I made some street recordings with music playing in background. In one case, it was a musician, who was improvising on a saxophone in a metro station. In another, i recorded a city park ambience with some soft music playing through speakers.

It's a silly question, but can i use these ambiences in my production or sell them? Do i have to obtain something like a talent release for that or license the music?

  • Not a silly question at all! Jul 17 '11 at 9:35

Hi, Serge

Don't use or sell ambiences that contain music. It's just asking for trouble later. Find a new location without music to record in. Sometimes (usually) I have to try a couple of different locations to get away from the music that is everywhere nowadays, but it beats getting sued.

Check out Paul Virostek's blog post here http://www.jetstreaming.org/2011/06/28/selling-sound-effects-6-mistakes-you-want-to-avoid-part-2/#more-1267 and read "mistake #5: Using performances in your field recordings". His blog has lots of good advice.


  • Thanks, Thomas! I just wanted to be sure. It's a pity though, because the musician played pretty good and he created a very nice mood of a lonely man in a big city... i guess, i have just to delete the recording. Jul 17 '11 at 10:35
  • 1
    I know what you mean. Street musicians can really add something to a location. Don't delete the recording. Keep it as a reference.
    – Thomas Alf
    Jul 17 '11 at 17:46

I am lucky enough to live in NYC so I get to capture a ton of this stuff, some amazingly talented people running around out there. My general rules are:

  1. I never use them commercially at all without expressed permission from the performer, which I've gotten plenty of times. I am a good tipper. =)

  2. I only use them at all if they are original compositions. If it contains anything even remotely resembling a "cover song" then it's just strictly for my own enjoyment. I can deal with a street musician knocking on my door in a few years looking for a little cash, but I can't afford to have record publishers doing the same.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.