BlueArrow Technology: What it Does, and Why It’s Needed

Film Music Institute > Film Music Magazine (Archives) > Music Supervision (Archive) > BlueArrow Technology: What it Does, and Why It’s Needed

I was fortunate to be the first to get a full live demo on this sound recognition technology at the 2009 World Copyright Summit in Washington, DC, thanks to Hanna Pantle (BMI’s Asst. VP, Corporate & Media Relations) and Landmark Digital’s VP, David DeBusk, both wonderful folks – you should get to know them. Landmark Digital, owned by BMI, has put forth the BlueArrow digital audio recognition technology that came as a result of BMI acquiring Britain’s Shazam Entertainment Ltd. BMI’s acquisition included patents covering the BlueArrow technology, and Landmark is using this as a springboard to develop more audio recognition products and services. BlueArrow is currently in Beta testing, and from what I saw, is based on sound principles (pun intended) and something that could have long-range implications on our music delivery business models (more on that later, but first some info on how it all works)…

This particular type of real-time audio recognition technology is not via watermarking, yet can ‘hear’ beyond the sound effects and dialogue that obscures music identification in traditional fingerprint technology (the type used in MediaGuide—which only monitors radio anyway). Since music in TV, film and advertising is rarely used without additional audio elements, traditional fingerprinting technology is not really effective or useful to the score composer (or even for songs used in anything but otherwise silent film/TV montages). Within two seconds into the demo, I saw identifying info pop up on the screen, including an instance where a sample appeared to be used within the title being monitored—quite useful for the major labels and big publishers, considering the preponderance of ‘remixes’ using samples of classic recordings. I’m told the system identifies sound files with about 99% accuracy, and it certainly was quick to bring up instances where the music was being used, whether it was on radio, TV or in a commercial. The amount of music and the global genres covered was astounding—this is not just your basic rock, pop, jazz, country and classical coverage. It is evident that this has not been a simple feat, either—putting all the metadata into the system and correlating it all with the sound files has obviously been a monumental task. It’s an ongoing process, of course, and new music is being input all the time, expanding the reach and scope of what is being monitored and where.

It seems that they have radio covered on all fronts, including advertising, but still have a way to go in getting all the major TV, Cable & Satellite markets completely wired in (although what they already have set up is still better than the nothing we currently have elsewhere). They currently are monitoring (based on Neilson ratings) the top 25 cable and satellite networks, plus ABC, CBS, NBC & Fox in Los Angeles and Nashville. They are working on expanding that lineup, and are also moving forward with agreements to monitor discos & clubs worldwide. In addition, and despite the inherent problems and politics involved in monitoring non-U.S. movie theatres, concert halls, arenas, etc., and dealing with the numerous PROs and location owners, they are in the process of securing cooperation in monitoring music uses in all types of live venues around the world. Anyone who’s negotiated a contract knows how much time and effort and compromise it often takes to get everyone to sign on the dotted line, and when dealing with such a myriad of owners and interested parties, it can be quite a painstaking process. I don’t think it will take Yoda-like patience to see this all come to fruition, though. It appears Landmark is making good strides and is committed to moving things along as quickly as possible.

Blue Arrow provides data analysis and reports based on the clients’ specific needs and requests, and the system is sensitive to emerging trends. That’s good stuff. The system also requires that all the metadata and sound files be uploaded into their system by their folks (unlike tech that puts the process into the music owners’ hands)—which, depending on what side of the fence you’re on, could be considered a good thing or a bad thing. While great for major labels (and others who can afford to pay for an account and have the BlueArrow folks put their music into the system, then monitor and report back to them with the data), it currently seems to leave out the indie and boutique label artists and that solitary creature, the score composer who is not John Williams or Hans Zimmer.

From all indications, though, they seem to be truly looking at a way to make things work for the rest of us—those not independently wealthy and/or under the corporate umbrella. I think that with a little nudging on our part, we might be able to help move that along—at least with the folks over at BMI.

How so? Since BMI owns Landmark, it would be kinda neat (not to mention a PR boost) if they could figure out a way to provide the BlueArrow tech to all its BMI writers and publishers—if not as a freebie, at least for a nominal, yearly “value add” fee. It might be well worthwhile for BMI composers to take note and take action, writing/calling your BMI rep to ask about BlueArrow and how it can be made to work for the “little guys” with BMI. If enough start clamoring, perhaps it’s something that could come into the realm of possibility sooner rather than later. If ya don’t ask, ya don’t get, so start writing, calling and emailing. Who knows? Those registered with other PROs might also be able to benefit in the long run if it can first become an economically feasible option for BMI’s non A-list artists and composers.

