Using several seconds of Pharrell’s “Happy” for a company recruiting video? That’ll cost you. And we’re not talking about a televised commercial. That is for any video that is not for personal use. 

Companies often forget just how much goes into making a marketing video, from the storyboards to the actual filming to the final selection of music and sounds. The latter is often forgotten about until the last minute, yet it shouldn’t be… because it can cost you!

Using even a couple seconds of a song can be expensive. If you’re clipping a song by a lesser-known artist in a video, that may only be a one-time fee of a couple hundred dollars. Yet, to clip a grammy-winning hit? Thousands.

United may be one of the prime examples of a company paying top dollar for a song. The composition, “Rhapsody in Blue,” has become synonymous with United Airlines. The major airline has been using the song for its marketing since 1987. According to the Cambridge Music Handbook for Rhapsody in Blue, United pays roughly $300,000 per year for the rights to use the piece. That’s roughly $10 million over the lifetime of the licensing agreement!

Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” has become synonymous with the United Airlines brand – for a fee!

Some companies, those much smaller than United Airlines, may try to “risk it” and choose to use a song that they did not receive the rights to. The thought process could be, “It’s only a short video or clip”, “No one will even see this” or “We’re not using this video for monetary gain.” But any one of those rationales can lead a business into a sticky legal situation and wind them up in a copyright infringement case that could cost a whole lot more than buying the rights to a song in the first place. The best-case scenario would be that the video they created is removed from sharing platforms—a process that is still expensive if you consider the investment to film a video that no one will then see.

Songs in the public domain or for online-purchase are always an option. Many videographers choose to use non-lyrical music from companies like Youtube Audio Library, Bensound, or Epidemic Sound. Yet, you may be using the same tune as your competitor and it may sound generic. If choosing one of these options, companies still need to ensure they follow the specific guidelines that are set forth for each song and the usage they paid for. 

There is another option that many companies don’t think of…having someone create a song for you. Outlier has worked with music partners to create original songs that we can then use in our client videos. For a reasonable fee (think way less than $300,000), clients can have memorable, original songs that they have the rights to use without limitation. The song becomes all yours.

An original song, often with carefully selected lyrics that align with the company and its values, can significantly enhance video footage. Furthermore, these custom tunes can stick in someone’s mind and be another tool to get a customer to remember you. 

Using music in a video can be scary due to the cloud of potential legal repercussions. Working with a trusted video agency can help you navigate some of this trickiness. Whether you choose to sample a generic clip or create a company theme-song, there are creative ways to make listeners engage with and remember your videos. It doesn’t have to be scary, in fact it can be pretty darn cool.

About the Author

  • Paige manages Outlier's client partnerships and projects. When she is not developing goals and plans, she is likely playing with her mischievous dog or enjoying a new adventure.