In the wedding and event video world, at one time or another, we’ve all at least contemplated, if not taken a side in the big music debate: Do I use popular music or do I use royalty-free music? Will this debate ever end? It’s a question many of us face on a daily basis with our edits, and aside from any matter of legality involved, sometimes it just comes down to the needs of a specific project or the demands of a particular client.
For some of us, the challenges of using royalty-free or buyout music are the same as trying to match popular songs to the mood or tone of our work: Unlike in Hollywood movies, the music wasn’t scored specifically for the film, so it will never give us that perfect fit. And in most cases, with buyout music providers trying to produce content that will appear to producers throughout the video, web, TV, and film worlds, it’s rare to find music composed with us in mind.
That said, there is one company creating music just for our industry. Since 2004, Nightsong Productions has been producing music composed specifically to match the emotion and feel of a wedding day. If you’ve never heard of Nightsong Productions you’ll be interested to know that LaDonna and Michael Aiken, owners of Nightsong, are themselves award-winning wedding and event video producers and EventDV 25 honorees, so they’re well aware of the need for high-quality music that fits the feel of a wedding or memorial video.
LaDonna and Michael have recently released the latest CD in their ongoing series of royalty-free song collections for our industry, all composed, produced, recorded, and performed by Michael, but presumably with plenty of creative input from LaDonna. I have the other three Nightsong volumes, and all are top quality.
Wedding and Event Series: Volume 4 steps it up over the previous collections in the types of music included. As I listened to the selections, I noticed a number of tracks that are perfect for a wedding video, where lots of natural sound and voiceovers are being used. For these types of videos, you don’t want busy music and vocals. You need music that will allow speech to blend in easily with the music.
Since LaDonna and Michael film weddings themselves, they know the pace of a highlight clip, and they always seem to build in a few swells right around when you will need them. They’ve even included a track of chimes to introduce a section of your video and to build a little anticipation.
Another thing I noticed about Volume 4 is that many of the songs not only work great for weddings but also for memorial videos. The funeral/memorial market is growing, and there are a number of songs that have a soothing feel with some emotional swells in key places. These would be perfect background music for telling a story in a memorial tribute.
In addition to the usual wedding and memorial types of songs included in Volume 4, there are a few songs with a distinctive corporate or broadcast type of feel to them, which only adds to the collection’s versatility.
I’ve been using Nightsong Productions music in my short-form edits since I started doing them a few years ago. They’re a perfect fit. One characteristic I have noticed is that the songs have multiple starting and ending flow points within them, making it easy to place the swell right where you want it for drama. If you move back on the timeline a little, it’s very easy to find a simple place to bring the music in and fit your production, leaving the swell right where you wanted it. Volume 4 just adds more options for me in the short-form edit. The fact that many of the songs also fit great into a memorial video just shows the flexibility and thought put into each song.
LaDonna and Michael sent me a few sample clips showing how the music can be used in wedding films. Two of the clips have been uploaded to EventDV-TV.com and also appear in the video window at the top of this page. The song “Yulia’s Dance” was written as a highlight song for a couple who had a very elegant first dance. It was created to showcase the first dance as centerpiece of the highlights; it flows nicely.
The song “Note to Self” was created for a highlight piece containing many voiceovers. The song flows in and out of those voiceovers very well—almost like it was written for them, which, of course, it was. Particularly evident is that “Note to Self” was written to accommodate voiceovers.
One other song showing the versatility of the CD is “Aftermath.” The clip on EventDV-TV shows much of the devastation from Hurricane Ike, which hit Texas in September 2008 (the Aikens are based in the Dallas area), but it ends with a feeling of hope for the future. Check out the videos to see samples of the songs as they were used in actual clips. You can also hear samples of each track on Volume 4 at www.nightsongproductions.com/cd4.shtml. Track samples from volumes 1–3 of the series are available on the Nightsong Productions site as well.
If you’re looking for good royalty-free music created by event videographers for event videographers, look no further than Nightsong Productions.
Philip Hinkle (philip at frogmanproductions.com) runs Madison, WI-area video production company Frogman Productions. A 2008 EventDV 25 honoree, he won a 2008 WEVA CEA Gold in the Social Event category and a 2006 4EVER Group AAA Diamond. He was a 2009 WEVA CEA judge and a featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2009. He is co-founder and vice-president of the Wisconsin Digital Media Group.