The idea of releasing music that has no copyright attached to it would probably seem absurd to most people working in the music industry.
The point is to at least try to earn money from all uses of music, right? NoCopyrightSounds (NCS) would disagree.
The label, based in Preston, UK and now 10-years-old, allows video creators across platforms like YouTube and Twitch to use anything from their catalogue for free, with a small ask of a credit.
As a result, NCS has music in 150 million videos, which have generated 550 billion views, and its catalog tallies around 120 million streams per month.
The premise behind the unconventional model is that the NCS credit is in millions of videos (although not all of the 150 million — not everyone will credit), which then have a chance of turning into paid streams, generating income for both artist and label.
This approach suits up and coming talent who need the promo best and NCS doesn’t (yet) have a host of known signings. Names to have released music through the predominantly electronic label include Lost Sky, Elektronomia, Koven, Curbi, JPB, Cartoon and Deaf Kev.
That said, NCS signed Alan Walker’s Fade which went on to be reimagined (as Faded and released via Mer Recordings) and reached No.1 in countries around the world.
The label has also been leaning into artist development territory and last year released its first artist-led album from German duo Unknown Brain.
Services offered to signings by the seven-person team are full service, spanning distribution, pitching, sync, marketing, promotion, royalties/publishing and accounting.
NCS was founded by Billy Woodford in 2011, who was struggling to find copyright free music for his gaming videos on YouTube. He started a YouTube channel to service this need for other creators, uploading all the copyright free music he could find.
After a while, Woodford realised he needed to sign the music so that NCS could guarantee that it was free to use and the label was born.
Today, the NCS YouTube channel has racked up over 31 million subscribers. Artists who release through the label are on 50/50 deals, which also cover publishing and are often for one single.
The label typically releases three new tracks per week and has enjoyed a 15% increase in streams and views during the pandemic — believed to be due to the fact that consumption of content and listening to music increased with people being at home more.
Here, we chat to Label Manager Pete Torrington and General Manager Dan Lee about the NCS business model, music copyright and their future plans and ambitions.
The commercial music industry hasn’t always been friendly with YouTube in particular or too enthused about the idea of unlicensed music being used in user-generated content. Is there anything that side of the business could learn from your approach?
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