Music in multimedia pieces

Did you see what photojournalist Nick Schnelle did with the reporting question, “How much snow is still on Columbia’s sidewalks?”

It’s on our home page right now, and it’s fun to watch.

You’ll notice that the piece uses music. Brian Kratzer and I didn’t talk to you about this issue in class Thursday when we talked about your multimedia project. Generally, we don’t use music — and not just because you can run into serious copyright problems, if you’re not careful (some sites like Creative Commons allow you to “borrow” original music in compliance with certain terms of use). Music can also add a “feeling” to a piece that is not authentic — that is, it doesn’t come from the journalism. (If you want to read a great bit of guidance about this, check out this piece on Poynter on this subject.)

Here’s what Nick had to say about the music:

I got the music from Free Music Archive ( . You can search the site through Creative Commons uses. One of those choices is “commercial purposes.” The song I used ( had a Creative Commons license under Attribution-ShareALike ( . This means I was free to share and remix the music under the conditions that I link to the artists work, which we did under our YouTube description (

Does the music work well in this piece, in your opinion?


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5 Responses to Music in multimedia pieces

  1. Hello J4450 students.

    I wanted to reply to this blog post to let you know why music was incorporated into my multimedia piece and how you should know when and when not to use music.

    First, Katherine is right. Music is generally not used in multimedia projects at the Missourian— and for good reason. Music affects the mood and feeling of a project. However, in my case my project wasn’t so much a documentary style piece as it was an editorialized piece, (Hence the word “COMMENTARY” in the headline). Because my project was done from a first-person perspective, music would be only interpreting the mood of myself. Had I photographed someone else walking, and used music, I would then be altering what I think is the mood that I see fit (which falls under ethically shaky grounds).

    As you can see with this project that documented the last moments an owner had with his dog who had cancer the music was used in a way that injects a distinct mood through the piece. Does it work? Yes. Was the photographer right in using it? That answer is one many debate about.

    In the Poynter article, Music in Multimedia: Add Sparingly, Not as a Crutch, Al Tomkins, Poynter’s broadcast and online group leader, said “The problem is not that music doesn’t work, it’s that it works too well.”

    This article is a great reference for any of you who aren’t completely sure about using music in multimedia. The article describes when music could be appropriate:
    In the rare cases in which you add music, it should be used to enhance or further the narrative, not to compensate for incomplete reporting.”
    In addition the article mentions Tom Kennedy, former managing editor of the multimedia editor at, and his take on how music could be used:
    “Kennedy said there are very specific areas — as part of an introduction to a project or with time-lapse elements — in which music has been used successfully at, generally “to add a touch of rhythmic counterpoint (often whimsical) to the flow of photos.”
    After I took the photos for this project I sat down with Jonathan Hinderliter and some others to help me construct the piece. They suggested an audio narrative would help tie the piece together. And they were right. I couldn’t just have a two-minute piece with just the sound of my feet. The audio narrative and first-person photos are what distinguishes my piece from what you all would be putting together for your projects.

    When it came down to mine, the music was added to further my narrative and the flow of the photos.

    -Nick Schnelle

  2. Rachel Stinebring says:

    I think that Nick brings up a great point when he says that because his multimedia piece is an editorialized narrative, he felt free to add music to capture his mood while walking along the streets of Columbia. When you open up a newspaper to the OpEd section, you don’t expect to find a hard news piece. Rather, you are seeking the opinions and perspectives of others. I believe that because Nick labels his piece as “Commentary,” he forewarns viewers that this is an opinion piece. Thus, I think that Nick is transparent with his audience and that the music doesn’t harm the piece. In fact, I like that the music captures the fun, whimsical mood of Nick’s journey. Sometimes as journalists, I think we forget that journalism can be fun. This proves that journalism doesn’t have to sacrifice fun for ethical soundness.

    • reedkath says:

      I completely agree. We need to have more fun with what we do. I think Nick struck the right balance. But I do think that with this kind of piece — even without a commentary label — it is possible to use music. It just has to be carefully done so as not to “push” an emotional response to the story.

  3. shainac says:

    I loved the piece. The crunching snow at the start and the music throughout gave the piece some levity and character. The cheerier music was a nice juxtaposition to what looked like a somewhat annoying journey. The music also fit well with the stop-motion-esque qualities of the video. Great piece, Nick!

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