Music can supercharge the emotional impact of your stories, help you create a unique brand and sell more products, slideshows and sessions. 

But music also has the potential to distract from your stories and your business if it’s used poorly.

I’m Roy Ashen and I’m a huge fan of professional photographers and event filmmakers. My team at Triple Scoop Music has dedicated the last 7 years to helping creative professionals grow their businesses with fresh, original music by talented independent artists. We’ve hand-picked over 10,000 songs and we make licensing easy and affordable. Over the years I’ve seen and heard all sides of this important issue. So, let’s dig deeper together!

How Music Licensing Really Works: 

Let’s start with some facts about music licensing to make sure everyone understands the basics. Then, let’s talk about why your photo studio can benefit from the same approach used by Apple’s latest iPad videos.

What’s a music license? 

A music license provides permission to use a song for your business. You need a license to add (‘synchronize’) music within your slideshows, videos, and presentations. You need a license to sell copies of those products to your clients and to upload videos/slideshows to your website, Facebook and YouTube.

Can I use music CDs or files I already own? Can I use the music I bought on iTunes?

When you purchase a music CD at a retail store, or when you buy a song from iTunes, you are only allowed to use the music for personal listening. You cannot use this music legally within your business in any way. If you want to use it, you’ll need a license.

What if my client brings their own CD or music file?

Even if your client is the one who purchased the song, it is still not legal for you (or them) to copy or use the music in a professional production or  slideshow you create for them. As a business owner, you should not be duplicating or copying anyone else’s content without a license. You probably wouldn’t want other people making unauthorized copies of your work, either! The responsibility is yours and making the legal choice is a smart way to protect your business.

Someone told me I could get an ASCAP or BMI license and use popular songs in my slideshows or videos. True?

This is not true. ASCAP and BMI are called “Performing Rights Organizations.” They cannot legally provide any type of synchronization license. If you want to play your CD collection in your studio, start a web radio station, or play your iTunes playlist at a public location, ASCAP and BMI can certainly help. The only way to legally add (synchronize) music within your videos, films or slideshows is by licensing a song through the record label and publisher, or by using a music licensing service.

What types of licenses do I need to use music in my videos or slideshows? 

To license a song for use in your projects, permission must be granted by:

1) The owner of the audio recording (usually a record label). 
This is called a “Master Use” license.
2) The copyright owner of the song and lyrics (usually a publishing company). 
This license is called a “Synchronization” or “Sync” license.

You must have permission from both the record label and the publisher in order to use the recorded song. The tricky part? Many songs have multiple, independent owners! 

These labels and publishers may not agree on how much to charge for specific types of uses, especially for “hit” songs. They often prefer to negotiate independently when a business wants to license a song. Fun, huh?

At Triple Scoop Music we handle this legwork behind the scenes. You simply purchase a license, download music and get back to being a superhero to your clients.

In spite of the complexity, nearly all record labels and publishing companies will license their songs to businesses. At the end of the day, it comes down to the pesky issue of cost and time. Most “hit songs” are the results of millions of dollars of investment and the cost of licensing will likely be more than you’ll be comfortable spending. This can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars for a single slideshow or video!

What Music Licensing Approach is best for your business?



Only you can determine how much any song benefits your business. So, I’ve got a few questions for you…break out your pencils!



Will using a well-known song make or break your project? Does using a song that clients associate with other experiences enhance your branding or cheapen it? How important is it to make your images or video the real star of the show?

Some of you may feel that adding a Beatles or Beyoncé song is the perfect move. Others have experienced firsthand how a “famous” song can actually distract clients from your photo or video presentation. After all, you’re selling your photography, not promoting Beyoncé, right?

Your music licensing choices should match your artistry, your marketing objectives and your brand…especially if you’re going after high-end customers who prefer something special and unique!

Boutique Branding is Unique Branding!

These days, the best boutique brands set themselves apart with independent music that is unique and captivating. While many grocery stores, department stores and car makers still rely on top-charting songs, more smart & successful brands like Apple routinely use lesser-known original, independent music in their advertising. 

For example, have you listened to the music in the new iPad ads?

Recognize the songs? Probably not. 

That’s exactly why the advertising team at Apple selected them! They want you to think about the iPad and how much you’d love to have one. The music enhances their story and makes their product the true star of the show.

Like Apple, many successful photographers and filmmakers use original, independent music to close high-end sales. They’ll tell you that “hit” songs can distract from a presentation because the song was more famous than the images and became the focal point. At the end of the day, only you can decide what works best for your business and your budget. 

I hope this article gets you thinking about the types of music and licensing that will help you take your art and your profits to the next plateau!

About Roy Ashen

Roy Ashen is an award-winning songwriter and guitarist whose playing has been called “immaculate” by Brian May from the rock band “Queen.” Roy is also the CEO and CoFounder of Triple Scoop Music, the leading music service for professional photographers worldwide. Triple Scoop Music offers more than 10,000 hand-picked songs & easy, lifetime licensing by acclaimed independent artists, including Grammy winning composers. Hear why the world’s top photographers love Triple Scoop Music at TripleScoopMusic.com.

1 comment

  • Rebecca says:

    Completely agree. I don’t use music much, just for album presentation, but I found an amazing local singer who’s work totally goes with my style. She’s unsigned so far, so hopefully our work promotes each other.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.