This is nothing new, but I’m sure that if you are a musician, painter, designer, or simply somebody who creates something out of creativity as a living, and you have to deal with clients, something similar to this has happened to you:

Alright, I’m probably not the best at creating memes, but I think you get the gist. It’s a fact that there’s an alarming lack of creative confidence among clients that usually ask for anything creative to other professionals.

I can get that if you own a company, and for some reason you need music (for an advertisement for example), you usually won’t have the skills to know if the song you chose as reference and the one the musician has created for you is similar (or good enough). You simply felt in love with the reference, and that’s what you want to listen. I can get that, and that’s why there’s an invention called “music libraries“, where you can get cheap music for your advertisement, fall in love with it and be happy ever after with your $15 license (I’m not complaining, that’s the industry and we all have made music for music libraries).

But if for some reason you have hired a musician to make music “ad hoc” for your advertisement campaign, for your documentary, for your film, why on earth do directors  end up asking for a copy of the reference?



I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this from a client through the years.

Client:  See, I love this song but I’ve asked for the price to purchase a license and it’s crazy, can you do a version close enough not to be a plagio?

You:  Yes, but I’ll have to change it a little bit on the melody and maybe in the chord progresion to avoid posible problems.

Cl:  Ok, I’m sure it will fit.

Then you come back with a reasonable option that avoids completely the plagio. It’s not the same song, that’s for sure, but the vibe is the same, the pacing is the same, and it fits with the sentiment of the video.

Client: Hmm, it’s good, but you know? I miss that kicking guitar at the beginning with such amazing riff

You: We have now other riff. You love the riff because everybody loves that riff. I cannot create one similar to that without commiting plagio.

Client: We will risk it, do it closer.

And then you end up making a crazy close copy of the song, that might or might not end up being sued for plagio. Of course, you added a discharge of responsibility in the invoice so that you won’t have any problems, but hey, what’s the point? Money? Most of us didn’t get in this job for the money.



And the thing is that we all usually work better when we have references in mind. Music range of sensations is so wide that it’s good to have an idea of what the client have in mind. That ease things, and even make the invoice cheaper because you don’t have to charge the client extra for not being accurate on the definition of his requierements. But then they see the video again and again with the temp track (for those who aren’t musicians “temp track” makes reference to temporal track as a track that one be final on the project), and they fall in love with it.

It’s a difficult conundrum: it’s easier to work with a reference in mind, but there’s the risk of having to copy the reference in the end.

I know this happens also in the cinema industry. I have been lucky enough to work with directors that usually allow me some creativity, and even if they have added temp tracks for editing purposes, then they usually like the alternative.

But I know that it’s not that usual. It happens all the time that directors want the industry standards, and you cannot leave that spot for a second. I haven’t done a big budget movie yet but I have the feeling that this happens there too.



I’m not naive. In the end, as a musician we have to do what the client wants. And that’s totally ok. I’m good with that, really.

My problem is when the client doesn’t tell you from the beggining that he wants a copy of the reference track. I spend time, effort, and as romantic as it may sound, heart and soul on creating a piece of music that I consider good, and at the end of the day I have to dismiss that, and redo the non suable copy of the song.

I know there’s nothing personal about it and that probably the client likes the song, but is simply that it doesn’t sound as the other one.

And that’s why I did this post.

There’s an alarming lack of creative confidence among creators, and it’s difficult to work like that, or develop yourself as a musician.


Thanks for taking your time to read these words.


Do what you love a have a great week!

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