Beware of illegal backing track companies

When I started MP3 Backing Trax way back last century(!) the mp3 format was fairly new. There weren’t too many backing track companies around at that time either.

However, as the years have passed every cowboy company imaginable has jumped in to the backing track business and customers, understandably, find it difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

You can’t always tell by price either. Just because tracks are cheap doesn’t mean the backing track company are working illegally and not paying the proper royalties. Most companies that have a good sized library of backing tracks (i.e. a large back catalogue) can usually sell their tracks quite inexpensively.

In fact we do this. We have backing tracks which only cost a few pounds that you can download instantly. Of course it took us hours and hours of work to create these backing tracks, so how can we sell them for a few pounds I hear you ask?

Easy. Once the backing track has been created one time, we can sell it over and over again forever more and make our money back that way. We still get paid for all the hours of work we did, and you get a backing track for a fraction of what it really cost us to produce. Everybody’s happy.

Not so with special arrangements though.

Special arrangements are one-off backing tracks that customers ask us to produce specially for them. We’re unlikely to ever sell these tracks again – they’re usually quite obscure songs that don’t have popular appeal. So we have to pass the full cost of production on to the customer. We calculate the cost of these types of tracks by using an hourly rate of 20 GBPounds per hour. If it takes us 10 hours to create your special track, you can reckon on it costing you £200. Simple.

But recently I noticed we’ve been “undercut” a couple of times by some other backing track companies.

in one instance, we quoted a girl called Julie from England £140 to create a special track for her. She declined our quote and told me she’d got another comapny to produce it specially for her MUCH cheaper than our quote.

Here’s what I told her:

Hi Julie

The track the other company are creating for you may be an illegal track (i.e. not their own work). Many of the cowboy companies buy a midifile for a few pounds and run it through a sound module and sell it to you as an mp3 backing track that they supposedly created themselves. This is illegal.

The easiest way to tell if the track quote they’ve given you is “correct” is to divide the price they’ve quoted you by 7 (because there’s about 7 hours work in creating that particular track you asked us for).

This lets you know how much per hour they are charging you to produce this track for you.

If it calculates out to be a really low hourly rate, then you’ll know that there is something fishy about it – no professional musician will work for a few dollars or a few pounds per hour so alarm bells should begin to ring if the musicians can make more working at MacDonalds than they can creating your backing track!

As an example, we lost out a while back on another special arrangement for a customer where the customer used another, much cheaper company than us.

There was 6 hours work involved in producing the song and we quoted him £120 GBP (£20/hr). The customer replied and said another company could produce it for him for £25 GBPounds so he wouldn’t be using us.

The thing is, with there being 6 hours work involved in creating the track, that meant that the company who quoted him £25 GBPounds were working for just £4 per hour.

My niece is still at school and has a little Saturday job in a shop that earns her more than £4 per hour!

Of course what was really happening is the other company were buying a midifile for £5 and spending an hour putting it through a sound module and creating an mp3 backing track from that. Hence the £25 GBPounds price.

The customer had just bought himself an illegal backing track and didn’t know it.

We refuse to work illegally – never have, never will. The unfortunate thing about doing things legally and correct as we do is that we often lose out to other companies who are quite happy to pull in business at any cost and don’t care whether the customer they’ve supplied is going around afterwards unwittingly using illegal music.

These cowbiys will probably tell you it’s not a midifile, and that it’s all their own work. They don’t mind telling you a whole load of lies – all they want is your money. So, the best you can do to protect yourself is to make sure you have it in writing from them that they produced this backing track for you all by themselves, from scratch.

That way you have, not quite protection, but at least an explanation to a certain extent should there ever be an investigation in to the tracks you are using and their legallity.