In the wedding video business, it's a pretty universal practice for production companies like me to use copyrighted pop music for our brides' videos, without authorization. More than once, WEVA has had panels of attorneys debate the risks involved in doing this. Generally they conclude that what we're doing is wrong and the record labels could come after us, but realistically it won't happen as long as we're producing videos for individuals to watch in their homes with family and friends.
When I provide a demo to a wedding venue for them to use on their site, I use the same copyrighted music without getting clearance. Recently, venues have asked me for documentation for their files, showing that I’ve gotten clearance to use the music. It makes sense because these are hotels and wineries with deep pockets. It would be too easy to sue them and win a lot of money.
Of course I don't have the rights to the music.
How are others handling this? Is there some site where I can buy or even have custom composed (for cheap of course) music with a similar sound and feel to the music I use on my wedding films? I’d continue to use the real artists for my brides, but for more commercial usage I’d use the non-copyrighted. Any suggestions?
You can buy stuff that sounds similar but is already cleared. You can make demo versions for those hotel shows and the internet that use cleared music, and keep your dirty piracy secret between you and your actual clients. Though I don't advise that either, because you can't ever prevent a client from later posting a clip from their DVD to youtube... and there you are, back in trouble again. And obviously so, too: you see a lot of clips lately on YouTube where the audio has been disabled due to copyright infringement. THAT is not a good advertisement for your business.
I like to use SonicFire Pro to make customized-sounding music from pre-cleared raw material, automatically. SmartSound is a similar program.