So back to the tech…

They take a digital sample from an audio source (TV, radio, cell phone, Internet, cable broadcasts, satellite, HDTV, etc.). Regardless of whether it’s only a tiny bit from the middle of a song or virtually obscured by dialogue or sfx, the BlueArrow system knows what it is and has all the details. It monitors broadcasts 24/7/365 and compares the fingerprints against the metadata in their system.

Now here’s where it gets interesting and complicates the whole “re-titling” practice (for those who have been under a rock for the last 30 years, re-titling is where one composition by a composer is embodied in one sound file/master recording of the work and then given different titles by every library in which it resides. The ‘new’ (or alternate) title is registered with the library’s applicable performance rights organization [PRO] that corresponds with the composer’s PRO, but only after the library has also put its own publishing entity as owner or co-owner of the ‘title’—thereby allowing the library to participate [in whole or in part] in the ‘back-end’ publishing portion of performance royalties paid for every TV/cable airing and foreign theatrical performance of the program in which the composition/master’s use was reported to the PRO. This practice means there can be many ‘titles’ attached to one composition/one recording, none of them bearing the original title that was used when the composer originally registered the actual work with the U.S. Copyright Office)…

So… Every fingerprint match delivers a title with time, date and source of the audio. Since the system is matching the AUDIO source file, regardless of what TITLE is associated with it, that/those additional title(s) will come up as a match. Puts a whole new spin on the old library argument of, “But when we re-title your work, we’re doing you a favour, since you’ll know where your income is coming from based on the title.”

No more. The BlueArrow system is designed to trigger recognition by SOUND, so every title associated with that sound file is going to come up (it’s how sampled pieces within a sound file will come up in their monitoring system). That means a composer would have to check with every library in which he/she has that track to find out which one licensed the sound file and to whom. If the use being recognized, however, is NOT from any valid, licensed situation, but is from an unlicensed use, there are potentially dozens of sources from which that unlicensed use may have generated. With only one title with each library (unique works and unique recordings), a composer would know exactly which library to contact about any unlicensed use of the work.

So, contrary to the long-standing library mantra of “it makes things easier to track your income,” sound recognition technology actually complicates things, making it more time-consuming and HARDER to track the uses of any re-titled track. If a composer has retitled tracks out there with multiple libraries, this tech will now hamper the ability to monitor where music is being used and by whom. Each sound file will be popping up with multiple titles, multiple publishers and multiple master owners. The libraries will ultimately be falling all over each other trying to figure out whose title got what hit in the monitoring.

When the fingerprint match delivers the titles identifying the date, time and source of the audio, that data is analyzed and delivered to the clients. Isn’t it going to be interesting when that same data comes up for more than one client? Who is going to be able to claim the use, since both their titles come up as valid against the sound file? BlueArrow doesn’t know how this re-titling issue will ultimately be handled. Since the head of the music department at a major network with whom I recently met had no idea about re-titling until I informed her about the practice and how it works, it’s not surprising that Landmark’s VP of Business Development was also unaware of the practice. He said that frankly, he’s not sure what the implications will be. They’re currently Beta testing a handful of libraries (they/I am not at liberty to say which ones), but I can say with relative certainty that the libraries were not forthcoming about their practice of retitling tracks. If any of the libraries currently testing BlueArrow have the same track from the same composer with different titles (not an unlikely scenario, given the rampant retitling that goes on), it could prove to be a little sticky, and somebody’s gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do…

This complex pattern recognition matches the sound against millions of other patterns stored in the system and doesn’t CARE what title anyone has given it. It’s going on sound only and it may end up as a 52-card-pickup scenario when trying to determine just WHOSE placement/use is being picked up from that movie airing on HBO 2 in L.A. on Tuesday, July 28th 2009 at 3am Pacific time.

So BlueArrow does quickly and accurately monitor performances of a work, but what about unidentified music in a film or TV program that airs that may or may not be supported by cue sheets? How can the client find out about those and get paid by the PROs for such unlicensed and/or unreported and/or under-reported uses? It simply hasn’t been cost-effective to spend the man-hours needed to do real-time searches through boxes of DVDs of programs that have aired (films, TV shows & ads) and match them against shelves of CDs (music in a library or at a label), only to find one unlicensed or unreported composition use in one program. The BlueArrow tech can identify sound files fed into their system from such DVDs and CDs, and they are working on identifying previously unidentified material for their clients. They’re continuing to develop and adapt the tech so that (hopefully) fewer compositions and recordings fall through the cracks. Data is everything to today’s digital world, and with under-reported and unlicensed music use percentages varying from 15% to 70% (depending on which source one is to believe), the more info one has to support the use of music from one’s catalogue, the more money one can potentially collect—both from those who may have used a piece without permission or incorrectly reported a use, and/or from one’s PRO.

