Whether you’re creating a wedding video or a slideshow of your images, music is one of the key elements to bring emotion and highlight your work. Without music, a scary movie isn’t quite as scary, a dramatic scene isn’t quite as dramatic. Music helps us tell the story.

When selecting your music to showcase your work, it might be tempting to use a popular song that’s currently hot on the radio, but DON’T DO IT. Not unless you have permission via a license from the record label to do so or you may be slapped with a major lawsuit like YouTube sensation Michelle Phan.

Michelle has built her empire to almost 6.7 million subscribers by offering makeup tips and tutorials. In some of her popular videos, she teaches viewers how to do their makeup like Lady Gaga (viewed over 46 million times) and Barbie (viewed over 54 million times) as your “beauty bestie.” She has even parlayed her fame into endorsement deals with major brands like Dr. Pepper and Lancome, as well as her own line of makeup. She reportedly made over 5 million dollars in 2013, but Michelle stands to lose quite a bit of money for using music from major artists like Kaskade, Calvin Harris and DeadMau5 without a license.

According to Reuters, in a lawsuit filed this week, Ultra Records alleges that Michelle was made aware that she needed a license to use the music, “and yet continues to willfully infringe in blatant disregard of Plaintiff’s rights of ownership.”

This is a good reminder for us to use royalty free music for our slideshows and cinema. Royalty free music is music that you can purchase the right to use for a small fee without having to pay royalties every time you use it. You may have seen some of the videos from SLR Lounge, which use royalty free music from The Music Bed or have read some of Pye’s features of amazing artists with royalty free music.  There are a some really great companies out there that offer royalty free music and here are a few I’ve had experience with. All of them have great selections for pretty reasonable prices.

1. The Music Bed

Pye reviewed The Music Bed last year:

2. Triple Scoop Music

Triple Scoop Music sponsors some amazing photographer events like Photographer’s Ignite:

3. SongFreedom

SongFreedom has a fun option called ‘Mixed Tapes’ where you can send your client a list of songs they like to choose from:

We photographers are outraged when we hear of or see our work used without permission, let’s also respect the copyrights of musicians and other artists who have also worked hard to hone their craft.

[Via Reuters, Michelle Phan YouTube, Photographer’s Ignite YouTube, SongFreedom YouTube – Images via screencaps]