Shockwave-Sound Blog and Articles
Music copyright myths – disspelled

Music copyright myths – disspelled

In this article we try to dispel some common myths and misunderstandings about music copyrights, music usage rights and music licensing.


“I can use this music for free because I found it on the internet.”

No. All music found on the internet is under copyright, unless it specifically states otherwise. In fact, even if it does specifically state otherwise, this statement is probably wrong. (Meaning that the music is probably actually under copyright even if the web site where you found it says that it isn’t).

“I can use this music for free because the composer is dead.”

No. The copyright in a music composition lives for many years after the composer has died. The number of years vary from country to country, but is generally around 50-75 years from the death of the composer. And even then, you can’t just take a recording of that music and use it as you wish, becasue there are two copyrights in every musical recording: A copyright in the composition, and a copyright in the recording. The copyright in the recording never expires.

“Nobody will care if I bend the rules, because I’m just a small fish.”

Quite the opposite. Copyright owners have in recent years specifically targeted “small fish” companies and persons with lawsuits, as they are keen to show a zero tolerance policy on misuse of copyrighted music.

“As long as I don’t use more than 10 seconds, it is legal.”

No. There is no length of music use, be it performance, copying, sampling or any other use, for which you don’t need to clear the music rights. There are rumors that say it’s okay if it’s under 30 seconds, or under 7 seconds, etc. The fact is, there is no such time limit.

“As long as I don’t make money on my project, it’s okay to use copyrighted music.”

No. When you are using uncleared / copyrighted music in your project, even if it’s a free web site, a free game, a free home video or any other project in which other people will be able to hear the music, you need to clear the music, even though you are not making a cent on the project. The issue here is that you are enabling other people to hear music that they didn’t purchase. Therefore you are breaking copyright law, no matter if your project is free or paid-for.

“But how about radio stations? They also enable people to hear music that they didn’t purchase!”

Radio stations pay an annual license fee for their rights to broadcast music. The license they pay depends on how many people their radio station can reach. Parts of this license fee is paid to the music composers and publishers.

If you know of any other myths that should be covered here, please let us know by using the comment field.

Cue-Sheets, TV broadcast and public performance

If you are not already familiar with cue-sheets and public performance rules, we recommend you take few minutes to read this page, because it’s an issue that’s worth understanding for anybody involved in media production.


What is a cue-sheet?

A cue-sheet is basically a single-page document with information about music tracks used in a TV or Film production. The purpose of the cue-sheet is to ensure that a small part of the annual license fees paid to Performance Rights Organizations are distributed to the correct composer and publisher of the music used.

Please note that it does not cost you, or the broadcaster, any additional money to file a cue-sheet. The payment that is made to the composer and publisher is taken from annual blanket licenses paid by the broadcasting companies to performance rights organizations. These annual license fees are the same whether cue-sheets are filed or not. The cue-sheet only ensures correct distribution of these annual fees to the actual composers and publishers who created the music used in the broadcasts.

Music composers and publishers depend on these payments from performance rights organizations, to be able to make a living on their music. It is important to correctly file a cue-sheet whenever music is broadcast. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also a legal requirement.

Where can I find a sample cue-sheet?

A generic cue-sheet can be downloaded right here:


You can also click here to download a .zip file with the cue-sheet inside)

In the USA, cue-sheets with our our music are represented by ASCAP. A blank ASCAP cue-sheet can be downloaded from this page:


Where do I find the information needed to fill in the cue-sheet?

When you place an order on our site, an Invoice and Music License document is automatically created for you. This document is available to download from the same page from which you download the music. Just look underneath the music download link(s), and you’ll see a link to “click here to download your official Invoice and Music License”. In this document, page 1 is the Invoice part, and the rest of the document is the Music License, where you’ll find all relevant information. The information you need for the cue-sheet looks something like this:

Track title: 1000 Miles
Composer: Dan Gautreau (PRS)
Publisher: Lynne Publishing (PRS)

If you’re having problems finding the information you need for your cue-sheet, feel free to call us or email us, and we will be happy to help.

What should I do with the cue-sheet?