So here’s my editorial of the day… and I may digress here:

The fact that BlueArrow technology recognizes a sound file and then may end up matching it to more than one title in the system is not a failing of the technology, but rather, a failure in our business models that have allowed this as a likely scenario. We, as an industry, have allowed this to perpetuate, many citing that it’s just “good business.” Some of us have spoken agin’ it, others fear it.

The way I see re-titling in today’s marketplace? It makes NO good business sense. At the very least, it has always stood on shaky ethical grounds, and now it can ultimately be seen just as an antiquated method to monitor music in our technologically sophisticated market. It’s no longer the future or the present, but should be relegated to the PAST. We often hear the word ‘dinosaur’ bandied about when speaking of old technology and business models, and that’s where we should relegate the whole concept and practice of re-titling music.

Any unique track of a unique composition shouldn’t be out there with ten titles, and with ten different publishing entities noted as having a piece of the back-end pie. When the General Counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office says that at first glance the practice seems “unethical” at best, then we need to rethink how we’re doing business.

Music libraries don’t re-register those ‘new’ titles with the U.S. Copyright office and reference the original copyright filing number. I know. I checked. They can’t, because to do so would be official FRAUD, unless it’s a transfer of ownership (all or part) and they are actually acquiring a portion of the bundle of rights to the copyright itself. That’s not what they’re doing. Registrations with PROs are merely on titles, NOT actual copyrighted works, so the libraries file registrations of these new titles solely with the PROs, and not with the Copyright Office. This allows them to perpetuate their practice of re-titling without committing “official” Copyright fraud. They say it’s for bookkeeping purposes, but I’ve never met a reputable bookkeeper who also decided it was fair to skim off 50% of my in-perpetuity, back-end income from their efforts on my behalf. No; that’s why I pay them for their work—which is what sharing in the up-front licensing fees is supposed to be about.

Sound recognition technology and its continued and expanded use should put an end to all this bookkeeping banter and bring the focus back onto what is actually OWNED here… and it’s what we’ve always known and has always been broken down in music licenses: the composition and the recording of those compositions.

So back to the original subject… My thoughts on BlueArrow are twofold:

(1) Sound recognition technology that ‘hears’ past dialogue, sfx and noise, thereby allowing for the accurate identification of music uses, monitoring and payment for those music uses is a GOOD thing, and Landmark should be commended for it; AND

(2) When such tech is available to ALL music creators (not just big labels, publishers & libraries) in a cost-effective method for monitoring the use of their works… THAT is when I’ll be pulling out my pom-poms and yelling, “YEAH, TEAM!”

And a reminder (from my attorney): All statements above are my opinions and not intended as legal advice or counsel. No warranty or representation is made as to the accuracy of these statements. You should hire an attorney before entering into any agreement or contract. So there!

© 2009 by Gael MacGregor


  • Chris
    July 1, 2009 @ 11:13 am


    what is with the rant? clearly some re-titling is done and the ethics may be in question.. but if you OWN the copyright and wish to include other people in the back end participation by re-titling then I see no legal problems at all. i think you stick to the facts. the article was very good up to that point.

  • July 1, 2009 @ 11:52 am

    Guess I should have posted a pic — that’s dudette, dude… ;)

    Re-titling isn’t just an occasional anomaly, but a rampant, decades-old practice that is increasing with each new online start-up “library” as they attempt to beef up the number of tracks under their umbrella.

    Not only are the ethics sketchy, but copyright owners (composers) may actually be setting themselves up for losing the copyrights to their works by engaging in the practice. The principles of an “implied contract” (and one that may be in conflict with the actual contract signed for such re-titled works) could be a significant factor as more official investigations unfold. As the article indicated, the General Counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office didn’t look too kindly on the practice when made aware of it. Decisions in D.C. could greatly impact our industry.

    The main point? All ethics and or potential legalities aside, sound recognition technology and its implementation for tracking are based on a unique sound for a unique work assumption. With millions of re-titled tracks (no exaggeration) out there, it’s likely to be a train wreck in attempting to find out exactly WHO should be getting the money for the tracked uses — since currently there is no way to ascertain which library’s “title” is the actual use popping up in the tracking.

