Author Archives: John Bickerton

About John Bickerton

I am the owner of UniqueTracks Inc., a production music library. UniqueTracks licenses music soundtracks and sound effects to media producers who in turn, integrate the music and effects into their DVDs, videos, podcasts, radio and TV advertising, Flash and Powerpoint presentations and music-on-hold programming.

Should UniqueTracks license more contemporary vocal music as royalty free music?

We’d like your opinion about whether to expand our production music library to include more contemporary vocal music. This new offering would be mainly singer/songwriters who are looking to place their music as soundtrack in film/video productions.

If you are experienced with the indie music found on sites like myspace then you will have a sense of the type of music we would start to include in the library.

Most of UniqueTracks’ contemporary music offerings are instrumental only. Instrumental music works very well as soundtrack because there are no words to conflict with the marketing or plot messages being targeted by the production.

UniqueTracks licenses quite a lot of classical vocal music – opera arias, sacred oratorios, etc. – but when it comes to contemporary music, we really don’t have a lot of music in the library. We have several songs that include short vocal phrases but not many of the typical verse, chorus, verse-type of songs.

Please let us know if you would like to see more contemporary vocal (pop music) tracks. Please answer the poll question below or leave us a comment. Thanks!

Should UniqueTracks pursue more Pop vocal recordings for soundtrack licensing?

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Don’t ignore copyright infringement

Just pointing out a great article by Patrick Ross at that argues against the prevailing current of opinion that “Copyright owners should accept infringement as a reality and pursue other paths for compensation”

The article is titled Infringement is Real, Ignoring it is Unreal

Here’s a brief quote…

But it’s disingenuous to argue as even some academics such as Fisher, Lessig and Palfrey do that just because some people infringe, those being infringed should just give up their rights and hope for the best. Jingle Power is running at least six commercials featuring a down-on-their-luck rock band singing in various settings bemoaning the fact that their credit is bad.  The actors are obviously musically talented, the drummer actually knows how to play drums, you can tell by looking at him.  I found out that the singer is a French Canadian actor/musician named Eric Violette,  (it’s not actually his voice we hear though, he’s lip-syncing).  

I think these are very strong ads. They feature the time-tested, but somehow out-of-favor Commercial Jingle.  A jingle is a song written expressly for a commercial.  The music and words of a jingle are directly targeted to sell the product.  When I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, jingles were the way most products were marketed on television.  Most people of my generation can still recite or hum the jingles from that time.  

Jingles gradually lost favor with advertisers and were replaced by what we all now hear everyday on TV – the licensed pop song put in service of a product.  I’ve written before about why I don’t like this method of advertising. I call it “lifestyle” advertising, where the marketer tries to create an ad that will connect with to the viewer’s sense of identity therefore connecting the product too.  Using a pop song is the fastest/easiest way to do this. If you can connect your brand with a song by Wilco, for instance,  that’s a valuable cultural connection to make for your product.  Your product can now live in the same cultural space that the songs of Wilco inhabit appealing to fans of that music and others that want a sense of the contemporary.

In actuality, I do not think this type of ad is very effective because when the spot gets placed into the ad mix that viewers see on a typical TV day, the lifestyle that the ad is portraying gets merged with all the other lifestyles from all the other lifestyle ads and the spots’ message gets merged as well into this jumble of  lifestyle imagery and pop hits.  The products, however, don’t get defined and their identities and marketing messages get muddled.  Viewers recognize the pop tunes but the connections to the products are lost.  Even with repetition, I believe these ads are a weak way to sell the product.

Jingles on the other hand are written directly for the product.  A good jingle campaign, like the ads, will brand the company name right into the song.  A successful ad will, over time, have viewers singing along with the jingle, either subconsiously or even overtly.

Lately I’ve heard a few fresh jingle campaigns.  Optimum’s Reggaeton Jingle and also AAMCO’s I Got A Guy campaign use jingles.  I am willing to bet that these ad campaigns were very succcesful as well.

I was at a cocktail party last New Year’s and I was talking to a young advertising executive and I asked him why jingles lost favor.  His response was interesting.  He said that more often than not, it is the client, not the ad agency, that is pushing for the high-priced licensed song.  He explained it as the client getting bragging rights for the company.  They are able to boast to the industry and their competition that they have gone out and licensed a multi-million dollar song for their latest campaign.  To me, this is to lose site of the goal of the campaign, which is to sell, no?

UPDATE: June, 2010
The FreeCreditReport guys have been retired

Other articles on this subject
Where have all the jingles gone?

