A documentary on composer Kevin MacLeod, his practice of releasing all his music for free and how he unwittingly became one of the most heard composers in the world with his work ending up in millions of videos, thousands of films, and many odd places.

What We Thought:

The name Kevin MacLeod may not instantly ring a bell, but I guarantee you’ve heard his music. Whether it’s movies, TV shows, commercials, video games, YouTube videos or more, his music has been used without you knowing anything about the man. Royalty Free: The Music of Kevin MacLeod is a pretty eye opening documentary on how Kevin put his music out to the world and how the world fully embraced his music.

What the documentary does best is that it gives you the pros and cons of what Kevin has been doing for years. Since the 1990s Kevin has been posting his music online for people to use. You can pay for it. You can get it for free if you give him credit. You can hire him to do custom music. You may be thinking that free/cheap music is probably junk, but his music has been in everything from Martin Scorsese’s Hugo to KFC commercials to porn. It’s in your favorite YouTube videos. It’s in video games. It’s everywhere.

The major positive having an asset out there like his catalogue is that independent filmmakers and indie video game developers have access to professional music that they wouldn’t be able to afford normally. When you have a small budget, you need to make your money last and having this music for free or pennies on the dollar is a game changer for the independent community. If you work in independent film or indie game developing and haven’t looked at Kevin’s music, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Kevin MacLeod sounds like a saint right? Well the documentary does show how not everyone loves what he’s doing. Because professionally composed music is available for free/cheap at your fingertips, other composers might not get hired and paid for their work. Why would anyone pay for something they can get for free? The film dives into that a bit about how other composers aren’t fans of his and how musicians don’t necessarily respect digital music. Why hire a full orchestra when you can hire one guy at a keyboard and computer and get a song or sound that is close enough to what you need? If the average audience can’t tell the difference between 20 musicians or one musician, you’re going to go the cheapest way possible. Digital music can be distorted and made into anything you want it to be. Humans playing instruments, even the best of the best, have flaws. People will say those flaws are its soul. They will say digital music is soulless. Kevin does try to add in some flaws and it’s why his music is seen as more authentic than other digital composers.

Royalty Free: The Music of Kevin MacLeod is a must watch for independent filmmakers and creatives. First of all it’s a well made documentary that isn’t afraid to portray its subject as being human. Kevin has his issues. What he does with his music has its positives and negatives that the film isn’t afraid to show. Second, his music is a resource available to all content creators. If you’re a filmmaker, a game developer, a film student, if you want to make videos for YouTube, you need to know this man’s work. Check out the film when it becomes available!

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