship service and the video taping of that service, but it does not cover copying music onto videos designed for other uses such as promotional tapes and youth group projects.


There is no doubt that this is a difficult issue for churches. It is so tempting to just assume that the Christian songwriter or performer won't mind. True, they may not mind, however it is likely that their publishing company does mind, and until permission is secured in writing, use of that music is against the law. One should never use someone else's property without first getting permission.


So, what do we do about this difficult issue? Luckily there are some ways to handle it. If you are dead set on using a piece of published music, you can write the publishing company for one-time permission to use the song in a video (some publishing companies offer online forms on the Internet). Bear in mind that this will probably incur a fee and it will take at least four to six weeks to receive permission. If you've got the time and are willing to wait, this may work for you. Of course, if you're like my church, you finish your videos a few days prior at best, and more often that not, around midnight on Saturday night before Sunday's service. If your video editing style is more like that, then you should look into the next option.


Royalty-free music is a great way to totally avoid the copyright issue altogether. Most royalty-free music companies allow unlimited use of their music for whatever purchase you need. They way they work is very simple. You purchase the royalty-free music, often in a library of CDs. Then, you use it for whatever needs you have. It's that simple.


A couple of royalty-free music companies that I've had great success with are Music2Hues and SmartSound.


Let's start with Music2Hues. This company sells music on CDs that you can simply copy into your video editor. Each CD has a different theme such as Orchestral, Acoustic Guitar, and Stingers and Tags. They are just like any CD you would purchase, but you can copy them all you want. You can check out Music2Hues at www.music2hues.com


SmartSound is royalty-free music with a really neat twist. SmartSound music comes on CD-ROMs that work on your PC or Macintosh computer. SmartSound allows you to select the actual amount of music you need and then the software builds the music to your specifications. For example, let's say you need 48.5 seconds of calm background music. Simply plug those parameters into the software and you are given a number of examples that are within tenths of a second of your desired length. The software works by cutting music into very small pieces so that the music can be arranged in many different ways to create your desired length. The results are truly astounding. Once you've got exactly what you want, you simply output the music using your computers audio output and go straight into your video editor. It works like a charm and the results are fabulous. You can get more information on SmartSound at www.smartsound.com


Royalty-free music isn't always exactly what you want, and it often doesn't have quite the same effect as the latest hit on the radio. However, I really like the peace of mind knowing that my church and I are acting safely, and morally, within the law.


Happy Editing!

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