Background Music for Theatre Plays
Pablo, who holds a degree in Business Administration and Programming, established Legis Music in 2016. With a focus on the royalty-free music industry, he has contributed extensively to the field, authoring over 150 articles on various aspects of music licensing. His efforts have been instrumental in developing one of the most straightforward and liberal music licensing frameworks available today.
Music has always been an integral part, with greater or lesser incidence, of theatrical representations throughout history.
Since ancient Greece, music has been indissolubly linked to the stage.
It was used, among other things, to reinforce the action, unite different scenes or entertain the audience during breaks.
This union between music and theatre has brought out genres such as opera, incidental music and musicals.
The music in the theatre helps the spectator to put himself in situation and to follow the work, as well as to transmit different emotions to him.
For this reason, it appears as an essential element within theatrical representations.
In fact, you must be very selective about the music you use and where you get it.
|LEGIS MUSIC||One-time payment||From $19/ lifetime|
|EPIDEMIC SOUND||Subscription||From $14,50/month|
However, creating a musical atmosphere for a theatrical piece is not as simple as looking for the music and playing it.
You have to take into account other really important factors if you do not want to get into trouble.
The influence of PROs in theatrical play
PRO is the acronym of ‘Performance Rights Organization’ and they are in charge of controlling the correct use any kind of music content in a legal way.
In each country, they have their own PRO.
- In the United States are BMI (Broadcast Music Inc), ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers) - In Canada is SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) - In the United Kingdom are PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) and PRS (Performing Right Society) - In Spain is SGAE (‘Sociedad General de Autores y Editores’; in English ‘General Society of Authors and Publishers’) - For the rest of the countries of the world, you have a list of their own PRO’s here.
On many occasions, PRO licenses can be ridiculously expensive for someone who wants to prepare a theatre play.
What happens if I do not pay for my PRO license?
It is normal for you to ask yourself this question.
However, I strongly recommend that you take it out of your head.
The PROs usually carries out inspections on a regular basis in search of those who do not intend to pay the economic tax.
If you do, you should know that:
- You risk being caught breaking the law, in which case you will be made to pay for the use of the music licenses you have used. In addition, you may be held legally and criminally liable, and you may go to Court.
Luckily, there are many platforms on the Internet today that offer royalty-free music licenses.
Next, I will show you the alternatives to PROs that best fit to sound your theatrical production.
Where can I get royalty-free music?
As I just mentioned, there are several portals where you can find good music for your play.
But I understand that you are looking for the best.
This is why I am going to show you the two best platforms on the market.
At Legis Music we have decided to launch three exclusive plans this 2023 so that our customers can access royalty free music easily and cheaply.
What these plans have in common is that you only have to pay once to get them, allowing you to enjoy the songs unlimited for life and have the peace of mind of not having to worry about copyright claims in the future.
This way, you can choose the plan that best suits your needs:
- Starter Plan. This licence is recommended for those who are looking for music to use in personal projects. It also allows you to use the music in all social networks -excluding Youtube- and on any website.
- Personal Plan. If you are looking to get numerous songs to use in your personal projects, this is the license for you. The Personal Plan offers unlimited music downloads and can be used on social media and streaming platforms, YouTube, apps, video games and audiobooks, as well as podcasts, virtual classes and online advertisements. The price is $49 in a single payment and for life -if you use it for 3 years, it will be like paying 1€/month-.
- Business Plan. This plan is specially designed for freelancers, companies and those who work for clients. It is the most open licence of all, as any use case is covered and it also offers unlimited music (the only thing that is not allowed is to resell the songs). It is priced as a one-off payment of $99 for life – if you use it for 2 years, it will be like paying $4/month.
As you can see, if there is one thing that makes our licences stand out, it is the opportunity to enjoy them forever for a one-time fee.
Epidemic Sound is the best choice when it comes to musical licenses without copyright.
It is the industry’s oldest company – since 2009 – and continues to offer the highest quality music tracks.
Its musical offer exceeds 30,000 songs and 60,000 sound effects, a list that increases week by week.
In addition, it offers three features that are very interesting for theatrical works:
- The first is to be able to filter music by genre, mood, musical movement or place, as well as by category, so you won’t have any problem finding that kind of sound you are looking for. - Another of these peculiarities is that you can download the tracks in ‘Stems’. This option allows you to unfold your creativity by being able to eliminate sonorous elements of each musical track, such as voice, guitars or other instruments. - Finally, once you find a track that matches what you are looking for, you will have the possibility to find related tracks through the ‘Find Similar’ option.
