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I mix and master all of my studio albums at an actual recording studio, but I mix a lot of social media music posts and side projects myself. I am doing some experimental stuff and I want to try mixing in Atmos or even something like Dolby 7.1.

I know it's not necessary and most professionals I talk to tell me that recorded music does not really benefit from Atmos or surround sound. Atmos and surround sound is more beneficial to media like video games or movies where sound direction is important to scene immersion or gameplay. I agree, but this is an experiment. I am trying to do something really weird with music.

I plan on giving away this experimental project for free, so I was bummed when someone told me that I would have to pay licensing fees proportional to the amount of copies of my project that are distributed. I told my friend that I find this hard to believe. When Unity unveiled a new pricing model where developers had to pay per customer install, developers lost their minds. Surely if the same pricing structure existed for Atmos and Dolby 7.1, I would have heard a lot more complaining coming from game developers, film makers, and music producers.

Am I wrong? This can't be correct that mixing in Atmos or Dolby 7.1 requires a license fee paid per distributed copy of the effected material?

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  • Welcome to the wonderful, convoluted and sometimes absurd/hypocrite world of licenses: mixing is one thing, releasing is another. Some technologies do need licenses to be legally used (even for personal use!), which are sometimes delegated to software developers in some ways. As reported in Todd's answer, the website only refers to the "ability to mix" (read my comments to know more about its implications). I'd suggest you to do something we sometimes forget, but it's actually quite simple: contact them. Write about your query explaining your situation. Apr 18 at 2:43

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Nope

There is no license required to mix Dolby Atmos Music.

Quoted from “Getting Started with Dolby Atmos Music” on the Dolby website.

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    That is an interesting choice of words: you do not need a license to mix. Which reminds me of some software tools that allow their use for free, but require a license to distribute the contents created with them, even if it's for free. And, in case there was doubt, yes, some technologies do require a license to be used, even for personal use, and no matter how they're "used" (including "artificially creating" files based on that technology, as controversial that could be). It's not clear how that actually works for Atmos (which seems having a slightly different license than other older » Apr 18 at 2:30
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    » audio related technologies): for instance, a film released using Atmos that shows their logo/names either in its promotional material or its contents (eg, the credits) does need a license; but I don't know if it would be possible to release such a film without any Dolby/Atmos logo and without paying the license, including the possibility of showing that name as text. AFAIK, it could technically/legally possible to release an Atmos track without paying any license as long as any of those terms are mentioned in the public release, which can be ambiguous: what about a track description? Apr 18 at 2:30
  • @musicamante If you read the whole page and go through the process you’ll see that you don’t need to pay any licensing fees to release a Dolby Atmos file bundle either. Dolby makes money on Atmos in a couple ways. First, you do have to have a Dolby Atmos renderer. That is software that you buy from a company that has paid a license to Dolby for the right to include Atmos rendering in the software they are selling to you. Second, playing back atmos requires the consumer to have an atmos playback system. The maker of that system paid a fee to include the technology to play back Atmos. Apr 18 at 4:48
  • I still believe that the page doesn't completely explain the implications of releasing, which is a very ambiguous concept. I suppose you're referring to the "Mixing and delivering" section in the docs, but that part explicitly mentions "digital music distribution services". I'm 99.9% sure that using that path covers most of the problems (they are probably paying some license, even if to just display the Dolby/Atmos logo[s] only to show their capabilities), but the OP never explained how they actually wanted to share their contents. "Give away for free" is vague and dangerously controversial. » Apr 18 at 23:22
  • » As said, publicly released films showing the Dolby/Atmos logos need to pay a related license. Now, the concept of "publicly released" is quite ambiguous (and laws may change depending on the country): is a film shown at a public film festival as a one time release (and never shown anywhere else) considered as such? Is a personal DVD copy shared among friends (and that becomes wide spread due to word of mouth) considered a public release? What about a privately produced CD that shows that logo in its booklet, then shared among unknown people? I doubt Dolby would file a suit for a personal » Apr 18 at 23:22

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