Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stay Legal and Hip with Your Website and Slideshow Music

It's part of a dilemma photographers face all the time. First, do I use music or not on my website? Second, I want cool music by recognizable artists on my slideshows and my sites. Let's take a look at both of these issues.

There are arguments for and against music on websites. Those in favor feel that it sets a mood and helps draw the viewer into the images. Like a slideshow, many feel that the right music on a website is essential to creating a brand. It can engage the viewer and cause them to linger on the site while the tune plays out. If the viewer connects with the song, the possibility exists that they will feel a connection to you as well.

Opponents of website music (I fall into this category) feel that it's distracting, even annoying. While the tune on your site may be your personal favorite, it may be exactly the opposite for someone else. Many people browse at work; a sudden blast of music from their otherwise quiet speakers can cause a viewer to hastily close the window without even a second glance at your contact info. They move on to other sites with no noise and you're long-forgotten.

I'm often asked to visit the websites of other photographers just to "let them know what I think of their work." One of the biggest problems I encounter is the amount of "popular" music being used. Having jumped through the licensing hoops previously when assembling a slideshow using music from a mainstream artist, I know what a hassle (and expense) it is to acquire rights to use such music, so I'm relatively safe in assuming these steps were skipped. Yet, here it is playing on a website; the same song and artist that was just on the radio a few minutes ago.

We are mortified and angry when we discover our clients have copied our work in order to save a few bucks. On discussion groups I visit regularly there is usually someone explaining why they sell a disk of images for nearly nothing because "people are going to scan my photos anyway." (And I'm not even going to open the Pandora's Box of those photographers who constantly are complaining about how "my competitor is copying my style!")

Yet, these same people have no issue using copyrighted music on websites and slideshows. They'll even justify it and say something as silly as "I paid for the CD." ("I paid for this 5x7, why can't I get copies at Wal-Mart?") Hmmmmmmm . . .

SongFreedom is a company that is helping professional photographers and videographers operate legally and ethically by offering affordable licensing option on popular tracks. Now you can use artists such as Jason Mraz or tracks like Train's "Hey Soul Sister" on your website, slideshows and video without fear of legal repercussion.

Here's a great deal; sign up at www.SongFreedom.com by May 1, 2011 and use the code Camp David. You'll receive the bronze package for your first year for FREE. If you wish to upgrade to a different package, the code is good for 25% off. How can you lose?

When you choose to add music to your website and slideshows, respect the same copyright laws that we expect our clients to honor.
If you're still thinking "yeah, but who's actually going to turn me in for that?" odds are it won't be a representative of the artist, but rather, your clients who've been told they can't copy your work. Maybe it's a competitor who's unhappy that you're not playing by the rules. If that happens, do you really want the front page of your website to be replaced with this?

- David Grupa

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