Machinima Music: Creating a soundtrack for your video

A guide to finding or creating original music for you machinima, from the maker of Playtime.

Most people who make machinima, montages, or other game-related videos will want to include some music at some point in their video. However, this can be a surprisingly complicated area. There are quite a few legal and licensing issues to deal with.

THIS ARTICLE gives a great detailed breakdown of the various issues surrounding music licensing, and how video makers source music for their videos. Give it a read.

If you decide to use music that you don’t own in your machinima, you are taking a risk. If you post a machinima or montage with a sweet Katy Perry track in the background (what? Katy Perry RULES!!!), then you are at the mercy of the record label that owns the music in question. They might let your video exist as you post it. Or they might place restrictions on which countries your video can be viewed in. They might remove ALL AUDIO from your video, or even have the video completely shut down.

Royalty Free Music:

Some companies or websites offer a selection of Royalty Free music. This means they let you download and use their music for free, under the condition that you follow their copyright guidelines (This usually includes simply giving them credit as the owners of the music). Websites like MachinimaSound.com are a great resource for this sort music.

The only downside to using Royalty Free music is that… well… it’s free! If you decide to use some royalty free music, it’s a safe bet that someone else has used that music too. So if having a unique, identifiable soundtrack is important to you, then Royalty Free might not be the best way to go.

*** IMPORTANT ***

YouTube has recently developed a system that allows you to browse through a catalogue of Royalty Free music and add it to your video for (a link to the iTunes store will appear under your video, so the artist has the chance to make some money from your vid). Be advised that using this method to place music in your vid has several down-sides. Most importantly it will remove all other audio from your vid (sound fx, dialogue, etc). Not and ideal situation for machinima :-/

For gameplay montages, it’s not such a big deal. Some video makers will just remove their video, change the music to a different track, upload it again and hope for the best. But for machinima, the music is more important. You need music that fits the tone, feel, and length of a particular scene. At the end of the day, it makes more sense to create original music for your machinima.

“But…. that’s so much more work!”

Yes it is. Creating music takes a lot of work, which is why record labels are so fussy about letting their music be used for free. Now some of us are musicians with enough recording experience to create our own soundtracks (I wrote some basic info about this here). If recording your own music isn’t an option, you can always find someone who is willing to record it for you.

There are a lot of aspiring composers out there looking for projects to work on. Hit the forums (including Waypoint’s recruiting thread) and look for volunteers willing to help you out.

Another option I always encourage people to explore is to find music from indie bands. Small up-and-coming bands (who do not yet have any attachement to a record label) are often in desperate need of exposure. If you find a song from an indie band that you want to use in your video, ask them! Send them an email explaining what you want to do. If they say “Yes”, they can give you the permission you need to include their music in your video.

If anyone has any more questions about adding music to your machinima, or if you have any tips/suggestions, let me know!

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