Saturday, 20 March 2010

Using Free Music in Schools

Free music and sound effects are very useful in the classroom helping to make podcasts, presentations, IWB teaching resources, and other teaching and learning materials more interesting. Licensing is the proverbial minefield with so many different clauses being a possibility even in “royalty-free” sound files.
Royalty-free – from Wikipedia “Royalty-free music libraries originally addressed this [paying the royalty fee]  by offering music that could be purchased for (in most cases) a one-time fee and then be used by the purchaser as many times as needed.”  However larger companies bought up smaller libraries and changed the rules, sometimes only allowing a certain number or type of use. Mostly those restrictions will be too high for the classroom situation to be worried about.

There is also “Podsafe” music that I have seen a lot of recently.  As podcasts are often quite openly public it is of great concern that the sounds used in one are safe and not going to bring law suits against the school!  Wikipedia “ the only actual requirement for a work to be podsafe is that any licensing requirements it has, if applicable, allow for the work's free use (typical broadcast use in its original form, if in no other form, depending on the specific license) in a podcast or web broadcast. This gives specific favor to podcasts only, allowing the artist to impose more traditional constraints on everyone else. Podsafe licensing can, for example, continue to require non-podcast consumers to pay for the work, require royalties on derivative works, and profit significantly from the work's use in traditional radio, television, or film.”

“Open Music” sharing sites most often use one of the Creative Commons licence structures, so it is worth actually checking out what a piece of music from an “open music” site is offering in the way of a licence. For example  says: “Downloads from Open Music artists.  Released for free under the Creative Commons license.”  It also says quite clearly “We don’t believe in the conventional record label. OpenMusic’s objective is to release great music and sound projects from around the world, in a freel, share-friendly and re-distributable manner. We encourage you to redistribute individual tracks or whole releases via sharing links, Peer-to-Peer networks, MP3 Blogs and any other form you see fit, as long as you respect the rights of the respective Artists and follow the rules of the Creative Commons Sharing License.
Remember - this is not your music - you just have some files on your hard drive.”

So – absolutely not for rehashing and use in a presentation or podcast!

Having had a little look at the licence issues and started to work out what we need, where can we find useful sources of sounds and music to enhance lessons and pupil work? There are several sites that I use frequently for sound effects, my favourites being
1. Partners in Rhyme
Here we have large collections of free royalty free sound effects and public domain free sound effects available for use in your multimedia projects plus an extensive library of general free sound effects collected from the web.

The free sound effects should be fine to use in school, any royalty free music that you may decide to purchase here is good too!

2. A1 Free Sound Effects

They have a library of free sounds, also for a one off fee of $9.99 they have a download file available of all 890 sounds -  “free sounds 890 Sound Effects Personal Use Sounds: Allows the buyer to use the 890 sound effects in this download for any non-profit manner. Sound Effects for Churches, Sound Effects for Schools, Sound Effects for Students, Sound Effects for Teachers…” All the way through the site they encourage you to purchase the whole collection but it is not absolutely essential for all of those they make freely available.

Searching for Sounds

I love the search engine Soungle!

“Soungle is a free site, developed by Southern Codes, for finding all kind of sound FX and musical instruments samples on our mega online library. As different from most of similar sites, Soungle is NOT a Web search engine. It only searches in our growing monster database. Our goals are to keep it simple to use (search, preview and download) and to keep it free.

One can search by keyword, try several variations because sometimes the results are not what may be expected for example search for bugle call and you get several bugle sounds, then telephones – to fit the “call” bit of the phrase! Play, see how long the sample is, liten to it and download it is it is required.
“Remember, all of our sound effects and samples are royalty free for downloading.”

There is no mention of any sort of licence for use but as their whole ethos is “keep it free” one would hope they have already checked what goes into their database!