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Can You Use Copyrighted Music In A Demo Reel?

Whenever I do a scene or think about performing, in my mind, I always play background music from my favorite film. It makes me feel like a real actor and gives me a rush. 

So I constantly use background music from my favorite films for self-tapes, auditions, demo reels, etc. 

But all the music I am talking about is copyrighted material. So, can you use copyrighted music in a demo reel?

In this post, I will answer the question and educate you about using copyrighted music in demo reels. 

can you use copyrighted music in demo reel

What Is Copyright Law  For Music?

Copyright law allows an individual or a company to protect its intellectual and physical properties from being used by another individual. This includes videos, music, film, photographs, sound effects, etc. 

All the music that you hear is copyrighted in some way or another. 

And if you use it for commercial gain without authorization from the owner, the owner can file a lawsuit against you. 

Can You Use Copyrighted Music In A Demo Reel?

If you see the law, it does not allow you to use the music for commercial gain or public use. 

If you plan to put your demo reel on public platforms like Youtube, Instagram, or Facebook, you cannot use the copyrighted music without the permission of the owner or the creator of the music.

However, if you just plan to send your actor demo reel to a casting agent or movie producer, it is considered fair use because you are just using it for a presentation. 

You are not earning from this presentation, nor is the media exposed to the public. 

Things To Consider While Using Copyrighted For Actor Demo Reels?

Here I am going to lay out the important points you need to consider if you want to use copyrighted music for the demo reel:

1. Keep It Under 30 seconds

According to fair use, the music should be shorter than 10 percent or 30 seconds, whichever is the shortest. 

You can use any part from a background score, but it has to be less than 30 seconds. 

Even the edited or remix version has the copyright of the original maker, so even that has to be less than 30 seconds. 

2. Use For Presentation Only

As I mentioned, if you show your demo reel to a casting agent or movie producer, you are using it for presentation only. 

The copyright allows you to use the music for presentation. 

However, this presentation should be done personally. You cannot upload it to social media and share a link with the concerned person. 

Even if you share it on social media like YouTube, keep it private and should be deleted it after the presentation is done. 

This way, you are working within the law. 

3. Do Not Post It On Pubic Platforms

Any social media like Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, etc., is considered a public platform. So avoid uploading your demo reel that uses copyrighted music. 

Also, websites are considered public platforms, so avoid sharing them on websites too. 

If you want to keep it online, here are the ways you can keep the demo reel online:

  • Keep it in a cloud storage service like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. 
  • If you upload it on Youtube, keep it private. A person only with links should be able to see it on YouTube. 

4. Provide Credit

Another safe way to use copyrighted music in a demo reel is to provide credit. Whenever you use music for a shot in your demo reel, at the bottom of the screen, write the music’s name and the music’s creator. 

Let’s say you use music from the movie Batman, created by Hans Zimmer, then follow this format:

Music Credit: I Am The Batman by Hans Zimmer. 

5. Get Permission

In case you want to keep your demo reel in the public domain. You will have to get permission from the owner of the music. 

Usually, the music is owned either by the creator or the producer. You can easily connect with them and get permission from them. 

If some royalties need to be paid, you must pay them before using the music. 

Alternative To Copyrighted Music – Royalty-Free Music

If you do not want to get into legal trouble, royalty-free music is an alternative to copyrighted music. 

Royalty-free music means you can use the music, edit it and keep in the public domain. 

You do not need any permission from the owner. 

Yes, you need to provide credit for some royalty-free music, but that’s it. 

Here are some of the websites from where you can download royalty-free music:

Final Thought

Before you use copyrighted music in a demo reel, make sure you know the law and use the music only for presentation. And in case you want to use the reel in the public domain, make sure the music royalty-free.