If you’re wondering how to find music to legally sync into a YouTube video as background music, you may want to check out Magnatune. Although the artists are lesser known, the website offers over 500 albums with music to sync into your YouTube videos. The license basically comes with the purchase of the album — and, get this: you can pick the price! You also can share your music files with 3 friends.
I think Magnatunes is great. I found a song (“Permanent” by Arthur Yoria) I really loved in their selection, which I used for this video below. The song is also made to adjust to the length of your video, almost perfectly.
But I admit the number of contemporary songs offered by Magnatune is not that great, and, of course, you won’t find any popular songs or big name artists on this site (which means you are likely to have to sit and listen to a bunch of songs you’ve never heard before, in order to find one that fits your video). I see the latter absence as a big failing of the music industry.
The problem with the music industry: Back when the music industry was suing Napster, the industry failed to provide a user-friendly service online for consumers. Instead, it took the genius of Steve Jobs of Apple to show the music industry that, yes, consumers would pay money to download music files online if you offer the music in a simple process for a reasonable fee.
Magnatune may not yet be the iTunes for sync licensed music, but I think Magnatune does give us a glimpse of the possibility. It’s unfortunate that the music industry isn’t more proactive in trying to expand its own market online. As you know, a number of music publishers are suing YouTube for copyright infringement in several different lawsuits. Their suits center around copyrighted music being synced into home videos on YouTube as background music without permission. You might ask, so then how does one get proper authorization for a sync license? Well, it’s not easy. Over the past few months, I’ve been studying how to put music into your YouTube videos legally. It’s a bedeviling problem.
First, I reviewed YouTube’s music offerings in its “AudioSwap” program that allows users to sync some free music offerings (authorized by the music industry to YouTube) into their videos. The AudioSwap program is very crude as an editing tool, though, and the number of songs is paltry.
Second, I looked at how music labels and the music publishers offer “sync licenses.” Basically, the process stinks. You have to look up the song on ASCAP (or other directory) to find the music publisher for the song. Once you do, you have to fax or email in a written request to the publisher describing the nature of your project. I talked with several music publishers who seemed so tight-lipped about their sync licenses and possible prices (even though I actually wanted to buy a license), instead asking me to wait for a response ranging from 2 weeks to over 1 month. To be very honest, the people at the music publishers with whom I spoke were borderline rude — I got the feeling that my call was just a bother to them. (My guess is that the price for a license on a single song will be very high.)
Third, I went to MySpace Music and asked a few unsigned artists to let me use their song in my video, in exchange for giving them publicity on my blog. Only one artist even replied to me, but even she did not ever give me permission. MySpace Music also is quite cumbersome to use to find an artist who might be willing to grant a sync license, since the thousands of musicians on MySpace don’t actually indicate whether they are willing to do so on the website. That means you have to send out individual emails to the musicians in the hope that one of them (whose song you liked) might be willing to let you use the music.
Possible solution: The predicament people face in trying to obtain a sync license for a home video runs close to being a market failure. I can’t understand why the music industry doesn’t try to set up a simple, automated online process for sync licenses for use in home videos — just as Magnatune is doing with lesser known artists. If people are making millions of home videos each year, just think how much money the music industry can make from selling a sync license for noncommercial use of a song in a YouTube video, let’s say, for $2.00 per video. That’s millions of dollars of extra money each year. There’s a huge demand already. But the music industry isn’t giving consumers what they want. Why not? (By the way, I’ve already told my idea to the RIAA earlier this year, but so far, I haven’t seen any developments.)