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?
I believe that rather than "copyrighted" music you mean royalty-free or low-fee licensed production music. There are dozens of sources for this, just try Googling "production music."
The big libraries like Killer Tracks are not cheap but are HUGE in the numbers and styles of tracks offered. The big guys also have the best writers and best orchestras, bands, soloists, etc. The small, "royalty-free" companies are generally much less expensive, but as is the case with so many other things in life, you get what you pay for.
One primary difference between production music and popular music is editability. The stuff is designed to be cut to length as needed, or as one of my former clients put it, "That's amazing! Where did you find music the exact length of our video?"
Many of these companies now have online auditioning and purchase. I'll let others chime in with some names and favorites.
I don't know if the promotion is still going on, but right here on the COW a week or so ago FootageFirm was offering any single disk of production music for their $8 postage & handling fee. Not all great stuff, but certainly worth the price.