  • Chris
    July 1, 2009 @ 2:59 pm


    The technical problems are an issue as you point out but it seems that there is always some problem with tracking performances. Currently there are problems with cue sheets all the time. there are errors introduced in the data entry points of the cue sheets-like when a music supervisor makes a mistake on a cue sheet, or a production company or when BMI re-enters data from a hard copy of a cue sheet. The point being there is no perfect solution to any of this and the only way to make sure you are getting what’s yours is due diligence. It is like investing-a fool and his/her money are lucky to get together in the first place. I have a hunch that any problems introduced by this technology will have to be fixed the same way-due diligence. Having said that, I really take issue with you legal claims about re-titling. If you possess the ownership of a copyright and wish to essentially have multiple sub publishers publish your music with clearly defined limits set up in a contract then I have yet to see any precedence that indicates this is unethical or illegal or in any way gives away the right of ownership as the original publisher. Further, what exactly are the “sketchy ethics” of exploiting your creative product to the best of ones abilities. I can’t speak to those who are somehow abusing this, I don’t know anyone who’s doing that, but citing the General Council “not looking too kindly on the practice when made aware of it” hardly seems like real legal opinion. What exactly is one supposed to do with their creative product, in this case music, other than to exploit it as they see fit. Currently, re-titling is a good and in my opinion, fair way of doing so. I respect your opinion although certainly disagree and maybe there should be further discussion about the re-titling issue.

  • July 1, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

    There were a lot of discussions at the WCS about re-titling. Most folks previously unaware of the practice were actually aghast that it existed, much less considered a valid business model. Libraries quietly justified it, and “new” sound-recognition technology simply doesn’t account for it. It should be interesting to see just how the legalities play out and how the tracking dilemmas are handled (or not).

    And remember… I’m gonna be giving opinions in this column, and you can count on them leaning toward the protection of those who create the content. There will always be this caveat with each column: “All statements above are my opinions and not intended as legal advice or counsel. No warranty or representation is made as to the accuracy of these statements. You should hire an attorney before entering into any agreement or contract. So there!”

    I don’t care if folks disagree — I just want folks to talk about the issues. Just keep it civil and friendly. :)

  • Damir
    July 2, 2009 @ 12:51 am

    Thanks for a great article, Gael. Very informative. Personally, after 7 years in the music publishing business, I couldn’t agree more that re-titling of tracks is just plain wrong, and this new technology will make a good point of it – the confusion from all different claimants to a particular track will be immense. Let’s face it – Sting could not re-title his track “Every Breath You Take” and sell the publishing on it for another 3 bazillion dollars. Anybody listening it would know exactly what track it is, regardless of a new title given it. When our company first entered this business, we were offered ‘re-titling’ options left and right. It felt wrong to do it, and I am so glad we didn’t. Not trying to be righteous here by any means :-) Let’s face it – the temptation to re-title is motivated by greed only… We’re all learning at the moment the consequences of greed in financial and housing markets.

  • Chris
    July 2, 2009 @ 8:56 am

    during a re title you aren’t selling the publishing. it isn’t bought or sold. you are allowing someone else a portion of the profit for the duration of a contract. essentially it’s a license. this happens all the time in many lines of business. for example Intel (the computer chip company) licenses their technology to company a and company b. it’s the same technology. if Intel or company a or b decide they no longer want/need the technology then they end the contract. it’s all intellectual property and i fail to see how music is not the same kind of intellectual property. in every case i know about re-titling a track can be stopped by the original copyright holder by contacting the music library and opting out. re-titling is motivated by greed in the same way every other business is motivated by greed to sell their properties and make money. dog gone it, i’ll say it I want to make money. as a composer i want to exploit my product as i see fit. a composer exploiting their product is not a victim here. again, the inability of the music market to have a clue rears it’s ugly head…oy!

  • chris
    July 2, 2009 @ 10:07 am


    I want to be civil here but I just don’t get your logic…you say you are going to give opinions and that we should “count on them leaning toward the protection of those who create the content”. I have a lot of experience in the library world and I know that there are basically two ways to get a composer’s (already existing) music in a music library. Option 1 is to license it to a re-titling music library company (or multiple ones) and the composer will still retain copyright and full ownership of the creative product. At least this is true for every reputable library company I have dealt with. OR option 2 is to GIVE your music to an exclusive music library who will FOREVER own and control YOUR creative product. Sometimes you may get upfront money from the exclusive library but more often than not you won’t (for existing music tracks owned by the composer). Now, I ask you which of these two options protects the content CREATOR more? Which of these two options allows the CONTENT CREATOR a way to exploit their creative product to the fullest? Which of these two options put’s the CREATOR in control? Are you really on the side of the creator or what? Because I see re-titling as win-win. I once had the option to sell all of my music to an exclusive library and I decided not to at the last minute as I wasn’t willing to give up ownership of my music. I’m glad that I didn’t sell and that I have since gone on to control who I license my music to and who I don’t. That is REAL protection of content. I think you would be hard pressed to find a tv or film composer that is against re-titling unless they really don’t understand the practice. I’m sure you will find many people who are aghast at something they simply don’t understand and I have found that runs rampant in the music world in general-and very much so on this website. So again I am at a loss to see how the practice of re-titling is unethical or illegal. And on the side of those who license the music, meaning a TV producer or network, they are not the least bit concerned about being able to find the same track in multiple libraries. They only care that the RIGHT music is finding it’s way into a production. They don’t care if it’s available in two libraries simultaneously or written by a camel in the Saharan desert so long as it’s helping the show. What’s the difference between a track in an exclusive library being used on multiple shows or the same tracks being available in multiple libraries. Generally a producer will not make a deal with multiple libraries for a single show-although sometimes there are a couple libraries in use one time. In any event there is so much music out there that no re-titling libraries are going to have a lot of the same composers and the likelihood that a producer would be aghast to find a few identical tracks in multiple libraries is laughable. (CAVEAT-The above examples are not to be confused with an exclusive music library who is hiring you to compose exclusively for them, that is a different can or worms.)

