December 22, 2016 at 8:11PM

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Review - Art-List Music Licensing Website. A Fantastic Pain.

Working in film and video, there's a constant need for good music. Especially with branded content and documentaries. There's several websites that provide these services like The Music Bed, License Lab, Premium Beat, and several others. All of these options are extremely expensive, though!
The main issue that I have with these websites is the types of licenses that they provide. There's almost always a difference between working on personal projects and working on commercial projects. Granted, when working on commercial projects, budgets are (normally) involved, so, naturally, the prices go up for the songs, but even for personal projects or passion projects, its not uncommon to spend a great deal on properly licensed music.
Premium Beat is the most reasonable of the bunch, charging $49.00 per song. Some of the websites that offer these services have tiered license agreements, though. For instance, Music Bed offers both personal and commercial licensing services but personal services START at $299.00 PER SONG and, from there, can go up... way up. I once licensed a song for a client at nearly $400.00. That's just the pre-determined pricing, though. They offer custom quotes for music and I was quoted (unofficially) at close to $600.00.
License Lab charges a yearly subscription... as far as I can tell. Their customer service wasn't very helpful. On that subject, though, Music Bed has had the BEST. CUSTOMER. SERVICE. BY. FAR. There are multiple instances when I was out of luck trying to find an adequate song for the project, and I simply email Music Bed asking for what I'm looking for and they respond (usually within an hour) with a copious list of music, all of which is useable and most of which is excellent quality. Again, this servicing comes at a price.

Here's where Art-List comes in.

Art-List is a yearly subscription music licensing service, just like License Lab. Art-List also provides responsive customer service in an incredibly timely manner, just like Music Bed. Art-List also has a library of music that expands every single week, just like Premium Beat (and all of the other services mentioned).
However, the price of the service is where it differs COMPLETELY from the rest of the field.
It's $199.00 a year. Period.

Unlike most other services that have differing prices in terms of what the song can be used for, Art-List provides a flat-rate price for every single song and they can be used for any service imaginable. Sounds like a dream, right? It kind of is... When you can get it working.
Here's where things get a bit wonky and kind of a pain in the butt; Art-List is still in beta. This means that there are some bugs that need to be figured out and features that are lacking that can hinder productivity. Mainly, speed. It's incredibly quick and easy to navigate through the menus of Music Bed, License Lab, and Premium Beat, but not so for Art-List. The biggest niggle comes when I try to search for a particular kind of song. I can only search by one parameter at a time. It's pretty obvious why this can be a huge deterrent. Nearly a deal-breaker. For instance, if I wanted to find a hip-hop song with a happy mood, I can only search by "happy" not "hip-hop." What's more, I can't even search by genre at all. Huge letdown.
Because of the search limitations, there's a lot of scrolling that happens. Over months of use, I encountered countless freeze-ups and had to close out of the website and sometimes close out of the browser. A few times, I even had to restart the entire machine.Always during extensive scrolling. This never happened on any of the other platforms.
There are also functions that a lot of other music licensing websites use that are on Art-List but they simply don't work as well. I can create folders for categorizing songs into organized lists, but half of the time that I use the folders, Art-List randomly and without any warning will make a duplicate folder with the same name. It's up to the user to discern which folder is empty and which folder actually has the songs saved in them.
Moreover, when I do decide to download a song, it gets put into my cart and my cart gets sent to my email, which gives me an option to download a .WAV file, an .MP3 file, or both. That's all well and good, but about half of the time, Art-List floods my cart with every song from the folders, rather than just the songs I put into my cart. Sometimes, Art-List even puts my entire download history in my cart without my consent, which, at this point, is over 50 songs. Again, this is a serious disruption in workflow because I have to manually go through all of the songs in the email just to find the song that I wanted originally. Occasionally, I even found that the selected songs weren't even emailed to me or saved into the folders I made, in which case I have to go find the song by title, which, again, is a pain in the butt because the search function doesn't work very well.

That price, though...

The fact remains that if I can get through the scrolling glitches and if I can get through the search limitations and if I can take the time to keep my folders organized, the songs themselves are really high quality, produced by top-quality musicians. And, to me, it's totally worth the price. I did the math and, given the amount of songs that I've downloaded so far, I would have spent close to three thousand dollars! THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! That's in less than six months.

Fortunately, Art-List sent out this video four days ago that shows that they're moving out of beta and it seems (from the video) that some of the bugs will be fixed.

I like that they're finally moving out of beta but I am genuinely worried that there are too many issues and bugs that already exist inside of the website to fix in the first non-beta version.

That price, though...

Sources:
http://www.art-list.io/
https://www.musicbed.com/
http://licenselab.com/
https://www.premiumbeat.com/
http://nofilmschool.com/2016/07/meet-art-list-company-changing-way-filmm...
http://nofilmschool.com/2016/02/all-music-all-year-long-art-list-access-...

2 Comments

Thanks for the great snap-shot overview.

Pros & cons:
I didn't realize that MusicBed was so expensive, but I do enjoy their cinematic section.

Premium Beat I like for the price and user-friendly setup, but after listening to forty or fifty of their songs I began to pick up on a pattern of similar sounds. Recently, I recognized a couple of their songs used in car commercials, maybe I visit that place too much. I think many here can connect on the workflow level being as smooth as possible.

Off I go now to check out Art-List

Salud,

A.S.

March 4, 2017 at 10:21PM

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I may have encountered a glitch or two with the Art-List website, but nothing that has even remotely discouraged me from using it. Its been a godsend though. I'm very anal about the quality of music and can't stand sites like Audio Jungle, or any time I hear a cheesy Incompetech track. Sorry to generalize though, I'm definitely biased from an overload of having to experience both sites.

Even the Art-list has that generic corporate/indie sound through many of their tracks, but the quality of instrumentation is incredibly high, and I've had clients very impressed with the music selections I've used from that site. Worth $200 a year? Completely.

May 20, 2017 at 1:11AM

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John Haas
Cinematographer
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