When filmmakers who like Metallica aren’t rich

I stumbled across this short film recently… I’m not gonna lie, it’s not exactly Citizen Kane, but what I found fascinating was the intro music. It was weird and offbeat, yet very familiar. It took me a while to realize it’s a ‘lawsuit-safe’ version of Metallica‘s ‘The Thing That Should Not Be.’

Then I noticed the character’s Metallica shirt, which means it’s not accidental. In fact, at one point in the film you can hear the original track being played on that CD player, which means they wrote/made the film with the song in mind, even used it, but then probably had to switch it for legal reasons.

Here, have a listen:

Fans of Conan may know the bit he does where his band plays a famous song differently, to ‘avoid legal action.’ That is, of course, meant to be a joke. But it actually does happen, even on major TV shows… When you don’t have the rights (or the money to buy the rights) of a certain song, you either find a band who will cover it for you using slightly different notes, or if the song is famous enough, you might actually find that ‘lawsuit-proof’ cover already, you just have to buy it. Soundtrack sites list these songs as “In the style of Metallica” or something similar.

But this does raise an interesting point… Why don’t labels allow their music to be used in non-profit work? I understand that a movie or a TV show makes a lot of money, thus it’s only fair to pay for the music. I also understand your song is your property, so I’m not saying everyone should just distribute their music for free… I’m just saying, if I was in a band, I’d have no problem with student films or YouTube clips using my music. As long as it’s not making a profit, who cares? If anything, fans of that short film might actually check out more of my music.

I understand trying to fight piracy, but I don’t understand discouraging people from using your music if they’re doing it just for the sake of the art. Back to the short film above, I’m willing to bet the filmmaker had Metallica’s song in mind the whole time, but had to change it for festivals and other events. It’s a bit sad when the song that inspires you can’t be used unless you can fork out the big bucks.

Silly me, trying to understand labels and their greed.

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