Royalty-Free Kingsman: Kevin Macleod Discusses His Free Compositions and Copyright.

"If you make art, the purpose of that is to have an effect on people. More people means more opportunities for art to do what it does. It makes a lot of sense to lower the barrier to get the art to its audience." -Kevin Macleod

If you've been on YouTube, there's a good chance you've heard the work of Kevin Macleod, even if you didn't know it.

Kevin’s compositions (released through his Incompetech brand) have become an invaluable asset for many content creators seeking royalty-free music.

Visibility is important for an artist’s mission (whatever that may be) and Kevin believes that the best way to achieve maximum exposure is through the release of free projects. This strategy has seemed to produce irrefutable results as his tracks have been incorporated into thousands of YouTube videos.

Since YouTube’s more stringent (some would even argue that it's draconian) copyright algorithm became the norm, many have been searching for ways to safely monetize their work and Kevin has made it easier for them to do so.

He recognizes that he is only one man and can not mount a significant enough effort to lobby for copyright reform, but can fight the policy laws through his royalty-free music. 

Not all heroes wear capes. 

Prox: When and why did you start composing music? Was music always your first passion?

Kevin: This one is lost to time. It almost always starts very, very early.

Prox: You produce a wide range of music which is interesting. How have you managed to become versed in so many genres?

Kevin: Well, there is a fair amount of research. When I get into a new genre there is a lot of listening, and a lot of notes. You take apart everything.

The instrumentation, the tempos, the typical melodic lines and chordal structure, the kinds of audio processing that the genre uses. It takes a while to understand a genre. So much time, that I don't think I understand any genres fully.


Kevin Macleod: Mystic Force

Prox: Why have you opted to release so much content for free? Is there a personal or religious ideology that contributes to this?

Kevin: There are a lot of reasons. If you make art, the purpose of that is to have an effect on people. More people means more opportunities for art to do what it does. It makes a lot of sense to lower the barrier to get the art to its audience.

Prox: You have become a very important asset to content creators (especially Youtubers). Are you ever surprised at how popular your work has become?

Kevin: I’m really glad to be able to help out creators. I watch a lot of YouTube videos. So, really - I'm often just making my life better by providing appropriate tracks.

It is a little odd to find music in videos that I don't expect... and it happens every day. I think a good analog for this feeling-that-we-don't-have-a-word-for is font designers. They make a creative thing, release a font into the world and it finds its way to wherever it goes. That's got to be odd to find your font on a shampoo bottle or a warning sign or a company logo.

Prox: Ultimately, what would you like your legacy to be as a musician?

Kevin: It depends on your timeframe. Near term, I would love more and more musicians to understand that copyright is horribly broken, and they don't need to play in that system to be successful. I don't have the kind of money it takes to lobby for reform, but I can provide an example or how to work around the system.

Prox: Who are some of your favorite artists, businesspeople, or intellectuals?

Kevin: Daniel Dennett routinely makes my head hurt. I have revised a lot of my views based on his work. I guess I like to be challenged.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have to rank high in the businesspeople category.

For artists, Tom Scott, Scott Manley, John Green, Daniel Hardcastle, Cory Doctorow... I shouldn't have started that list... There are so many artists that impact my life every day, no way I can list them! 

Prox: Do you have any favorite hobbies?

Kevin: Those come and go really fast. I get interested in something... let's say "puppets" and the research begins! Recently, I was on a big theatrical lighting kick.  Right now I'm obsessing on video game creation using visual programming (dragging around numbers and logic elements and wiring them together). I expect I'll find something new in about 4 months.

Prox: Could you give us some tips for aspiring artists?

Kevin: Artists all have different reasons for doing what they do. If you want to do art, remember why you're doing it. If you create to relax, it doesn't matter how good the art is. If you create for profit, you should be spending a lot of time doing market analysis. If you create to change the way people think, you should be looking at the outcomes to see if what you're making is as effective as possible.

Prox: Would you like to share some information on upcoming projects and releases?

Kevin: I’m actually slowing down quite a lot right now, I've been taking very very few new projects. Maybe I'll release that video game experience that I've been working on in a few months!

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