Swiff it Good, The Music Industry in Chaos

The true cost of “free” on the Internet

Interesting article about the true costs of “free” on the internet… Mega-sites like YouTube and Facebook face huge operating costs and they are not recouping those costs using the advertising model. Though these businesses are immensely popular, they are not generating profits.

YouTube, according to Credit Suisse, will lose $470 million this year.  

But the cost of bandwidth, content licensing, ad-revenue shares, hardware storage, sales and marketing and other expenses will total about $711 million, putting YouTube squarely in the red, the Credit Suisse report estimated. 

Goodbye Virgin Megastore – Music Industry in Crisis

Walking through the giant Virgin Mega-store on 14th St and Broadway in Manhattan today, I couldn’t help but feel sad about the rapid demise of the record industry. Unlike Walmart, which sells music essentially as a loss-leader and stocks only a very limited “hot” list, the Virgin Mega-stores, much like now-defunct Tower Records before them, stocked deep catalog with thousands of titles available in the store..  

But now Virgin is closing this store as well as their flagship store in Times Square. Everything is on sale at 20% off yet I couldn’t buy anything.  I don’t know if I just couldn’t get interested in music in the climate of the store or if I just became distracted. For me a trip to the record store was an experience akin to how some people experience going to church. I feel bad for music-loving kids that won’t know the experience of browsing a record store. 

There is a lot of debate about what happened to the music industry. It seems pretty clear to me that file-sharing, which essentially devalued the recording into a “free” giveaway, killed the industry.

I know some would say good riddance – that labels are now justly paying for their gouging of consumers with over-priced CDs. Though I think there is some truth in this, I think the reaction, file-sharing on p2p networks, which essentially allows one to steal the product, is just as bad.  

When I read posts by folks who favor or partake in file-sharing, their language often has a revolutionary tone - ”down with the oppressive corporations” – being the main rallying cry. It’s a convenient rationalization that covers the truth of what file-sharing really is. 

Chris Purifoy of has posted a great article titled Defining the Music Industry Crisis that seeks to outline the problems facing the music industry and suggests some possible paths to restoring an equillibrium between the consumer’s rightful need for fair pricing and artists/labels need to work in a viable, healthy and yes, profit-making industry.  Music will be better for it.

More on this subject?  Read Chris Castle’s great blog Music, Technology, Policy.  

The many angles of Fair Use in copyright

A recent article in the New York Times draws into focus the many differing interpretations and perspectives surrounding copyright law’s doctrine of Fair Use.

The article describes how three separate parties, a young musician, Google’s YouTube service and the Warner Music Group, became entangled over the use of the Christmas classic “Winter Wonderland”

The musician, Juliet Weybret, uploaded a video to YouTube that showed her performing the song. A few weeks later she was informed by YouTube that the video was being taken down because of objections by the Warner Music Group.  Warner Music Group owns the copyright for Winter Wonderland and currently has no licensing agreement in place with Google.

Ms Weybret rightly felt that she was using the song in a noncommercial way and therefore was within the tenets of fair use. She was not gaining financially in any way by performing the song. It was basically a home video that she put on YouTube. The performance is not a money making venture, it doesn’t compete or impede Warner Music Group from earning income from the song. If you look at the performance itself, it is certainly fair use and does not infringe on the copyright in any way. 

Warner Music Group, no doubt, feels the same way about the performance.  However, when that performance is uploaded to YouTube and becomes part of the content of a multi-million dollar enterprise, then the notion of the performance (the video) as fair use is challenged. In Warner’s view, the video now contributes to the income YouTube makes from showing videos on the web.  The use of the video by Google/YouTube is therefore not fair use.  

Use of third party copyrights without permission has dogged YouTube since it became a major Internet presence.  The company initially relied on Fair Use as well as the safe harbor provision of the DMCA as an argument for not removing video content.  That decision created a substantial amount of push-back from copyright holders and a slew of lawsuits followed. Google now has a very high-tech filtering system that will automatically remove videos that use unlicensed content from YouTube.  

From the NY Times article…

Referring to Ms. Weybret, Ben Sheffner, a copyright lawyer in Los Angeles who has worked on antipiracy at the 20th Century Fox movie studio, said, “From her persepctive it’s completely noncommercial because she’s not making a dime. But from another perspective it’s entirely commercial because Google is trying to make money off it”

Seven new Royalty Free Music CD Releases from UniqueTracks

UniqueTracks is happy to announce the release of 7 new royalty free music titles. We’ve also added every song from each new album to our online music library. Each of the 75 new songs can be immediately licensed as either WAV or MP3 downloads. CD albums can also be downloaded in MP3 or WAV format or the album can be shipped as an audio CD or together with digital WAV files.  

