If you are a Web or corporate video creator in need of professional background music for your videos, you may have heard that royalty free music is one of the most affordable and easiest options. In this post I will outline the top 5 facts that you should know before you start searching for your next royalty free music soundtrack.
Many video creators search the Web for background royalty free music assuming that it’s the easiest way to add legal soundtracks to their videos. While there is certainly truth in that, here are the top 5 most common misconceptions that may get your video in trouble for using unlicensed or incorrectly licensed background music.
Royalty Free music is NOT copyright free
You need to know two things:
- Under the copyright law (in the US and many other countries), all intellectual property, including music, is automatically copyrighted upon creation. That is, the author does not need to obtain the official copyright registration through any government office. Typically the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 50 or more years depending on the copyright law of a particular country. So, you see there are really not much (if any) copyright-free recorded contemporary music out there. There is plenty of music recordings distributed for free by its authors, typically under some various types of Creative Commons licenses, but even free music is technically copyrighted. That is, even under the free license you are only given the right to use the music under the specified conditions.
- The term “royalty free” refers just to another type of usage agreement between the copyright owner and the end user. In particular, it means that the copyright owner is giving up the royalties that he would be normally entitled for the repeated use of his work under specific conditions.
Royalty Free does NOT literally mean “free”
This may be true in some cases but you cannot assume this unless it’s stated explicitly by the copyright owner. Royalty free literally means “free of royalties” generated by repeated use. In other words, it means that after the initial permission is secured, typically by purchasing a license from the copyright owner, you can use the music repeatedly without further payments. Which brings me to the next point.
Royalty Free does NOT mean unlimited future usage
Now, this may sound confusing and contradictory to what I said before. Yes, I did mention “repeated use” few times and here’s what it means.
Assume you purchased a license, downloaded a royalty free music track, and then used it in your corporate video that eventually ended up on YouTube. In this context, “repeated use” means that you do not have to pay anything to the author of the music if your video gets 10, 1,000 or 10,000,000 views. That’s repeated use. However, unless the license clearly says it, you can NOT assume that you can re-use the same music track in all your future videos.
Not all royalty free marketplaces are created equal
The exact details of how you can and cannot use the music depends on where you are getting the music from. As you can imagine the details may differ substantially from one place to another in terms of both the price and allowed use.
My suggestion is, no matter where you license your background music, invest some time into reading the fine-print and make sure that the license grants you all the usage rights you need.
For example, at MikS Music I offer tiered royalty free licenses, starting from a very affordable one-video non-commercial use license, all the way up to the unlimited multi-video commercial use.
Many online music libraries are NOT truly royalty free (even if they say so)
If you try searching the Web for royalty free music there will be plenty of royalty free marketplaces and individual composers to choose from.
A typical royalty free music marketplace is a Web site where individual composers upload their music that then appears in a large searchable catalog. Keep in mind, however, that even if the marketplace claims to be royalty free it may feature the works of composers who are the PRO (Performance Rights Organizations) members. Some PROs will attempt to collect royalties on behalf of their members even if the music was sold on a royalty free marketplace.
Be aware of the music libraries that offer free background music. These are not “pirates”. These libraries are simply waving the initial sync license cost and make their money on the back-end royalties, which you may end up paying.
Yet again, my advise here it to read the fine print and to make sure that the marketplace you’re looking at is truly royalty free.
At MikS Music I offer my clients a 100% royalty free guarantee. That means that I am the only copyright owner and the publisher of my music and no other third party can legally claim royalties or fees if you use my royalty free music in your video.
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