Legitimate Free Public License Music for Fallout Mods

Discussion in 'Fallout General Modding' started by Endocore, Aug 29, 2015.

  1. Endocore

    Endocore Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Mar 14, 2010

    We have a great many active modders here at NMA, working hard on all the various Fallout games. Making a compelling mod is about more than scripts and sprites. Sound design is an essential element of any interactive electronic game. We all need to advance to the next level, gentlemen, and stop just recycling the same old music from Fallout and Fallout 2 for use in our mods. Don't get me wrong, it's good stuff, but it's going on twenty years later already and surely there are musical artists out there who have made some first-rate music in the meantime with that enigmatic quality known as "Fallout-ness."

    We would all benefit-- both modders, and players of mods-- from increased awareness about interesting Fallout-esque music that is available for free, legitimately licensed use in non-commercial projects such as Fallout mods. Sadly (and even more sadly, by design) the use of music in modding is a minefield set in the middle of a swamp. USA copyright laws set the standard for the world, and in the US ruthless gangs of thugs have bribed corrupt politicians to gain a literal license to steal. In their original form, US copyright law was sensible and well-designed to benefit the public. Artists had a twenty-year period of exclusive right to profit from and distribute their work, after which all intellectual property was to become public property for the advancement of culture, learning, and the benefit of all citizens. Two hundred and fifty years later, however, megalomaniacs driven by insatiable greed have perverted this once-sensible mechanism into an outrageous abomination that basically gives them "exclusive rights" until the end of time, and I'm sure some lawyers somewhere are even now trying to think of a way to copyright things after the end of Time when the last bits of matter are finally sucked into the last black hole. Current US copyright laws are palpably harmful to the public interest, and their persistence is a testament to how rarely democracy is actually practiced in this country.

    Fallout has certain established aesthetic qualities-- simultaneously classy and sleazy, at once solemn and campy, with an element of retrofuturism from a mid-20th century perspective (for the sake of simplicity, let's call it 1945-1965, a time that was simultaneously weary and optimistic, both relieved and terrified). For the most part, the original Fallout games use only instrumental music with no vocal or choral component, and I think in practice that's a good strategy to maintain. However, to each their own. Modding is all about the modder honoring the original elements that make a game good in the first place while also stamping his mod with his own creative point of view. The important thing about sound design for Fallout mods is setting a particular mood of post-apocalyptic sentiment, and if a piece of music accomplishes this in the opinion of the individual modder then the music is appropriate for that person's mod.

    In any case, my purpose in making this thread is not to argue about any of that. I'd like to start compiling information about music we can all legally use and redistribute for free in our non-commercial Fallout mod projects. Let's gather information on good music for modding purposes, and let end-users decide what they want to use and what they want to avoid. I've recently been looking into these matters and frankly, it's hard. One must first find some music one likes (which means spending a lot of time listening to a lot of stuff that's not very good while sorting the wheat from the chaff), and then spend a lot more time investigating licensing aspects. Just because something is on YouTube doesn't mean it's legal to redistribute in your mod. On the contrary, YouTube has lots of money and lots of lawyers, and routinely pays bribes to gangs of copyright racketeers to avoid prosecution-- most likely, that's not your situation if you're a Fallout modder.

    To be clear, we're not talking here about music you enjoy listening to yourself while playing the games. That's all well and good, but we have modders trying to accomplish specific game design goals. I too have satisfying soundtrack packages for my own personal use; for example, I use a lot of selections from composer John Barry (who worked on many movies such as Zulu, the James Bond series, etc) as well as from the exciting soundtrack of the movie "Starship Troopers." What I do in the privacy of my own home is one thing, but none of that stuff that can be legally redistributed. What concerns us here are matters of licensing, namely free licensing for non-commercial use.

    Please only post here about music you have thoroughly investigated, that you're sure is legally free to use for non-commercial purposes. Please avoid blanket statements like "there's some website X with some stuff," because X likely contains both public and privately licensed material. Be specific, as most people don't have time to look into all these details. Corporate copyright thugs don't care about the law when they break it themselves, and routinely send false DMCA notices to intimidate hosting services based on the near-certainty that you don't have the money to hire a lawyer or the time to prove that they have legally perjured themselves by so doing (examples of musicians and writers who were illegally and immorally prevented from sharing their own work).

    The conventional philosophy, "well, I'm a nobody and I'm not charging any money for my mod, so They probably won't notice and won't bother me even if They do" isn't good enough. If by chance you make a mod that happens to take off in popularity, you don't want to frustrate potential players while you're screwing around trying to handle some silly copyright issue that could force you to suspend downloads of your material. The bottom line is, we need music with unambiguous public licensing so there will be no mistakes or wasted time if some villain tries to shake you down.

    In my opinion, there are four kinds of music all modders need:
    --Gui themes, to set an appropriate tone and generate attentiveness during moments like starting the game, creating a character, loading/saving a game, and so forth,
    --Ambient themes, which should not attract too much attention to themselves while playing in the background, but set a subtle mood of mystery, adventure, and uneasiness,
    --High-drama or epic themes for particular narrative scenes or vignettes, and
    --Combat loops to incite excitement and tension during action sequences.

    To get things started, I have found four sources of material that can legitmately be used in our mods.

    The first is by NMA's very own Surf Solar. There's a good pack of songs he made called "Wasteland Chimes Figure 2." There are some others as well. I had the good fortune to download this a long time ago, but at the present time apparently all links to this material both in the NMA discussions and on Surf Solar's own website are dead Mediafire entries (though some of it is available on YouTube, search for Frank Schimski there). If Surf Solar happens to read this perhaps he could make some new download packs available of his work, as well as include an actual copy therein of his licensing agreement to avoid any potential confusion.

    Second, did you know that the soundtrack for the original Wasteland game soundtrack is free for noncommercial use? Musician Edwin Montgomery has them available for download at his website. I personally think the songs "Las Vegas" and "Base Cochise" are a great addition to just about any sort of Fallout mod.

    Third, there's a musician named Piotr Koczewski who has some material available right here at NMA. He has a lot more material here, and it's all labelled fairly clearly in regard to licensing issues.

    Fourth, musician Lee Rosevere has some music available here. Much of it is more generally science-fiction-y than specifically relevant to Fallout, but modders could certainly use a few of the songs there for background music on maps.

    So what do you know, NMA? Where can we legally get some good music to use and redistribute with our mods? Or, if you're a musician who has made some Fallout-y music you would like to share with the community, let us know all about your work.

  2. valcik

    valcik So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Dec 20, 2008
  3. Endocore

    Endocore Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Mar 14, 2010
    Good find, valcik. There's a good tribal theme in there, and a few of the other songs could work well as ambient music for maps.

    While looking at the page you linked, I also found the following:

    Th Hddn


    Both have public licenses. They are mostly general sci-fi themes, but each has a few songs that could be useful for Fallout modding.

    Also, I forgot last time to mention Solar Symphony by Michael Burkard. Again there are maybe one or two themes out of a dozen that would be appropriate for Fallout, the rest is more generally science-fiction themed, but every little bit helps on these issues.