To those who sometimes do soundalikes...
Amber
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#1
15th December 2012
Old 15th December 2012
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To those who sometimes do soundalikes...

I have a client who has placed temp tracks in a variety of videos that the people hiring him LOVE. To the point where he wants something as close as possible.

This ranges from well known movie themes, famous songs etc.

How close can you get? Can you keep chord progressions and change lead melodies? I hear these tracks all the time on TV, even my girlfriend notices them now.

Is it worth insuring yourself for this sort of thing?
#2
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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It is always more than worth it to cover your tail.

Budget in a musicologist report for the "smells-a-like" gigs and get reading up on what musically infringes copyright (I'm would think the Don Passman book would have it laid out for ya)
Amber
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#3
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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Funny you say that, I've read Don's book but don't remember any mention of soundalikes. Maybe I need to buy a newer print (mines from 2009 maybe?)
#4
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
  #4
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Any good soundtrack composer knows how to cop a feel.
#5
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradox View Post
Any good soundtrack composer knows how to cop a feel.
Perhaps that comment belongs in the Porn Movie Soundtrack Sound? thread?
#6
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
  #6
Gear nut
 

I'm a fairly new composer, so take this comment for what it's worth. But I've been asked to do this kind of thing within the past few months. The client gave me the temp tracks that were already in place which she and her client loved, but they were far out of her budget to use so she asked me to come up with something as close as possible.

My approach was to just listen to the track and keep two things constant between the original and my version. Those two things were the vibe/mood/feel of it, and the basic instrumentation. I think those are the two most present elements of the track that the client will hear and be looking for in a "sound-a-like". I'd stay away from copying melody and chord progression, maybe just use them as jumping off points. But doing things like copying melodies and changing a note or two make me worried.

I'd say also pay attention to the dynamics. For example if the track starts off slow and builds to climax, I'd make that an element of your track as well as it's probably important to the video it is complimenting.

If you really like the chord progression of the original, maybe copy it, but move a chord or two up or down an octave to introduce some difference? Doing this while adding some new instrumentation that the original didn't have, and your own melodies/leads shouldn't present any issues I don't believe.

Also, I've read Don's book as well (although also an older edition) and I do seem to remember some mention of this stuff. So if you've got it, I'd say definitely take a look in there for some more detailed info from a good source.

Hope this helps a little bit, good luck!
Amber
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#7
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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Thinking of setting my sole trader composer business as a limited company incase anything does happen.

Will re-check Don's book. I may have skipped past that part as I wanted to only get syncs from existing music I'd done back then.
#8
16th December 2012
Old 16th December 2012
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Soundalikes? Talk to a musicologist. There is no set number of notes you can copy, no set amount of time, no magic numbers, no easy answers except one :

All the original music owner has to do is prove your INTENT. Although "soundalikes" are very common, they are often licensed up front or settled quietly without public knowledge. There are also a ton of them that somehow seem to skate under the radar. But all they have to do is prove "intent" and there's a very methodical way they do that. Via musicologists.

But in your case the intent at this point is pretty obvious. There is ALWAYS a push for the score to "be like the temp", but that is not a soundalike in my book.

A "soundalike" is a piece of music where you KNOW what the composer was trying to cop just by hearing it. Do that and you're in very dangerous waters. If they just want something that sounds and grows and has the emotion of the originals, then do that and you will probably be OK. But if they truly want soundalikes....

I say RUN.....

If your clients client wants THAT music, tell them to license it.
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Amber
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#9
18th December 2012
Old 18th December 2012
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A lot of clients can't afford to license what they want (neither can most TV shows). I hear a very close copy of Green Day's American Idiot once a week.

Extreme Music has tons of soundalikes, from Green Day to 30 Seconds To Mars.

Surely there must be some sort of guideline as to what is allowed and what isn't? Can't imagine a big company risking it if they didn't know the boundaries.
#10
18th December 2012
Old 18th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
Can't imagine a big company risking it if they didn't know the boundaries.
They either have a musicologist on staff or on retainer who will analyze the piece of music, compare to the original, and give them an educated decision of how close they are to the line, how likely they are to be sued, how much it will cost to defend and the likelihood of the outcome. Then the price the piece accordingly, and decide if it's a risk they should take or not,. It's more a business decision than a musical decision.