  • July 2, 2009 @ 11:59 am


    Damir made some good points, and his “Every Breath You Take” example is a good one. That famous song couldn’t be re-titled. The town would declare “Shenanigans!” (“South Park” reference).

    I’ve done a lot of investigation on this issue. It is not “every so often” that re-titling is done. We’re talking about MILLIONS of titles out there for thousands of compositions. We’re talking about inflated PRO catalogues (they count titles, NOT actual compositions/works the way the Copyright Office does). The size of the PRO’s catalogue is a portion of the formula whereby blanket license fees to restaurants, retail shops, TV networks, radio stations, etc. are calculated. If you inflate the numbers you inflate the fees, which is fraudulent to the people paying those fees. In addition, composers are losing millions of dollars each year because their publishing back-end has been usurped in whole or in part.

    As a supervisor I routinely receive submissions of the same composition AND recording from several different sources — all with different titles, all the SAME recording and same composition. Supervisors usually go with “whichever one I opened first gets the license” but I tend to go with the actual composer/artist rather than any library source that takes any part of their back end. This way, the artist/composer gets the entire license fee and their full back-end. How do I know? I ASK. And when I say “routinely” I mean EVERY WEEK. I’ve stopped counting how many re-titled works that have crossed my desk, but at the time I stopped, I’d gotten 1,075 unique works I’d received that had been given different titles — and I stopped counting about six years ago. That’s just ONE supervisor. Multiply that by the other supervisors (with many more credits to their name) who get a whole lot more submissions than I.

    My viewpoint has ALWAYS been that NO library should be taking your back-end for tracks you’ve created on your own on your own dime. Period. Ever. Taking half of any license fees generated by their efforts is a fair share and should be the beginning and end of the financial involvement for any licensed use. A piece of your hide forever is not fair to the creator of the work and its recording of it (let’s not forget the recording in all of this). The library in this example didn’t write the piece. They didn’t record the piece. They didn’t PAY for the musicians to record it. They let you park your music with them and they made it available (in whatever forms) for supervisors to audition and (hopefully) license. That’s it. You’re one among many. You pay a bookkeeper to do a task. You pay them for their work. The bookkeeper doesn’t then get a piece of your royalties in perpetuity just because they performed the initial task that got your performance income catalogued. That’s why you paid them for what they did for you in the first place.

    If the library (1) PAYS the composer to create the composition and (2) Pays ALL recording costs (including musician’s fees, studio time, arranger/orchestrator fees, etc.) to create the track, then there might be a logical argument for library ownership of the publishing and master (in whole or in part). If, however, the composer is also the main/lead performer on the track, they should receive the standard artist share for master licenses. I don’t feel the composer should, even in such circumstances, give up any writer’s portion. The composition fee should be treated as an advance against future earnings, and when that amount is recouped, they should share in synchronization license fees.

    Licensing technology is an apples/oranges comparison for many reasons — and I’ll be presenting an article about that particular debate as it played out at the WCS.

    I also did a writeup of the various library models that lays out exactly how the various models work. I also wrote more about re-titling and how it fits in with those models. These were made available to the FMPro list, and will hopefully soon be available at Film Music Magazine as well, and we can continue the library debate then.

    Right now, the issue is IDENTIFICATION. Most current sound technology identifies recordings of works regardless of what titles are attached to them. A couple can actually hear past the recordings themselves and identify based on other patterns, but that is not yet the norm.

    Re-titling complicates identifying the WHO in the scenario, which means confusion in where the back-end money should be going.

