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Filmstro: Royalty-Free Music (filmstro.com)
431 points by rbanffy on May 23, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 67 comments

Wow, this is one of the cleverest ideas I've seen in a long time.

As far as I can tell, they've put together a wide-ranging set of fairly generic-sounding movie music (generic = good, so it doesn't call attention to itself)... but composed it in a way that the three parameters (momentum, depth, power) simply map to different volume levels of the underlying instrumental tracks -- but all perfectly tuned to always produce a pleasing result.

As far as I can tell raising a slider often maps non-linearly to more volume, but sometimes it reduces/removes instruments too.

So there doesn't appear to be any machine learning, nothing crazy fancy -- which is what makes it so clever and impressive in a "I-wish-I'd-thought-of-that" way. I can only imagine the amount of product iteration it took to arrive at what the 3 parameters should be (and why 3 instead of 2 or 10). It reminds me a lot of Adobe's Multiple Masters technology for typefaces. [1]

If they keep putting out enough of these master tracks, I wonder if it will reduce the market for film composers. After all, most films don't need recognizable motifs, they just need music to tell us how to feel, and this meets that need perfectly. Bad for music students, good for film students...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_master_fonts

> After all, most films don't need recognizable motifs, they just need music to tell us how to feel

Not trying to pick a fight with you - I agree with your comment overall, but this is a culturally learned thing, very specific to Western movies and TV-series, and it is actually mildly infuriating to me. It is one thing to complement the emotions present in a scene, but being told what to feel is basically a cheap way to try to patch up bad storytelling.

Worse, it can totally backfire: for the dub of Castle in the Sky, the original composer had to fill in a ton of quiet scenes with music because (IIRC) Disney was worried about the audience feeling awkward about not being told what to feel. They also added background chatter, and worst of all: filled in scenes that were quiet on purpose with all of these things. While the orchestral score sounds great in and of itself, in most scenes all that added audio ruined the mood of the original.

However, I can't deny that what you state is what the audience expects, and that it "works", so sadly you're still right.

I think music is just a tool -- it can be used badly or it can be used well.

Different media are able to show different things -- novels show interior thoughts, plays need to focus mainly on dialog, and movies/TV are largely driven by images.

Particularly, movies and TV have a huge challenge in communicating the interior thoughts of characters -- this is one of the first things you learn in screenwriting, when a particular story might be more appropriate as a novel instead.

But one of the tools which can communicate a character's state of mind is through music. At best, I think it's what you mean when you say complementary -- e.g. a character has to act confident but you need to know that inside they're nervous. But of course it can be a crutch for bad acting too -- if the actor is supposed to be communicating nervousness but isn't, so the music does it for them.

> But of course it can be a crutch for bad acting too -- if the actor is supposed to be communicating nervousness but isn't, so the music does it for them.

Ironically, animation seems to be a worse offender than regular movies. And sometimes the story itself simply isn't good to begin with, and does not give any decent justification for being emotionally invested in the main characters.

In that vein, I recommend this video about the Marvel Universe music and the general use of "temp music". It touches a lot of the points you mention: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vfqkvwW2fs

Different viewers are different. You want to experience a story when you see a movie, but other people want to be emotionally numbed. Still others want to be reassured they know how they’re supposed to feel about things.

Funny enough, that difference in needs when deciding what to watch (if anything at all) has turned out to be one of the best indicators for whether or not to keep dating someone for me.

This reminds me of how blown away I was when I first played Super Mario 64 (1996), and the music dynamically changed based on whether you were underwater (adding in some strings and a few other details).

Actually, now that I mention it, Nintendo did the same thing in Super Mario World (1990), just simply adding in some congas to the currently playing track when you jump on Yoshi.

They've taken it to a whole new level in their more recent games, harmonizing the sound effects to the background music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5-YDxH6It8

For me a similar moment of revelation came when I first heard LucasArts’ iMUSE dynamic music engine in action: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMUSE

Makes sense that Nintendo would nail a similar effect. If there's one thing they're masters of, it's distilling an experience down to it's essential elements.

You've pretty much hit the nail on the head with your description.

Just regarding your comment about music students, please feel free to get in touch with us if you are interested in writing music for Filmstro. send an email to composer@filmstro.com

Music has a very important role in a movie - if you cut that out and replace it with generic music you'd be left with films with great acting that feel muted and listless. I'm not sure you quite understand how much work goes into a score and how much the director's, among others, views and desires affect that score.

On the other hand, movie trailers can benefit a lot from this. Of course for trailers you'd need a "creepy 5-year-old singing" slider and a "BWAAAAAAAAAA" slider...

It really reminds me of the dynamic music used in Doom (2016).

In fact my favorite game, Rez, has a central conceit that is much closer to this. The heart of Rez is a 32-channel MIDI engine which continuously plays the game's background music; however, which channels are "active" is controlled by a bitmask that varies depending on which phase of the level you're in, allowing for a constantly shifting sohndscape. Then, additional music that arises from game events is mixed on top of that.