Do people do it and skate under the radar. Absolutely. No question. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you get nailed. Kind of like selling weed on a streetcorner.

If that's a game you enjoy playing, get yourself a good musicologist and go for it. To do it without the advice of a musicologist is insanity. I have a friend who was sued by the Hendrix estate for a Hendrix "lick" that he inadvertently played in the middle of a guitar solo. He wasn't even aware he had done it until he was sued. Then, he researched back, and realized it came from an obscure hendrix tune he hadn't heard in years. They settled out of court. Lawsuits are real. They are common. No one but the players ever hear about them. Even if you RUN from soundalikes, legal protection in this biz is a must. You will eventually be called out. There's only 12 notes after all......

There is a reason that every composer contract has a clause indemnifying the client and placing responsibility for originality on the composer. If you take the gig, turn that clause around and make them indemnify YOU as they are the ones requesting it. See how that flies..... I'm guessing it won't fly any further than their attorney's desk.
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Amber
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#11
18th December 2012
Old 18th December 2012
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I think I'll look into some sort of legal protection in 2013. I'm not doing soundalikes for huge clients, and I'm pretty much just using similar instrumentation/timing.

There are some I hear on MTV shows that are so close to the original I don't understand how they don't get sued. The American Idiot one in particular sounds if Billy Joe improvised the chord progression.
#12
11th January 2013
Old 11th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
I think I'll look into some sort of legal protection in 2013. I'm not doing soundalikes for huge clients, and I'm pretty much just using similar instrumentation/timing.

There are some I hear on MTV shows that are so close to the original I don't understand how they don't get sued. The American Idiot one in particular sounds if Billy Joe improvised the chord progression.
you can't copyright the sound of the production, only the produced master itself.

If someone uses a les paul jr through a JCM800 on an album, and you use the exact same combo and mic techniques to get the EXACT same guitar sound, then play a different chord progression... there is no copyright infringement.

copying the sound of the production is not illegal. Sometimes it can show intent. But so long as the chord progressions are different and the melodies are different there is no grounds to sue.
#13
12th January 2013
Old 12th January 2013
  #13
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I have (unfortunately) been asked to do this quite a bit. It's a very very VERY blurry line. I've gotten away with every one of them, except one which was (thankfully) stopped by the producers because they thought it was too similar.

The musicologist thing is a good idea. That being said, they need to be a good one. There are some "musicologists" who deem a soundalike to close to the original simply because it "reminds" them of the original track. That's what a f***ing soundalike IS. If it doesn't at least vaguely remind you of the original song, you failed...

Go for the vibe. That is the most important element in our business anyway. Even if your production aesthetic sounds completely different, but the VIBE and TONE are the same, you're probably golden. Make sure the chords and melody are discernibly different. Don't get too crazy though. If it's a Green Day song you have to do a soundalike for, write a NEW Green Day song. Stay within the walls that they do. All their songs sound the same anyway.

It is imperative that you ask the director/producers what they like so much about it. Every once in a while, you find out all they really like is the shaker. Your job just get easier.

Last thing-- it's a bummer when I get asked to do soundalikes, but I look at it this way: there is no better method of honing production chops. You learn SO much about how different bands/genres/producers get their sounds.
#14
14th January 2013
Old 14th January 2013
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I do a lot of this kind of work as well - what I do is to come up with a completely original, unique composition musically/lyrically which keeps a similar tempo and song trajectory. My clients are particular more about the feel of a song than the lyrical content, so I definitely make sure to have lyrics which tell a complete and unique story which is NOT the same as the original tune we are basing ours off of. Different key, and progressions as well. At the end of the day, they are no more infringing than every other Dr. Luke song which hits the radio these days. I know some clients may want the soundalike to be closer than this - and in which case, a lawyer/musicologist combo would be the ticket.
#15
16th January 2013
Old 16th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bond39023 View Post
If you really like the chord progression of the original, maybe copy it, but move a chord or two up or down an octave to introduce some difference? Doing this while adding some new instrumentation that the original didn't have, and your own melodies/leads shouldn't present any issues I don't believe.
You sure about the chord up or down an octave? That's the exact same chord. Maybe you meant up or down a tone?