    That’s the issue as it pertains to THIS article. We’ll disagree about the other aspects later. ;)

  • Composer
    July 2, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

    Hmmm, all these passionate arguments (rampantly;-)?) going on for paragraph after paragraph… But, joking aside, they do have some merit, of course. Kudos to you, article author, for stepping up to the plate for composer’s rights! However, it is also important, I think, to understand the business from a composer’s and/or small publisher’s perspective and that this article might present what I interpret as a rather limited view of the matter.

    The case is, that if you have written a piece of music that you now own, or retained ownership of (from, say, a low or unpaid scoring gig), not necessarily as a full-on, profiled artist release per se, but say as a very listenable track that could work in a multitude of different licensing scenarios, you want to make sure you reach as far with that track as possible since we all know it’s a numbers game and getting a (reasonably paid) license is getting harder and harder in an ever overcrowded market place, where the good and sometimes brilliant often drowns in the growing mountains of crap muzak that’s also released every year.

    It is YOU who make the decisions as to what you do with your track and how you market/exploit it, if you still own the copyright, and not the music library, music placement company or any other entities you choose to work with. You would only get exploited yourself if you have not bothered to learn the business you are operating in. Different companies that can represent your music on a non-exclusive basis, where you retain full ownership of the underlying composition and master (which, of course, is the ONLY basis on which re-titling is even acceptable, in my opinion), often specialize in different areas of exploitation. Some might focus, or be very good at, placing music for network promos, some are strictly movie trailers, some are international and some are not, some are only focused on in-program licensing, etc. The point here is that, while I recognize the issue with tracking down from which licensor a reported (or unreported) use originates based on these new technologies, I do not see the inherent “ethical”, “moral” or whatever issue with re-titling per se, within reason and for good reason, of course. As for the tracking, what about calling the production company in question when you think you might have caught a bust and not first ALL (or more likely the 1 or 2) of your sublicensors?…tada! Work it out with them. It’s always a pain when you have to deal with uncleared usage, anyway. Not SO much more in this new and upcoming scenario. Also, you have at least months first to see if you get paid and 9 months more if it doesn’t show up on the expected PRO statement. Even major name artists and composers re-title their work, or allow it to be re-titled, and the PRO’s offer you the option of as many “a.k.a titles” as you like. THIS kind of re-titling is simply different because it also offers an easier way to split profits fairly, or in a way you like it to be split, based on different uses secured by different entities that work on your behalf. IT greatly simplifies the process of sharing synch/mech fees and PRO monies differently when involved parties so desire. There is nothing unethical about this imho. Composer’s are also offered as many aliases to substitute for their name as they like from the PRO’s. Is this unethical too? Of course, every practice can run “rampant” and become overused and misused. That doesn’t mean that the practice in and of itself is questionable by default, but I see here, like everywhere else, how some people can get ridiculous with re-titling. Bad, I agree. But, a piece of (say library) music is not a holy grail, it is a business property that can and should be exploited to the full extent of what it’s leagal to do. I have heard nothing here or anywhere else that supports the illegality of re-titling a work for the purpose of more easily letting a 3rd party publishing administrator rightfully get their share of your publishing royalties and other relevant earnings for putting in their efforts in exposing your work to markets where your current representatives are not operating or are very ineffective. (the so called writer’s share should NEVER be shared or split from the original composer…if you do that you ARE a criminal, in my book, and if you allow it you are clearly working against what’s best for your composing career). It’s a dramatically more complex music licensing world out there as compared to even 5 years ago, something which it sounds like the author is not completely aware of, again imho. I’m not looking to offend, but I’m trying to make a point, ok?

    Furthermore, the fact that the article’s author didn’t even yet mention the high profile TuneSat, who offer a very similar, if not almost identical, technology (that is, in response, actually completely affordable to even modestly successful composers and small publishers), further points to a limited awareness imho.

    There might of course be certain issues remaining to be resolved re. various registering of your work, incl. copyright., but since a work is only owned by one party, still, in a “kosher” re-titling scenario, and the Register Of Copyright has a copy of your sound recording, I don’t see how this would present a problem other than for people who want to make it one. Everything would always be explainable and traceable, and no one are defrauding anyone. Normal re-titling should just be regarded as, like someone else here pointed out, a sensible, legal business device and not an attempt at defrauding anyone, or at committing any crime.

    Anyways, sorry for the length of this posting…just my 2 cent… I choose to remain anonymous for fear of having my career and reputation completely destroyed for defending such an ethically and morally questionable behavior that I might or might not partake in, and for possible government prosecution and a visit from the men in black…

  • July 3, 2009 @ 2:41 am

    Hi, Composer… “Author” here. :)

    Mark Holden covered TuneSat quite adeptly in his article for Film Music Magazine (

    Currently, neither TuneSat nor BlueArrow has enough coverage of the overall marketplace to make them what I’d call fully functional for comprehensive tracking. I suppose “affordability” is a relative term, but adding up all the associated costs beyond the initial expenditure, we may not be looking at practical dollars for the “little guy” just yet (at least not in my book).

