With over 50,000 original tracks on offer, Audiosocket licenses music to a wide range of customers, from major brands to individuals making wedding videos. Understanding that it takes a soundtrack to up the quality of video content, Audiosocket’s CEO and co-founder, Brent McCrossen, took some time to explain to VideoInk how the company addresses the increasing demand for music that doesn’t infringe on any copyright laws.
From encoded licensing data to daily additions to their music library, Audiosocket continues to grow with the digital entertainment industry. McCrossen’s 13 years in the music industry make his input and expertise valuable as more and more digital content calls for more and more licensable beats. Exploring copyright in general and the specific instance surrounding YouTube beauty guru Michelle Phan, here’s McCrossen’s take on the present and future of the industry.
What does Audiosocket take into account when partnering with music labels and recording artists? In other words, what makes a song “culturally relevant”?
Quality, quality, quality! Our focus has always been on curation and we partner with artists that bring their art to life with the highest quality of production and execution. We began using the words ‘culturally relevant’ about five years ago because our clients were asking for music that brought life, passion, and perspective to their work. They wanted music that spoke to their audience, not stock beats. Our bands, artists, and composers are all actively creating work that resonates with people today. We are adding fresh music daily that speaks to the cultural trends in the media space and inform our approach to acquisitions by listening to what our customers want.
Who tends to come to you for music licenses — what does your client demographic look like?
Simply put, anyone creating video for digital distribution. When we first started out, we made our music exclusively available for “professional” filmmakers and licensed primarily to the major networks, production studios, and agencies. However, late in 2011 we launched a partnership with Vimeo. They used our MaaS (music as a service) technology to help build the Vimeo Music Store — making our music available to their filmmakers for personal use, indie film festivals, and small business rights . At that point, we expanded our offering and started to license to the world at large.
Now our client’s run across the spectrum of creatives, from young startups and non-profits to established big brand companies. The major trend I’ve seen is that more brands are creating content internally, mostly for web videos that they host on their website and social channels like Vimeo, YouTube, and Facebook. However, the cool thing is that it’s not just major brands who are creating promotional videos. Video needs music…because of our open policy, our clients come from every industry segment and some are just average consumers looking to have great soundtracks for their personal home videos.
Audiosocket recently ran an audit that uncovered over $200,000 in copyright infringements from a single sales vertical. Could you tell me more about this and describe the fallout/consequences?
That’s a good question. To provide a bit of context, Audiosocket invented a new technology that allows us to encode inaudible data into a song file each instance it’s licensed. This encoded data outlines all of the license details and it gives us the ability to find our artists’ work being used in media and gives those who license music from us a digital proof of purchase, which is important if their video gets flagged or taken down. We call this technology LicenseID.
Since launching it in our system, we have found that some percentage of the licenses we issued are being misused. We’ve seen brands using a personal license to promote a product, [for example.] We believe that people are fundamentally good and assume that they made a simple mistake when selecting the license they needed via our storefront…More than 80% of the people come back to get the correct license and continue to be customers going forward. This protects the person creating the video by securing the correct rights and also maintains the integrity of our artists work.
Obviously the recent Michelle Phan lawsuit is on everyone’s mind. What are your thoughts on both this specific lawsuit and how it reflects the current state of digital copyright infringement?
Yeah, that’s a big topic right now and it’s a valuable one. The fact of the matter is that digital media is growing so fast it’s hard to keep up. In this digital age, a talented make up artist like Michelle Phan can emerge as an internet star almost overnight, essentially becoming her own valuable brand. The challenge is that there’s not a “machine” behind it, like there is with a big brand or production company that understands the ins and out of licensing required to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. To make matters worse, music licensing is complex. It is not easy to handle without background in law, copyrights, or the music industry.
This specific situation gets more complex in that the label/publisher, Ultra, is filing suit. But, the artist who made the work, Kaskade, seems to be against it, at least according to how I translate his tweets on the matter. His position is good, fair, and admirable. However, at the end of the day, Kaskade is no longer the sole decision-maker in how to this copyright violation is addresses. Since he granted some ownership to the label/publisher in his recording contract, they now have rights they can legally protect. In the end this is a good case study. It allows us all to look at the growth of digital media and find a path forward that allows filmmakers to create and musical artists to be protected when their work is repurposed.
What impact do you think the increasing popularity of digital video is having on copyright law in general? Any particular implications come to mind?
It’s too early to tell how copyright law will be revised in the wake of these shifts in digital media. What we know is that Congress is expecting there to be change and understands there needs to be. The public performance societies, like BMI and ASCAP, are asking the Justice Department for a review of the consent decree established in 1941. The US government is asking rights holders to make the licensing process more transparent and tech companies are hoping that everything can become as streamlined as possible, so they can scale without the typical legal hassles that are faced in attempting to blanket license very large volumes of copyrighted works.
In the middle of all of this, I see emerging a willingness to affect change. I know the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is working with their members and encouraging them to pre-clear large parts of their catalogs for what they call “micro-sync.” This will effectively allow people to affordably and legally sync songs in their home videos and the major life event documentaries, like weddings and bar mitzvahs etc. I believe that is a great path forward. Still, it won’t allow internet brands like Michelle Phan to use copyrighted music without a license. I don’t think there’s any changing that.