Cheers
csl
#16
16th January 2013
Old 16th January 2013
  #16
You personally shouldn't get sued. But the company asking you to produce them might. It's up to them to gauge whether any toes get stepped on or not, as it's their liability. They'll let you know if they deem your demo to be too close to the original, and will ask you to adjust it accordingly.
#17
16th January 2013
Old 16th January 2013
  #17
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Most contracts I've ever signed include a clause saying that you guarantee your music will be completely original and that the production company is not liable for any legal action that may come up in this regard.

That being said, the best way I've ever found to successfully back clients away from getting too close to the track we're trying to copy is to say, "yeah, I can do that, buuuuut..... I'll just need the contract to state that you are responsible for the originality of the music and that I am completely indemnified against any legal action surrounding any notion of copyright infringement".
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#18
16th January 2013
Old 16th January 2013
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csl View Post
You personally shouldn't get sued. But the company asking you to produce them might.
Except for the fact that every contract for composers has a section where the composer indemnifies the company of any copyright issues. Other than that.....
#19
16th January 2013
Old 16th January 2013
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrummerMan View Post
Most contracts I've ever signed include a clause saying that you guarantee your music will be completely original and that the production company is not liable for any legal action that may come up in this regard.

That being said, the best way I've ever found to successfully back clients away from getting too close to the track we're trying to copy is to say, "yeah, I can do that, buuuuut..... I'll just need the contract to state that you are responsible for the originality of the music and that I am completely indemnified against any legal action surrounding any notion of copyright infringement".
Yes. I've done that as well. And when it comes to Public Domain pieces, I don't have the time or inclination to check something worldwide to make sure I'm "OK" in every country. I'll ask the company to indemnify ME.
#20
25th January 2013
Old 25th January 2013
  #20
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Aah Temp Love!

So many clients fall victim to "temp love" and it might persuade us to get as close as possible to the track in order to close the deal. I worked with a very successful composer last year named Mitch Coodley (Soprano's, Victoria Secret, and CBS Sports) His advise on this matter is something I have found to be very beneficial. We did 12 songs based on commercially successful reference tracks. He would suggest a song like Lana Del Rey's "Born To Die" and I would craft a song in that vein. Here's a snippet from one of our email correspondences...

"By the way, my attitude toward using these examples is "STYLE-alike", not sound-alike. You already know this, but some producers like to push the envelop - I don't. So basic flavor and mood, not song rip-off. The good part for you is you can inject your own ideas while being "influenced" by the example."

The term "STYLE-alike" is different then "SOUND-alike" Basic Flavor and mood, not song rip-off. So the song you create would be on a similar playlist as the temp track but it's not a rip-off. This will ensure a unique copyright and absolutely ZERO% of infringement "grey" area.

When I was writing for these songs I would reverse engineer the songs by figuring out the tempo, chord harmony, melodic components, lyric content, etc. Ask yourself questions like - Is the vocal topline more melodic or rhythmic? Is the rhythm section driven by 1/4 notes or 1/8th notes? Is the chord harmony minor in nature or major? What is the mood of the lyrical content, dark, light, sensual, playful etc?

What is the song structure? If there song structure is ABABCB then structure your song the same. Use the same tempo and the elements we discussed above, and be sure that your song wouldn't be compared to the originally at a first listen. This should ensure that you are giving them the essentials of the temp track but with your essence. Hope this helps!

If you or anyone reading this have questions regarding this topic here is my contact information.
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Last edited by SunzooStudios; 25th January 2013 at 05:47 AM.. Reason: update
#21
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SunzooStudios View Post
Aah Temp Love!


"By the way, my attitude toward using these examples is "STYLE-alike", not sound-alike. You already know this, but some producers like to push the envelop - I don't. So basic flavor and mood, not song rip-off. The good part for you is you can inject your own ideas while being "influenced" by the example."

The term "STYLE-alike" is different then "SOUND-alike" Basic Flavor and mood, not song rip-off. So the song you create would be on a similar playlist as the temp track but it's not a rip-off. This will ensure a unique copyright and absolutely ZERO% of infringement "grey" area.