    No need to apologize for the length of your post or remaining anonymous (for whatever reasons). I’m glad to see the issues being discussed and dissected from both sides of the fence. The only way to effect change is to bring issues out in the open, debate them and have the ideas behind them tested.

    To quote from copyright law: “…Publication of a work can affect the limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner that are set forth in the law…”

    Kinda makes me lean toward a more cautionary approach and refrain from anything that has the potential to put the ownership of my music in jeopardy. Others may feel it’s no big deal. Ultimately, the decision is one’s own, and one must live with the consequences (good, bad or mediocre). My task here is to call ’em as I see ’em, which may differ greatly from the view on your side of the fence. :)

    You said: “It’s a dramatically more complex music licensing world out there as compared to even 5 years ago, something which it sounds like the author is not completely aware of…”

    I began working as an advocate for artist rights when I was a consultant for the Beverly Hills Bar Association/Committee for the Arts’ 2nd Symposium for Musicians, Singers and Songwriters. I’ve worked on almost fifty films & TV series doing music supervision, coordination & administration. I have been, and continue to be, intimately involved in the licensing process for film, TV, Internet and other media. I have seen the music licensing world change greatly over the years and have made it a point to grow and learn with it. Everyone can learn new things every day, and I’m no exception, but I do consider myself at the very least, relatively well-informed about new tech, business models and their implications in the music licensing world. I may just disagree with the efficacy or validity of said models and/or practices. :)

    Thanks for your comments!

  • Chris
    July 6, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

    composer-amen brother. i think you said what i had tried to say only better. beware the men (and women) in black!!

    gael-in regard to your last paragraph about experience… clearly you have a lot of experience but it is also clearly skewed towards the somewhat limited angle of music supervision which is really not to be confused with the trials and tribulations a score composer trying to license their own music will usually face. nor should it be confused with the process the vast majority of broadcast television goes through which does not generally hire the services of a music supervisor and chooses to license directly from a library almost always without a go between such as yourself. of course there are many music sups steadily employed but as a percentage of total tv programming it’s really just a small fraction. albeit often the biggest films and shows enjoy the budget to hire someone such as yourself. having said that, from your writing, it is obvious that this part of music licensing, score composers looking to license work and production companies who deal directly with libraries, are clearly not a part of your expertise. and hence the reason i originally took issue with your comments. i would suggest getting additional info from these groups before condemning the practice of re-titling any further.

  • July 6, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

    Not so, Chris, but I can understand why you might think that could be true.

    I’ve worked on some decently budgeted films & TV programs (and continue to do so periodically), but a lot of my current work is in the indie field — which means limited budgets — and they need music sups as much as the big boys, if not more so, for a myriad of reasons.

    I have routinely negotiated and/or created composer agreements, and due (at least in part) to my intervention, have helped score composers negotiate agreements that have allowed them to retain at least a portion (if not all) of their publishing rights for the scores they’ve created for independent films.

    I’ve negotiated and created thousands of licenses over the years encompassing all media (including those for my own music appearing in film).

    I’ve also worked hand-in-hand with some of the largest music libraries in the world, and certainly see your/their point-of-view. I just happen to disagree with it. :) I see the contracts they put forth to and have assisted quite a few composers in retaining their publishing rights when negotiating their library deals — and without having to re-title their works.

    I’ve not called into question anyone’s credentials or expertise — regardless of their anonymity or the opinions they put forth. I have merely stated my points of view based on my own experience. I expected others would respectfully do the same.

    We’ll get back to re-titling in another article devoted exclusively to the practice and you can continue to rake me over the coals then. ;)

    Any more thoughts about the BlueArrow tech or the other sound recognition technology out there (I’ll be presenting a writeup of a number of others that were presented at the WCS in a future installment).

    Let the discussion about the sound tech continue!


  • erik
    July 20, 2009 @ 6:46 am

    The way to fix this is have one technology that does fingerprinting and watermark.

    Combining the technologies will provide accurate tracking and payment to all involved. Regardless of title

    First one to market place that has both components with the network to track wins.

  • […] Gael MacGregor recently wrote a very interesting article at about a new music identification technology that is quickly gaining notoriety.  Its Landmark Digital Services’ Blue Arrow technology, and its garnering a lot of buzz within the music supervision community.  Blue Arrow technology enables music that is in films and tv to be more accurately identified for reporting purposes.  This means that we won’t have to rely on cue sheets for music reporting.  In turn, that could lead to more accurate and timely royalty payments.  Wahoo! Right?  Well not quite yet… there are some pitfalls.  The technology is still prohibitively expensive, and it brings to light the issues involved with re-titling of copyrighted works.  Messy stuff but MacGregor’s article does a great job of breaking down all the issues involved.  Check it out here. […]

  • August 14, 2009 @ 8:43 am

    Interesting commentary.