In addition to the above, Epidemic Sound has other benefits such as being able to download all the music tracks you want during the subscription period.
All with the peace of mind of not having to worry about future copyright claims.
At Epidemic Sound they are convinced to offer the best price-quality ratio and therefore if you subscribe and it does not meet your needs, you can cancel the subscription at any time.
And not only that, but so that you can be sure that you are choosing the best service, they currently offer a 30-day trial period totally free, but for a limited time.
If we can consider Epidemic Sound as the industry veteran, Artlist would be the revelation.
With far less history than its competitor -it was born in 2016-, it does not lag behind in terms of musical quality and service provided.
Its main goal is to make it easier to obtain royalty-free music licenses, reducing customer problems and lowering their costs.
It has a music library with more than 8,000 audio tracks, which increases daily with songs by independent musicians.
In addition, through its intuitive design, you will be able to select the music by:
Another advantage of Artlist is that it offers a universal license -$199 a year-. You will be able to use it for any need that arises in your theatrical work.
You only have to make a single payment and forget everything else.
During the duration of the subscription, you will be able to make unlimited downloads that you will be able to use in all your theatrical works for life.
They also have a promotion for new clients: if you subscribe to their newsletter before purchasing your music license, instead of enjoying it for 12 months, you will get 2 months more completely free.
The importance of music in theatre
Music and theatre have maintained an intense relationship since the beginnings of this art.
One of the important things is that when you perform a play, you tell a story.
Therefore, we must imagine the essential sounds to represent that music on stage in order to facilitate comprehension to the viewer.
It should also be pointed out that we cannot think of isolated sounds, but rather of a set of sounds that interact with each other and with the other elements of dramaturgy.
To do this, it is essential to know what the stage director’s vision is.
Because, depending on how we use music, a scene can change completely.
Once we know how the work is going to be represented and with what objective, its sound concept will be designed, either in a realistic or more abstract way.
The musicalization of each theatrical scene is stimulating and effective for the spectator in the same way and, at the same time, emphasizes the work and its objectives.
It will, therefore, be very useful to know how to use music in the theatre, at what moment and for what purpose.
The different uses of music in the theatrical play
In theatrical work, we can use music at the beginning -overture music-, between the acts and at the end, as well as using it as a sound background -incidental music- or atmosphere.
It gives us some information prior to what we are going to see. Information about time, space, time or participants, among other details. This type of music allows us to prepare the audience in a previous state of mind, in an environment or atmosphere. The most important thing is that the music you choose reflects your intentions.
It can serve us to offer the spectator a moment of reflection on what they have just seen, or on the other hand, it can serve us to create an expectation, to create emotion about what they are going to see. It is frequent that in the interval we find scenographic changes. In this case, the music serves to give us a sensation of continuity and to focus the spectator’s attention on the storyline.
It is a moment in which music can gather all the emotions of the work, and give clear information about the outcome of the plot. The music will be at the service of your intentions.
Incidental music it’s also called background music. This music follows the action of the scene and is not listened to by the characters on the stage. Its function is to emphasize the actions and emotions of the moment while trying to propose a reaction in the audience.
In addition to using musical tracks, it is also very enriching for the work to add sound effects or settings. For example, if we want to represent the beginning of Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”, in which it begins with a storm, the best sound to stage it would be a sound effect of thunder and rain.
When we use the music in the different parts of the work we do it as an external frame, that is, delimiting the whole work, the different acts, and the different scenes.
It would be, for example, as the cover and back cover of a book.
At the same time, it is important that the music used throughout the theatrical representation has sound coherence.
Once a pattern of performance has been established, it is advisable to maintain it throughout the play unless we are looking for a dramatic, comic or expressive effect.
Music is a subjective element and we all react to it in a different way. The only way we have to know if our music and sounds work on stage is to test them on stage.
That is why you will need a platform that allows you to download unlimited music legally and without copyright problems and, in this respect, both Legis Music, Epidemic Sound and Artlist are presented as the perfect platforms.
During the subscription period, you will be able to download and try all the music tracks and sound effects you need until you find the perfect sound for your play.
Now all you have to do is choose the one that best suits your needs:
If you still have doubts about which of the two platforms to choose, you can take a look at the comparison guide between Epidemic Sound and Artlist.