Yeah you don't have to use machine learning for this type of site there are so many aspiring musicians on the web with home studios good old fashioned crowd sourcing will generally give you a better result than machine learning for this kind of site.

Looking around the site, I was not able to find clear license terms that related to copyright of the actual music tracks produced. I am not a lawyer, but to me it is critical that copyright (and not royalties) is clearly spelled out. The product lives in an uncanny valley between clear copyright interests in musical compositions and software generated derivative works modified by end user input. The only legal information is a mostly bog standard software terms and conditions on a web page. Such pages often change.

Digging deeper in the site does not reduce the copyright ambiguity to me because the example scenarios like a corporate entity picking up content containing the music are dealt with vaguely rather than by pointing to clear licensing terms around copyright. The example of "tracks for a friend" is met with "we don't care." Right now, maybe not. But copyright interest can be sold to someone who does care...and potentially someone who cares because pursuing copyright interests is their business model.

None of which is to say I don't think the tech and music is cool. It just seems that the messy details that can come back to bite an artist sit on the hard work left to do list.

There is also nothing about licensing your own work. Can I create a Creative Commons AT-SA video using this as the backing track? What if I also release all the source to my video under the same CC license? Can someone else that that track and use it in his/her project with the CC-AT-SA license? What exactly is attribution at this point? The video using the track or do you need to credit Filmstro too?

I agree, the FAQ doesn't go into enough licensing detail.

I do like the concept, but I think I'll stick to ccMixter.

Yeah, it is something that is actively being looked at and worked on.

For what it's worth, I think the license is much more critical than being royalty free in terms of value creation. While royalty free is "cool" for generic Youtubers. Professionals and corporations with real budgets have money for royalties and it can be rounding error for the money they spend on lawyers to keep them away from copyright problems. To put it another way, clear and central copyright licensing has the potential to allow the project to move well upmarket. Without it, even free wouldn't look like a bargain to someone serious enough to have a lawyer.

Also open air broadcasting isn't mentioned anywhere in plan descriptions.

Isn't it mentioned? If you're looking at the plans page just click until you get to "Choose a License" and it's listed as a feature ("Broadcast: TV, Radio & Online") under the premium licenses.

This and icons8 is getting pretty close to what I'd love to use on a regular basis. Unsplash has been great for creating a wonderful platform for truly free do what you want images. Now I'd like to see the same in audio/video. For advertising on YouTube or even actual commercials it would be nice have really affordable solution to use generic (but good!) sounding music that small businesses could use to give their ads a more polished feel. It's a big help because a lot of companies can't afford the licenses for big tracks or hire in a studio. Heck, even paying for images typically is a hard pill to swallow.

As a consumer I always appreciate seeing higher quality production regardless of the product.

> Now I'd like to see the same in audio/video.

Pixabay is a site that works similar to unsplash, but added a video section a short while ago. Not entirely sure if Stocksnap and Pexels have done so too.

Another area where this seems to be happening is with fonts at places like Fontsquirrel and Open Font Library.

Hi HN! I'm one of the devs at Filmstro (the company featured in the article). You can check out our music library here https://filmstro.com/music.

Do you have any plans on providing SDKs for game engines like Unity? I would love having music that change dynamically based on the pace of the game.

Hey, I love the idea of the being able to compose music that matches the visuals of a film very easily with the app so I decided to download it and test it. Unfortunately, it seems it is not able to import .mov files on my macbook pro and when I import one of my 4k .mp4 source files, it plays very slowly, in fact so slowly that the video and the timeline become out of synch. My two questions are, are you aware of these two issues and are you planning to fix them?

Yeah, thanks for the feedback! Yeah, we are aware of a some of the 4K video issues. We're also working on allowing more file formats in the app. I don't have an ETA for you, but it is in the works.

Could you put a link to the actual license? I can't seem to find it.

There is a PDF included when you download one of the tracks. But here is the direct link https://filmstro.com/images/freemium-license.pdf

Any promo codes you can share with HN community? :-) This looks great, would love to give the Filmstro Pro a try.

Thanks for all the love.

We've just created a discount code for you guys. You can use this on any of the monthly subscriptions. It will give you 50% off the first month.


Much less complete, but I post 5 royalty-free no copyright tracks every week here: https://no-lick.com.

Really cool to see you supporting the same cause too! :) We've got an authoring tool for composers that we're working on - You should get in touch with our Head of Audio (John) composer@filmstro.com - There could be an interesting collaboration here.

That does sound awesome. Sending an email now. Happy to collab!

I've used https://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/ for this in the past, which works relatively well.

I tend to recognize the better known tracks, which is sometimes distracting. The fidelity of the music also doesn't seem all that high to me (although his output is impressive).

Royalty free music is a pain. I wanted to licence a music track for use for YouTube and a podcast, but it's just unclear if that requires different licences, and if it's a series, it may only cover a certain number of episodes and expire after some time before you have to buy again.