    By ending re-titling, you are closing the door on high dollar business revenues for writers and publishers alike. Re-titling is not a questionable practice. It allows a publisher to get paid for the work it does in promoting songs it has the rights to license. Without re-titling, the doors will be closed on many indie publishers. This will result in composers becoming dependent on only a few large publishing companies leaving composers few options. Just as the internet has taken power away from big recording companies and given the power to release music music back to the artists, re-titling songs keeps the power from belonging to only a few large publishers and makes sure it is retained by its composers/authors where it belongs. Re-titling also keeps publishers in check by preventing a monopoly on a particular work. Re-titling gives the composer/author the power over their own work. Don’t take that away.

    It seems to me that Blue Arrow and other similar companies need to figure out how to differentiate between the alternate titles. Adjusting a computer program or technology seems to be a much easier solution than re-vamping the music industry, and ending the vast number of business opportunities and revenues available to composers and publishers which are afforded by re-titling.

  • August 17, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

    I agree with Lecia’s point on technology rather than creating problems let it also take on solving the tracking issue before it gets implemented. Otherwise isn’t that greedy? Like the EV electric car there are solutions out there…there may, however, be folks that don’t want solutions but rather less competition.

    Lecia just started to get to what I believe is the meat of the re-titling “controversy.” I’ve been to the AIMP and the PMA meetings and I detect an undermining of the re-titling practice by the big established publishers because … who wins if re-titling becomes “banned?” The established libraries- no one else. Certainly not composers and producers. Who supports the named organizations? The big libraries who in some cases are also the big publishers and are sometimes owned by the studios … is there a possible conflict of interest here? Unions are you listening?

    Gael are you suggesting that composer/producers limit their income options voluntarily and that if they don’t they are “greedy?” Now they also have to be salespeople? Is that what they should be doing or should they be making music? Wow. And regarding unethical…did you say if you are submitted a track that is also submitted by a library you track down the composer and go direct to make a deal? I don’t think your rant should go unchecked here. I feel your a little like the shills the biggies put in the audiences of the large music organizations meetings spewing half-truths to manipulate the uninitiated and newbies. You put it out there and your refutations smack of a particular bias. You said you… “work hand in hand with the big libraries.”

    You said keep it civil but you are advocating a game changing course of action that will send a lot of composer/producers back to waiting tables.

    Though there are lot of words already on these subjects, and I could go on. I think it is important to read between the lines.

  • Les Hurdle
    September 30, 2009 @ 4:01 am

    Surely the question still remains.

    Watermarking/fingerprinting is not in place because there is no will to accurately track anything.

    I agree re-titling could be a huge legal issue for the composer……. the publisher of the retitled work will always point the finger [1st digit] at the composer.

    BTW, how would a broadcast mechanical be paid to [whom] via retitled works overseas, might there be multiple sub-publishers/agents?
    On the face of it one would assume the o/s PRO would follow the paper trail, but if the ‘work’ had a fingerprint, what then?


  • September 30, 2009 @ 6:07 am

    Lay off of re-titling. Enough is enough. Focus on real issues and let composers eek out a living. Stop demonizing a legitimate practice that provides a royalty stream and full copyright ownership to composers. Stop pointing to potential problems inherent in re-titling a song by Sting or Stevie or Santana. We’re not talking about mainstream pop music here; we’re talking about instrumental underscore. We’re talking about score composers.

    Stop mixing and matching different issues, such as sound recognition technology and what it means to the practice of re-titling. They are separate issues, at least for now, which can be dealt with when there actually is a sound recognition technology that becomes mainstream and standardized. Stop pointing to re-titling being a nightmare for overseas publishers, sub-publishers, and sub-sub-publishers. Stop pointing to re-titling as an inherent nuisance to music supervisors around the world. It is not any of these things.

    Stop destroying the one remaining royalty stream for score composers in which they actually retain the copyright.

    Stop doing the precise thing you complain about: the aggressive competitiveness that leads one composer to undermine another. You are toying with composers’ income, whatever is left of it. You are taking away composers’ rights under the guise of composers’ rights.

    Lay off of re-titling. Focus on composers’ issues that actually matter, and there are tons of those.

    Lay off of re-titling, please. Can you do that, for the sake of all of us?

  • Les Hurdle
    April 3, 2010 @ 4:14 am

    and we are now where?

Comments are closed.