This meeting with this prospective couple, Ben and Alisha, was going well. The three of us sat in the coffee shop sipping on our peppermint teas with ever-flowing conversation. We hopped between “getting-to-know-you” and “wedding planning” topics, smiling ear to ear accented with frequent bouts of laughter.
It was such a good connection that I would have been very surprised if they didn’t want to book. We reached the 50-minute mark and were concluding more of the “businessy” questions about the videography.
Then Alisha hit me with one of my “favourite” questions:
Do we get to choose the music for our film?
I paused for a moment and looked into her longing eyes and said apprehensively, “Well…”
Immediately, Alisha’s smile drooped slightly. My eyes shifted to Ben and his head tilted faintly almost as if to curve the sound into his inner ear more efficiently. I took another quick, ninja breath, which would inflate my courage to start my discourse that would set a very important expectation for the service and that could give more insight into who I was dealing with.
“Typically, no,” I started. Before she could even move her jaw to ask why, I continued with a carefully worded discourse that I try to refine every time I have to answer this question.
Don’t get me wrong
When I started in the wedding world, I had a few experiences where I gave Aperture Lane couples some editing muscle. I found out very quickly that this was not a good idea. As the primary editor of the films, it creates a headache and, for the clients, it often becomes a pain point in their experience that can be totally avoided.
While the choice is not offered to the couple, I do take their preferences into account. That can involve the couple sending songs that they like. However, most times, it involves listening to the musical choices throughout the wedding day. What a bride and groom choose as their first dance song, their procession song(s) or even what gets them and their friends on the dance floor says a lot about them. So, for example, if there is a lot of hip hop tunes at the reception, I’ll definitely opt to use at least one track with some bass or similar attributes.
But hey – here are 8 reasons why Aperture Lane and some other videography studios don’t offer our couples the chance to choose music for their films.
1) Professional Experience
Usually couples do not have the professional experience to score a film. I like to take the analogy of a chef in a restaurant:
Imagine you were to get seated at a swanky restaurant. Then suddenly, you got up, walked through the staff-only entrance to the kitchen and started giving your input on your dish as it was being made:
“Can you not sauter those onions for so long?”
“Sprinkle more salt in that sauce”
“Can you plate my chicken dish they way you plated that beef side over there?”
Potentially invasive, huh? No matter what experience you had, you would get kicked out of the kitchen (and likely the restaurant) quite quickly. The chef and his team have lots of experience doing what they do. They prescribe options of what items go together and offer choices based on what works. They also have to serve not only you, but the other patrons in the dining room.
In the same way, the video editor knows what they’re looking – and listening – for to bring the visuals and audio together. There are certain principles and best-practices that s/he is aware of as they choose each element in order to produce a film similar in caliber – or better – than what you saw when you hired them.
Imagine if we wrote to Netflix asking them to change the music of that show you just finished binge-watching!
2) Creating a timeless keepsake
Every year there’s a song or two that trend and you hear them played at every wedding. In addition, you see a lot of wedding videos published with that those tracks.
I remember one year is was “A thousand Years” from the Twilight series. Another year it was “All of Me” by John Legend (I absolutely hate that song now). Ed Sheeran got some of the lime light another year.
What does this do for your film? It becomes dated and the timeless factor of the memory is gone. Also, people associate your film with whatever trend was hot that year, and they’re not always good.
Many video editors try to find tracks that are fresh without any association so that when you and your audience watch the film, there are minimal weird associations.
3) It can take a really long time to find the right track
You might think your wedding is a Tenerife Sea affair but when we get home with the footage, it could actually be something totally different. If you’re saying, “I want 500 Miles”, it may not necessarily fit the vibe of your day.
Also, some editors, myself included, use multiple tracks in one film to change the mood and follow the evolving tone of the day’s events. Lots of the Aperture Lane films will have 2 or 3 song transitions throughout the film because, Beyoncé’s “Halo” will just not cut it for both pre-ceremony and the reception segments.