Short descriptions of each new release are provided below.

Seven New Royalty Free Music Albums from UniqueTracks

Street Culture
Street Culture – Royalty Free Hip Hop Music
Hip Hop Soundscapes
Dark, explosive geared toward action adventure, sports, youth projects

Sacred Spaces
Sacred Spaces – Royalty Free World Background Music
World Music Grooves mixed with Techno Atmospheres. Includes 3 great vocal remixes.

Speed Demons Vol 2
Speed Demons, V2 – Royalty Free Rock Music
Second Volume of high-octane hard rock and metal soundtracks.


In Harmony
In Harmony – Royalty Free Music New Age Background Music
Positive and Uplifting soundtracks will put a smile on the face of your target audience.

Orchestral Fantasy, Vol 2
Orchestral Fantasy 2 – Royalty Free Action Adventure Background Music
Volume 2 of this popular Hollywood-style soundtrack series. This volume concentrates on the fantasy film genre.

Orchestral Fantasy, Vol 3
Orchestral Fantasy 3 – Royalty Free Action Adventure Soundtracks
Volume 3 is geared towards the Action Adventure and Action Hero film genres. Music is orchestral in the Hollywood soundtrack style.

An Inner Place
An Inner Place – Royalty Free New Age Music
Presents various angles on feelings of relaxation and pleasure using easy-listening grooves, laid-back jazzy rhythms and new age texures.

About UniqueTracks Inc.
UniqueTracks licenses royalty free music and sound effects to media producers who in turn, integrate the music and effects into their DVDs, videos, podcasts, radio and TV advertising, Flash and Powerpoint presentations and music-on-hold programming. 

HD Quality Sound Effects collections from Blastwave FX

UniqueTracks is now distributing Blastwave FX Sound Effects Libraries on hard drive. These multi-gigabyte libraries are the ultimate creative palette for media professionals in post, broadcast, film, commercial television, video games, interactive and beyond.


There are four Hard Drive products:

SONOPEDIA – The Encyclopedia of Sound Effects
With 20,000 royalty-free HD sound effects ranging from Alligators to Zippers, SONOPEDIA is the first all-purpose professional sound effects library for high definition media production.

.wavFX- Sound Effects Production Suite
Think of it as your go-to “Swiss Army Knife” of royalty-free HD sound! .wavFX is perfect for anyone in post, broadcast, film, television, video games, interactive and beyond. This is a Greatest Hits type of compilation package that takes the premium elements from Blastwave’s main SFX releases.

TITLEWAV – The massive all-in-one Sound Effects Library
Introducing the most massive collection of royalty-free HD production elements ever assembled under one title – TITLEWAV. This enormous collection includes categories like Beats, Hits, Whooshes, Logos, Special Effects, Trailers, Distortions, Drones, Voice Overs and much more.

THE BLASTDRIVE – The Mega Sound Effects Library
It’s the whole shebang! The Blastdrive contains every sound effect from Blastwave’s extension catalog of production elements. The Blastdrive combines Sonopedia and Titlewav to form a momumental sound effects library.

Yoko Ono loses copyright suit over use of Lennon’s Imagine

On June 2nd, the judge in the copyright infringement case Yoko Ono brought against the creators of the film “Expelled” for their use of John Lennon’s song Imagine has ruled in favor of the filmmakers based on a the “fair use” doctrine.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein rule that “the doctrine provides that the fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes of criticism and commentary is not an infringement of copyright.”.

You can read the judges entire decision here. Those interested in the fair use doctrine should take the time to read the judges opinion because he very thoughtfully describes and then rules on each of the criteria that make up fair use.

  • The Purpose and Character of the Use
  • The Nature of the Copyrighted Work
  • The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used in Relation to the Copyrighted Work as a Whole
  • The Effect of the Use Upon the Potential Market for or Value of the Copyrighted Work
  • The judge’s decision seemed mainly to rest on a subsection of “The Purpose and Character of the Use”, namely Transformative Use. Here is the ruling.

    ii. Transformative Use
    A work is transformative if it does not “merely supersede the objects of the original
    creation” but “instead adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message.” Although transformative use “is not absolutely necessary for a finding of fair use, the goal of copyright, to promote science and the arts, is generally furthered by the creation of transformative works.” Thus, transformative works “lie at the heart of the fair use doctrine’s guarantee of breathing space within the confines of copyright.”