• Please save and print a copy of the filled-in cue-sheet.
• When you send your production to a broadcasting company, always make sure a copy of the cue-sheet is included along with the film.
• Send a copy of the cue-sheet to us at: [email protected] .

What about YouTube and Google Video?

Like other broadcasters, YouTube and Google Video pay annual fees to performance rights organizations. When you upload your video to YouTube or Google Video and enter information about your video to these sites, you should make sure that you include good information about the music used in your video. Please include music track title, composer and publisher info. This will enable the composer and publisher to receive a micro payment from their performance rights organization, again, taken from the annual license that YouTube and Google Video pay to these organizations. Again, this does not cost you, nor them, any additional money.

But is it, or isn’t it, “Royalty-Free”?

It may seem odd that “royalty free music” still generates performance royalties to the composer and publisher, when the music is broadcast. But this is how it works, and you’ll find the same thing no matter where you should purchase royalty free music. The broadcasters always pay an annual fee for their right to broadcast music. This annual fee is the same, regardless of whether they play music by composers who are registered with a performance rights organization, or by composers who aren’t.

So why call it “royalty-free music”? Well, in regular “not royalty-free” music, you would have to pay us a royalty for each time you used the music, or for each month/year you had access to it. Our music is as royalty-free as any music can ever get. There is no getting around the broadcasters’ annual fee to performance royalties organizations.

Performance royalties don’t really have anything to do with Shockwave-Sound.Com as such. Performance royalties aren’t paid to Shockwave-Sound. They are paid from the broadcaster, via the performance royalties collection agency as an annual fee, and then divided among composers. It has nothing to do with Shockwave-Sound, other than us providing you with information about the composers and publishers of the music you purchase.

Unfortunately, every year a huge amount of music is being broadcast where no cue-sheet for that music existed. This doesn’t mean that the broadcaster’s annual fee is reduced in any way. They still pay the same amount. But when no cue-sheet is filed, the money goes into a “surplus pool” which, at the end of the year, is divided on a percentage scale between already high-earning pop artists — those who already make the highest amounts of performance royalties. So the broadcast may have contained music by one of our composers, but the money that should rightfully have been paid to him, has instead gone to pop artists like Phil Collins and Britney Spears. And that’s just not right. This is why we insist on cue-sheets being correctly filed when music by our composers are used in a broadcast.

Performance Rights Organizations across the world:

Here is a list of Performance Rights societies in various countries; they will be happy to help you if you have further questions about Performance Royalties and cue-sheets. We hope this article has been helpful.

Argentina SADAIC
Australia APRA
Austria AKM
Belgium SABAM
Brazil UBC, ECAD
Bulgaria Musicautor
Canada SOCAN
Chile SCD
Colombia SAYCO
Croatia HDS
Czech Republic OSA
Denmark KODA
England (See United Kingdom)
Finland TEOSTO
France SACEM
Germany GEMA
Greece AEPI
Hong Kong CASH
Hungary Artisjus
Iceland STEF
India IPRS
Ireland IMRO
Israel ACUM
Italy SIAE
Lithuania LATGA-A
Malaysia MACP
Mexico SACM
Netherlands BUMA
New Zealand APRA
Norway TONO
Poland ZAIKS
Portugal SPA
Russia RAO
Singapore COMPASS
South Africa SAMRO
Spain SGAE
Sweden STIM
Switzerland SUISA
Trinidad & Tobago COTT
Turkey MESAM
United Kingdom PRS For Music
Uruguay AGADU

Track tagging: Create a lightbox for music tracks or sound effects

Track tagging: Create a lightbox for music tracks or sound effects

Create your own custom ‘Favorite tracks’ page

We are pleased to announce a new feature on as of September 2008. You can now “tag” or “bookmark” your favorite stock music tracks or sound-effect collections for later reference. A great feature if you come across a royalty-free music track that you really like, but you’re not ready to buy a license just yet.

Using this feature, you can essentially create a “Lightbox” of your own hand picked tracks and loops, and come back to that list any time to review it, or to license any music tracks from it, for MP3 or WAV download.