Never mind finding instrumentals so the lyrics of the song don’t overpower your wedding vows! The curated libraries that we use usually carry lyrical and instrumental versions of music we want to use so we can tell the story with your wedding, and not have the music take the spotlight. Sony Music is not sponsoring your wedding so don’t give them free publicity.
4) This creates more work for you
Going back to the chef example: Let’s pull someone in the kitchen with no cooking gear and tell them taste the sauce. Have them juggle the preparation of the different parts of the meal. They might fall apart at some point. Picking appropriate music can be overwhelming as you search through galleries of unfamiliar music (because I don’t use copyrighted music – point #7).
Plus, life will still be busy after your wedding. If you want to help choose music, now you have another project in your list of things to do. Your evenings get hijacked by watching drafts of a film and booking time to either type up feedback or having phone calls. So, you paid all this money to be busier.
On top of that, delivery of the final product can be twice as long with all the back-and-forth.
5) We want to deliver work of similar caliber or better + (6) It’s very personal
I clumped these two reasons together because I feel the explanation is quite similar.
Yes, we are a business. However, for personal brands and small teams that offer video and/or photo, it’s still a very personal process. Most of us got into this game because we already had a passion for doing it in our day-to-day lives. So, there will be some carry-over.
That being said, most vendors (should) display their best work – work that speaks to them the most and more samples of what they want to attract. So hopefully, you picked them because you liked their style and their vibe. In choosing them, you fell in love with their style and believed that it resonated with your taste and your views.
If that was your thought process (conscious or unconscious), then trust that your wedding pro will give you something you will fall in love with. It can be scary to relinquish control, but I believe that when we do that, that’s where we allow the magic to happen in different areas of our lives.
7) Copyright issues
Most times people want to use music from their iPhone or from their Spotify playlist. While that might work for your procession, entrances and formal dances on the wedding day, it doesn’t so much for a film.
We actually aren’t allowed to just take any song you like and include it in a product we’re selling you. Any asset, be it music, fonts, sounds, etc that we don’t record or create ourselves shouldn’t be reproduced without permission from the original content creators (whether explicit or implicit). Simply put: if you didn’t make it or pay for it, don’t edit it in your video. So, most small companies and independent artists get their music from music memberships like The Music Bed and Sound Stripe to name a couple. And we PAY FOR IT.
There are free resources out there too but they are rarely as good. So how do big Hollywood movies use popular music in their films? The rights to use music from popular artists and record labels can be purchased for tens of thousands of dollars… per track.
Elephant in the room: So how is it that I see so many wedding videos with John Legend, Ed Sheeren and others?
This is illegal.
They may not have been caught yet but it doesn’t make it okay. A team of people worked their butts off, invested time, energy, sweat and tears to create that music and this videography company took that music and enhanced their project (that you paid them to do) without any compensation to those people who made the music. And yeah, many of those labels and musicians make A LOT OF money but it doesn’t justify. It’s straight-up stealing.
As a content creator myself, I would not want people copying my work and using it to make $$$$ without my permission or giving me a cut!
8) At the end of the day, it’s not about the music.
When was the last time you were excited to see a movie because one of Drake’s tracks was going to play running one of the fight scenes? When did Hans Zimmer get you to the box office early? Never… or RARELY at best. You go for the plot, the actors or even the director. Then after you enjoy the film, if the sound track was THAT good, you google the soundtrack because the story endeared the music to you. It’s the same with a well produced wedding film. This is your story, and the music is just one of the many elements to helps bring it to life.
If your videographer offers you the choice to collaborate in the musical score of your film and you want to take on the work, go for it! However, if they don’t, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for you.
Like I mentioned before: you reached out to this vendor because you liked their work or their vibe, or both.
It’s been years since I’ve gotten negative feedback about music choice. I think this is because I don’t make a big deal about the music. Our films are story driven, which means that the flow of the film is carried by the vows and speeches accompanying the visuals. The music serves to accent all of that.
I want to leave you with one of my favourite films from 2018. I really loved the music choices but the passion with which everyone spoke on the day of made me love it even more.
What do you think about these points?
Also if you have any questions or comments, share below or reach out on social media and I’d love to keep the conversation going!
As we narrate together!