    There is a strong presumption that this factor favors a finding of fair use where the allegedly infringing work can be characterized as involving one of the purposes enumerated in 17 U.S.C. 107: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . ., scholarship, or research.

    Defendants’ use is transformative because the movie incorporates an excerpt of “Imagine” for purposes of criticism and commentary. The filmmakers selected two lines of the song that they believe envision a world without religion: “Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too.” As one of the producers of “Expelled” explains, the filmmakers paired these lyrics and the accompanying music to a sequence of images that “provide a layered criticism and commentary of the song.” The Cold War-era images of marching soldiers, followed by the image of Stalin, express the filmmakers’ view that the song’s secular utopian vision “cannot be maintained without realization in a politicized form” and that the form it will ultimately take is dictatorship. The movie thus uses the excerpt of “Imagine” to criticize what the filmmakers see as the naivety of John Lennon’s views.

    Conclusion Regarding Fair Use
    The balance of factors clearly favors a finding of fair use. Defendants’ use of “Imagine” is transformative because their purpose is to criticize the song’s message. Moreover, the amount and substantiality of the portion used is reasonable in light of defendants’ purpose. Although “Imagine,” as a creative work, is at the core of copyright protection, and defendants’ use of the song is at least partially commercial in nature, the weight of these factors against a finding of fair use is limited given that defendants’ use is transformative. Finally, plaintiffs have not shown that defendants’ use will usurp the market for licensing the song for non-transformative purposes. In sum, allowing defendants’ use would better serve “the copyright law’s goal of promoting the Progress of Science and useful Arts . . . than [would] preventing it.”

    Ono’s position had been that she had the right to control use of the song by reviewing and choosing licenses. She also had the right to reject uses of the song. She brought the suit because she believe the filmmakers had “looted her of the ability to do so”.

    Fair Use of Lennon’s Imagine in Expelled?

    Yoko Ono’s attempt to get an injunction against the film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” will shine a much needed light on current interpretations of the “fair use” provision of copyright law. Fair use is easily the haziest and least understood aspect of US copyright law.

    Yoko Ono (and EMI and Capital Records) is seeking to have about 15 seconds of John Lennon’s recording of Imagine removed from the film. The injunction doesn’t ask for the film to be removed from theaters, it is asking for Lennon’s music to be removed from the film.

    from the New York Times coverage

    Ono sued in state and federal court, accusing the movie’s producers of infringing on the song’s copyright by using parts without her permission.

    The movie, which opened on U.S. screens in April and is set for release in Canada on June 6 and on DVD in October, presents a sympathetic view of intelligent design, the theory that the universe is too complex to be explained by evolution alone.

    The filmmakers acknowledge they did not ask Ono for permission to use 15 to 20 seconds of the song. But they argue they are protected by the ”fair use” doctrine, which permits small parts of a copyrighted work to be used without an author’s permission under certain circumstances.

    At a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan this week, the filmmakers’ lawyer, Anthony T. Falzone, said that if the judge granted Ono’s request for an injunction against the film, it would ”muzzle” the filmmakers’ free-speech rights.

    Falzone said the segment of the song in the film — ”nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too” — was central to the movie because ”it represents the most popular and persuasive embodiment of this viewpoint that the world is better off without religion.”

    The film, he said, is ”asking if John Lennon was right and it’s concluding he was wrong.”

    [Sidenote] Actually I don’t think John Lennon was saying in Imagine that the world would be better off without religion, I think he was saying that people get tied to their own particular beliefs and by doing so a lot of trouble is created in the world. Imagine is about breaking out of boundaries that are created by oneself.[end Sidenote]

    The filmmakers’ attorney, Anthony Falzone is the executive director of the Fair Use Project and a lecturer in law at Stanford University. He believes very strongly that copyright law, as it stands now, is in major need of reform. You can read his brief in this case here.

    I notice that Mr. Falzone is associated with the Center for Internet and Society at Standford Law School. This is not surprising. A large faction of those that work and think about the Internet (Wired, Fast Company) would like to broaden current interpretations of copyright law and especially fair use.

    Getting to a contemporary interpretation of fair use is incredibly important because of the use or misuse of copyrighted work on the Internet. Part of YouTube’s main defense against Viacom will be arguing fair use (amongst other things like DMCA).

    What the law says about fair use…
    107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include

    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.