Here’s how to do it:

1. When you find a music track or sound effect collection that you would like to add to your tagged tracks, look for the “Tag this track” link at the end of the track description:

2. Days, week or months later you can come back to and find your list of tagged tracks by clicking on the “My tagged tracks” link, which is located underneath the royalty-free music search / sound effect search box on the right-hand side of our site:

3. Should you wish to remove a track from your favorites, just click the “Untag this track” link at the end of the track description from inside the “My tagged tracks” screen:

4. The system behind this is based on “cookies”. A “cookie” is a very small capsule of information that our web site places on your computer’s hard drive. This cookie has information about which tracks have been tagged. Under normal circumstances the cookie will stay on the computer indefinitely, but if you forcefully delete the cookie from your hard drive, or you block from placing a cookie on your system, then the track tagging feature will not work.

We hope you’ll enjoy this feature, and thanks for using!

What is Royalty Free Music?

What is Royalty Free Music?

Royalty-Free Production Music – what does it really mean?


Put in the simplest possible way, Royalty-Free Music describes a piece of music that you can use as much as you want after paying a one-time license fee.

That’s the most important thing to know about royalty-free music, and you could walk away from this article now and probably know enough about the subject to get by.

But if you want to know a little bit more, read on.

Royalty Free Music was first introduced in the 1980’s, when it was more common for producers and broadcasters to pay a fee for each time they used the same music. Let’s say they were producing a TV show and that TV show had some music at the beginning of the show, which was repeated again at the end of the show. They would have to pay the fee once for the music use at the beginning, and the same fee again for the use at the end. And then, if this TV show was broadcast once per day, they would then pay the same fees again for each time it was broadcast. This “traditional” form of music usage fees were often referred to as “Needle-drop” fees.

When Royalty-Free Music was introduced, it did away with all this, and allowed producers to pay a one-time license fee for the music, and then use it as much as they want. Not only does this usually work out a cheaper, but perhaps an even bigger difference is the convenience. Producers no longer had to measure each second that the music was used, and calculate fees based on uses, re-uses, etc. No wonder it quickly became a popular way to obtain music.

A piece of music can only be royalty-free if the composer and publisher has decided to make this track available on a royalty-free basis. You can’t find music by popular well known music artists on a royalty-free basis, because for them it makes more sense to maximize their earnings by sticking to a more traditional setup.

Luckily, there are now web sites, like this one, that offer great selections of royalty-free music where the licensing procedure is so simple that it would have been a dream come true for those producers from years gone by, who had to deal with the huge complexities of needle-drop fees.

When you look for royalty-free music on the internet, though, be sure to read the small print and to buy from a reputable company. There have been con cases where people have offered music on a royalty-free basis, and the music wasn’t even theirs to offer — leading to a run-ins with the law for the companies who purchased what they in good faith thought was properly cleared royalty-free music. Unsurprisingly, we recommend buying royalty-free music from ourselves, Shockwave-Sound.Com, as we have been in business since 2000, use only on-staff composers/producers, and have established our reputation by serving clients including BBC, MBNA Bank Plc, IBM, the State of California, Raffles of Singapore, Estée Lauder, and tens of thousand other small and large companies over the years.

I hope this has been useful.

PRO-registered vs Non-PRO registered music

PRO Tracks means that the music composer and/or publisher
is a member of a Performance Rights Organization (PRO). These tracks are royalty-free
for nearly all types of use without the need for any further licensing
but, in some circumstances, these tracks may require additional licensing
from the PRO in your country. Examples of this would be to use the music at
a trade show in Germany or to play the music in a shop in some countries (not
all countries). TV/Radio broadcasting requires that you file a cue-sheet when
this music is broadcast, but this does not cause any additional costs or additional
licensing required, as the broadcaster already has a PRO license. That includes
YouTube who already has a PRO license, so you don’t have to do anything other
than to include music credits in the Description of your YouTube video.

Most “royalty free music” websites don’t even tell you when a composer/publisher
is a PRO member, because it’s only in exceptional circumstances that such membership
actually causes additional licensing requirements. To read more about this,
please see our page General Royalty-Free vs Completely Royalty-Free.

Non-PRO Tracks means that the composer/publisher is not a member
of any kind of Performance Rights Organization. This music is completely royalty-free
for all uses covered by our license.