I did discover icons8's free music selection which is actually very good: https://icons8.com/music/

I totally understand your pain with licensing music (as a filmmaker myself). That's why we've worked hard on removing those issues for content creators. Filmstro music is worldwide and in perpetuity (so you don't have to keep re-licensing any music you purchase/export). Also, we make it very clear what you can use the music for - as a matter of fact, we wanted to make music more accessible for content creators hence why we (1) released royalty free 100% youtube cleared static tracks and (2) subscriptions that allow users to access loads of music for one annual price.

So if I understand the license, I pay $10 a month for access to the music. If I cancel my subscription, I can keep using the music I already downloaded. For example, I would not have to erase it from a Youtube video I published. The video and its music can stay online forever. Is that right?

They mention that in the FAQ. You should keep the CUE sheet you used to generate it. I suspect it contains a licensing hash of some kind.

If only you could automatically transform these songs to be of a desired length (naturally, without clipping/fading).

You can do this using our desktop software, or using the plugin for Premier Pro. https://filmstro.com/products

Sad music -> Turin

What film have I watched with that in?!!!! It's going to be on my mind all night now... (aargh!)

Ok - found it... but now I'm confused.

This music Gnossienne No. 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUAF3abGY2M

is the same as the royalty free one called 'Turin'.

So is it that the Turin version is a royalty free 'recording' (dynamically created), rather than one by a specific performer?

This is an Erik Satie piece. He died in 1925, and so is out of copyright. We do have a few classic tracks in the library, but the majority are Filmstro Original tracks.

Fair enough (y)

More than one person has mentioned how a track is almost just like something else. This is a little concerning. I would like to know if they just bought a license for the originals that allows them to create additive tracks or if they're ripping off shit and think they can get away with it.

This looks cool but the first one I listened to (Music Genres\Rock\Wallula) is almost identical to Bohemian Like You by The Dandy Warhols (https://youtu.be/CU3mc0yvRNk?t=15s).

Moby did something similar a few years ago - http://www.mobygratis.com/ - although it doesn't seem to be working at the moment, and there's a lot of spam in the videos section.

I couldn't find any samples with key changes. This approach seems to require drone tones or a fixed root tonic.

Not bad for consumer mixing... adding music to YouTube wedding videos. Well executed.

I bet this is gonna be used for temp tracks, and we’re going to see actual film composers make unacknowledged knockoffs of this music.

Was this stuff machine-generated?

I'm guessing the sliders probably aren't sliders, but fall into ranges, and the peeps who write their music select different tracks to add/subtract for a given slider. They probably have some custom scripting languages around their music.

That's the way it seems to me as a user anyway, and the way I'd write it as a developer.

Nope! Real musicians, and a lot of love and work.

Lede totally buried on this one.

Filmstro (https://filmstro.com/music) is the company it's talking about with some seriously cool tech - for every music track, you can control three sliders (momentum, depth, and power) to change the mood of the song in real time - or in Premiere with a plugin.

Of course, this costs money, but it's one of the coolest things I've seen in this field in the last quite a while.

Is YouTube themselves working with to clear this music? Is it marked in YouTube's ContentID system somehow? Some artists have had copyright strikes placed against THEM for one of their original songs because someone else used their song (with permission) and then had YT's ContentID mark the other publisher as the owner.

It has got to be a slap in the face to generously offer your art for this use, only to be punished for doing so. Especially with the only way to deal with it is with a tone-deaf automated system.

Since the music is generated with the 3 custom sliders which you can change over time, I wonder how often YT would even detect a match? How often would people use similar-enough parameters of similar-enough parts that it would seem to be the same?

I think what irritates me the worst is that as far as I have been able to tell, there's no way to inform YouTube that you have written permission or a license. Some people just have privilege to not be Content ID stricken, and other people have to appeal when they inevitably do get hit.

Correct, it's guilty until proven innocent, and bad actors can initiate the content strike seemingly without much effort (at least it was this way a few months ago; not sure if YT fixed this).

I assume this is just because it's something you have to manually intervene on - as soon as you have that feature, tons of intentional violators will submit faked documents claiming they do have rights, and those have to be verified somehow.

I'm not saying that's a valid justification, but I imagine it's the thought process.

It's not uncommon for nefarious people to contentid swaths of music/sound effects that have been released for use on YouTube or otherwise.

Then you have to dispute it while they take the ad revenue and let the clock run out.

Totally agree - Content creators shouldn't have to be penalised unjustly for stuff like that. We (Filmstro) as the publishers decide if and where to collect royalty income. In the case of Youtube we made the decision not to register our music for royalties with Youtube - Which means, you won't have ANY issues with 'permissions' and ContentID marks :)

Until someone registers their video including the same music...

This is the link which is missing in the post ;-) Pretty cool stuff, especially with the sliders on the right side.


Thank you for linking this. I'm playing with it and I'm very impressed. The article completely missed the value of it being dynamic music where you can keyframe the momentum, depth and power with plugins for video editors.

Press release disguised as article.

> If you do a quick Google search for ‘Royalty free music’ or ‘YouTube cleared music’

Yeah, try "creative commons music" instead.

> 100% free for anyone to use – The Filmstro Free Music offering


> The only limitation is that commercial use of the music is not covered with these free tracks.

That's not 100% free.

Also, no download without account.

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