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Category Archives: Music

Play That Funky Music! Choosing & Using Tunes for Your Act

Happy Holidays, Dear Danglers!!!!! Many of you had questions about music – legal issues surrounding use, how to choose it, whether you should have it composed, etc. So, while we’re up to our eyeballs in the sounds of the season, I thought I would serenade you with a few musical musings!


Legal Fun – CAN You Use That Song?

No, probably not. Unless you have contacted the artist and received permission, or paid for the use of a song, you cannot legally use that tune. There’s a popular myth out and about that you can use up to 30 seconds of a song without having to pay royalties or fees, but it ain’t true I’m sad to say. But never fear – you’ve got options!

  • live dangerously, use the music anyway, and hope you don’t get caught. Truth? Most artists out there are using somone else’s music and not paying to do so. If you’re busted, you will likely receive a “cease and desist” letter before the artist takes further measures (but you never know…). In addition to the legal issues, there’s one big thing you need to consider: other performers will HAPPILY steal *your* music for their act. Good songs are tough to find, so don’t be surprised when you arrive at your next gig to find that three of you will have to change your music because four of you showed up wanting to perform to the “Matrix” soundtrack!
  • contact the artist and request permission. This tends to work better with lesser-known bands. If you really love the song, it’s worth a shot!
  • pay to use a popular song. Click here to delve into this very involved topic.
  • Pay to use royalty-free music from a site like or . Have a look – the songs don’t suck!
  • Have your music composed. This is by far my favorite option! Once your act is REALLY finished, you can have a perfect piece of music created just for you – no one can swipe it, it’s completely unique, and it suits your act perfectly. WIN!


Choosing Tunes: Music Must-Know

Whatever you decide to go with, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Levels are crucial. Music that stays in one place for five minutes is booooooooooooooooooring for circus acts. Look for changes in tempo, percussion, orchestral levels, etc. – you want LOTS of variation!
  • Lyrics are tricky! Unless your piece is actually about the words, it gets super weird. An audience will automatically assume your piece is about whatever lyrics are playing, so don’t trot out that song about motorcyles, waxing, and a pickle unless you mean it! (note from Laura: please, PLEASE – do not make a piece about motorcycles, waxing, and pickles. Please.)
  • Keep your audience in mind. Cirque-style corporates require one thing, your roommate’s bohemian naked art fest requires something completely different.


Whatever you choose, keep in mind that music is one of the most important elements of your performance – don’t choose it lightly! Love and pull-ups, Laura


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