Demo Reels, Music and Copyright

I remember the days when I would have to put my Demo Reel on VHS Tapes and drop them off at the local studios.  Now it’s expected that your reel is online, either on your website or on YouTube, Vimeo or another video streaming site.

One thing to look out for is that video sites may strip out the music on your reel if it’s found to be a copyright violation.  Just last month Vimeo instituted a policy called Copyright Match.

From their blog post:

When you upload a video to Vimeo, Copyright Match “fingerprints” a sample of its audio to see if it matches that of certain third-party copyrighted material, such as songs, movies, and TV shows.

If this is the case, you would either have to replace the video file, delete the video, or swap out different music.

On YouTube, it’s a a similar situation.  If your demo reel contains copyrighted music on it, it can be subject to a Content ID claim.  When you have a Content ID against your video, one of three things can happen:

  • The video can be blocked, either worldwide or just in certain countries.  It it’s blocked worldwide, your YouTube account’s standing could be affected.
  • The video could be muted or it could be monetized by the record company (and have an ad placed before it)
  • The video could be blocked on certain platforms (like mobile devices, apps or websites).

Of course, music is a secondary concern when it comes to your demo reel.  The most important thing is the high quality of work that’s on it.  That being said, having nice music can definitely help a reel.

So what should you do?

I recommend that you buy the rights to your music.  Vimeo has a music store that has a good selection and it only costs $1.99 for personal projects.  You can use the music anywhere, not just on Vimeo.  The search engine is good as well.  I’ve used it when I’ve put together my class’s demo reels the past few years (located over here if you’re interested;)) and it’s been a painless experience.

You could look for an artist who puts out their music with a creative commons license. 

Or you could just screw it and put whatever music you want on there and see what happens.  I mean, do a search on YouTube for ‘full album Dr Dre’ and you’ll have no trouble finding his music up there.  Keep in mind though that it’s possible that those videos have a Content ID claim on them and the record company is collecting revenue from them.

You don’t want your reel online and then have it taken down or altered without knowing about it.  Nothing would be worse than sending an email to that job you want only to realize that your video has been taken down or altered.