___________
Jay Harper
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I was going to say the same thing - "Feel-alike" is what I usually describe them as to my clients. Quality original compositions in the vein of the reference tracks. Much more fun that way anyhow - more creative license.
#22
26th January 2013
Old 26th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I'll ask the company to indemnify ME.
This.
#23
30th January 2013
Old 30th January 2013
  #23
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I got one recently for Skrillex's "Bangarang."
Went back and forth with Musicologist about sound choices and rhythms. It's not always about chords and lead. Ended up not being able use any "bark" synth (distorted wobble basically) because Skrillex had popularized that sound. Almost made my job impossible.
#24
28th February 2013
Old 28th February 2013
  #24
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#25
28th February 2013
Old 28th February 2013
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazz4 View Post
I was required to do one fairly recently. It was an American Beauty soundalike:

https://soundcloud.com/sclunie/american-dream

I'd go with 'feel-a-like' too.
That sounds great. In my mind..I would call that a sound-a-like. The feel, instrumentation, and chord movements are obviously reminiscent of the original. Anyone with ears who listens to that music on a TV show will immediately think of American Beauty, and how great that film and music was.
But there is of course no infringement with this, as its different music.
I get sent them all the time to do as well...this is how close I would want to get if a client sends American Beauty as a temp.
I understand the Gibson/JCM800 analogy, but with temp music and soundtracks... usually the music has such an unconventional instrumentation that the original is so distinct, its hard not to sound familier. Change the chords and melodies...and you're fine.
#26
28th February 2013
Old 28th February 2013
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tritace View Post
That sounds great. In my mind..I would call that a sound-a-like. The feel, instrumentation, and chord movements are obviously reminiscent of the original. Anyone with ears who listens to that music on a TV show will immediately think of American Beauty, and how great that film and music was.
But there is of course no infringement with this, as its different music.
I get sent them all the time to do as well...this is how close I would want to get if a client sends American Beauty as a temp.
I understand the Gibson/JCM800 analogy, but with temp music and soundtracks... usually the music has such an unconventional instrumentation that the original is so distinct, its hard not to sound familier. Change the chords and melodies...and you're fine.
That's nice of you to say, tritace. You're right - with these projects, something that requires a soundalike of a piece with such a distinctive sound can be quite straightforward but very effective when attempting to create.

I've also made ones for the like of John Deney, John Williams and obscure sci-fi composers - not as easy - but I actually think you can learn so much about music by attempting to re-create it in some way.

I remember reading once that when Hunter S. Thompson first decided to become a novelist, he would just type out famous books word for word to see what it would feel like to produce something like that. I think if you do that with music, it can help you a lot creatively.
Amber
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#27
28th February 2013
Old 28th February 2013
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Jazz4, just checked out your stuff. Sounds nice. Do you use any real strings? If not you do a good job of disguising the sampled strings. If so what libraries do you use? And also that bell instrument you use a lot, is that real? I've never come across an sample library for that stuff.
#28
28th February 2013
Old 28th February 2013
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
Jazz4, just checked out your stuff. Sounds nice. Do you use any real strings? If not you do a good job of disguising the sampled strings. If so what libraries do you use? And also that bell instrument you use a lot, is that real? I've never come across an sample library for that stuff.
Hey Amber,

Thank you! I sometimes mix in a couple of live violins that I play myself with sampled strings to provide a bit of texture. But usually just purely sampled strings with quite a bit of tweaking.

The bell sound...I think it is a sampled crotale doubled with a triangle (if it's the sound I think you're talking about).

I use an array of libraries, one of them being EWQLSO. Maybe you heard the latest sci-fi piece on my soundcloud. That was a soundalike of Bernard Herrmann and a Japanese Sci-Fi composer.
Amber
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#29
28th February 2013
Old 28th February 2013
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Yeah there were a few string articulations that I was curious how you achieved with samples so that explains it. I listened to the sci fi piece, you nailed that sound. But it was mostly your 'adventure' tracks I was referring to.
#30
28th February 2013
Old 28th February 2013
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
Yeah there were a few string articulations that I was curious how you achieved with samples so that explains it. I listened to the sci fi piece, you nailed that sound. But it was mostly your 'adventure' tracks I was referring to.
Oh thanks Amber. I think that is my niche. People always hear that stuff and ask me to do it on various projects. Even projects you think wouldn't require that sound at all. A game developer put a bunch of high end slot machine and gambling games and desired that type of sound because the animation in the games were very Pixar inspired. It seems like it's quite a popular style.
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