VNV Nation is an internationally acclaimed band whose melding of goth industrial riffs with uplifting electronic anthems instantly made me a fan ever since I discovered them via Paul Aleinikoff’s On The Edge radio show 5 or 6 years ago.
One of the things I love about this band is their surprising ability to transcend genres and defy easy classification. So when I was looking for the perfect music to match with a video I created for Eton School, I skipped through every one of their songs in my iTunes collection, more because I wanted to hear them than because I expected to find a fit. But when I heard As It Fades (2nd Movement), I froze. The angelic, almost haunting harmony of the last track on their Reformation 1 CD conveyed exactly the feeling I was going for with this video. I dropped it into my timeline in Final Cut thinking, there’s no way you’re going to be able to use this – it’s a well-known band, and this project is for a local non-profit school. They probably won’t even return my calls. But I’ve always been a believer in aiming high, so I went ahead and cut the video with the music. It was perfect.
I looked up the band’s label, and called the contact person for licensing. No answer. I left a message. No reply after two days. That was kind of what I figured. I started thinking, OK, now I’m going to have to find some music more within reach. But I’ll call one more time… this time, a person answered, and he politely told me that his label didn’t represent the album I was asking about. Could he help me find the right person to talk to, I asked? “You should just talk to Ronan Harris,” he said, the band’s founder, main songwriter and lead vocalist. “Do you have his contact info?” I asked. “Sure, here you go.”
Armed with that info, I composed an email to Ronan explaining why I believed this particular track was perfect, and asking for permission to use it, including a password-protected link to the video which contained his music. I hit the send button figuring that the message would probably never actually be read by Ronan himself, and doubting I’d ever get a reply.
Exactly 19 minutes later, I get this personal reply from Ronan Harris:
I am utterly flattered that you wrote asking this. You have my full permission to use this track for this documentary. I watched it and was extremely moved. This is very much the spirit of what VNV Nation’s message is about – self betterment and finding a path and personal strength, no matter the adversities being faced. I applaud you for making this. I wish I’d had the benefit of this kind of school when I was a kid.
I’ve learned several things from this experience. The first is, always strive diligently to do extraordinary work (which incidentally is part of VNV Nation’s band motto “It is better to strive diligently than to sit in bitter regret”), and never fail to ask for what you want. Finally, no matter how famous you become, take time to answer your email. I was a fan of VNV Nation before – now I’m a raving fan for life.