Music Plagiarism and The Art of Sound Alikes

“A good composer does not imitate: he steals.”

-Igor Stravinsky


Usually when someone like Stravinsky, a man of immense talent and knowledge in the field of music, gives you advice you want to take it and apply it to your own work. Unfortunately, in this case, stealing ideas from songs/compositions will get you into some serious legal trouble (especially today).


Take for example this recent event: Tom Petty has been awarded songwriting royalties for Sam Smith’s hit “Stay With Me.” Apparently people started to sing along to this song with lyrics from Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” and realized they were eerily similar. It seems Tom Petty thought so too. Have a listen to this mash up and you’ll hear similarities in the chorus melody.



This isn’t nearly the first case of plagiarism in recent memory of popular hits. Remember the Coldplay song “Viva La Vida?” I’m sure Joe Satriani does…


What is the one common factor that has allowed these artists to have a case against another artist? The melody! Within music copyright laws you can not sue for someone using the same chord progression. If that were the case no one would be able to write a song destined for radio airplay (which is a whole other soapbox moment I may get into at a later date).

But what are you to do if you want something similar to your favorite song but can not pay to afford the fees to license that specific track? It’s obvious many people like specific genres for a reason. With the way the music business is working currently there is bound to be an attitude of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” There just may be a formula to produce an instant hit…


The reason I bring this up is because in the world of marketing it is understandable that people will want a big hit song for their video. They might even want a number one hit for their on hold messages! With the cost of licensing fees and the consequences of not paying those fees if you use the track what is a smart alternative? A sound alike!


Yes it is possible to have a song that sounds similar to the hit song you want but will avoid copyright infringements. Remember, the copying of melodic content is what will get you into hot water with copyright law. This does not apply to using similar instrumentation, gestures, tempo/song speed, or chords. The idea of a sound alike track isn’t new either. It has been used frequently in many mediums for quite a while. One of my personal favorite examples is the classic Animaniacs cartoon “West Side Pigeons.” Besides the title alluding to the great “West Side Story” you can hear how similar the music is to the work of Leonard Bernstein.




The same ideas can be applied to any genre of music: pop, rock, indie, hip hop, etc. I will always try to advocate for creating original content BUT if you are in desperate need of something that sounds like the latest radio hit, yet can’t afford the song itself, a sound alike could be the answer for you.


Do you prefer an original composition for your marketing content or do you think a sound alike track would bring in more attention and suit a production better? Let me know in the comments!


– Dustin



5 Ways to Improve Video Quality at your Fundraising Event

So, you have a fundraising event coming up and you have a beautiful video to show that is going to make people cry and then open up their pocketbooks?

The last thing you want is to have your fundraiser packed to the gills with folks ready to watch it and then when the lights go down, the video does not come up.

Or the audio sounds terrible.

Or the picture looks nothing like it did on your computer.

Or worst yet…it freezes in the middle.

Don’t leave it to chance. Here are 5 things you should do to make sure your video plays back correctly during your event.

#1 Make sure you get the best quality video file.

The most compatible file is an .mp4 with an h.264 codec. Also, ask to get it in the highest resolution possible.  Most videos are shot in 1080p resolution. If it was shot and edited that way, make sure your video file is also that resolution.

#2 Ask your video production company for help.

If you used a video production company, they are just as interested as you are in having their beautiful work play back correctly.

#3 Ask your AV person the exact model of the projector and computer they will be using.

If you have that info, you can see what resolution the projector is, what kind of connection cables, if their computer is fast enough to play back your file, etc. If they ask you for a DVD, this is a huge red flag and indicates they have not updated their equipment for over a decade!

#4 Do a run through before the event (24 hours in advance if at all possible)

The ultimate test is to make sure the video plays back on the exact equipment that will be used at the event.  Play back the entire video several times to be 100% sure.

#5- Have a backup method

It never hurts to be prepared with a backup.  If you have your own laptop that is capable of playing back the file and connecting to the projector, have that ready to go just in case.


Appearing on camera? Here are 5 tips!

About to appear on camera? Got a case of the heebie jeebies? We’ve got you covered. Here are 5 tips that the pros use to make sure you look and sound great.

#1 Sit on your coat.

If you are wearing a coat or blazer, sit in your coat to avoid the dreaded ‘coat bunch’. This will keep you looking neat and slim.

#2 Wear the right clothes.

Here are a few general tips on clothes. Avoid white clothes if possible. Some cameras will not be able to handle the white fabric well and you will look like a glowing orb. If you are appearing in front of a green screen, don’t wear green. Avoid tight checked patterns and thin stripes. These can also throw some cameras for a look and give you a weird Moire effect.

#3 Know how to do an interview.

Repeat the question. Most interviews don’t include the interviewer in the final edit. So if they ask you if you if you like your job, don’t say, “yes.” They can’t use that. Rather, say “I love my job! I get to do what I love every day.” or “I hate my job, I’m so miserable and depressed.” Whichever one is true.

Only answer the question you are asked. If you are asked about where you work, just tell them where you work. You don’t need to tell them everything you do at work, they are probably going to ask you that in a moment.

If you have a bad interviewer, they may ask you more than one question at once. Not to worry. Just answer the first question, then ask them to repeat the 2nd question.

#4 Don’t try to memorize things.

Lot’s of people make the mistake of trying to memorize what they want to say. If you do that, 9 times out of 10 you will come across as scripted and mechanical. You are probably being interviewed because you are a passionate expert in your field. Just answer the questions in the way you would in a casual conversation and you will sound much better.

#5 Relax and Amplify.

You may be a bit intimidated by the bright lights and strangers standing around. Just take a deep breath and speak slowly. But you also have to remember that you will come across on cameras lower energy than you think you are. Smile and amplify your energy level just past where you think is too much. That will sound just right on camera!

So there you go. And last but not least, don’t forget to break a leg!