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YouTube flagged your video for using background music? Here are some common reasons why.

MikS Music
In this post I will be dispelling some very persistent myths about using copyrighted music as video soundtracks. Follow this simple guide to avoid potentially costly mistakes of using unlicensed music in your business and marketing videos.

I’ll start with one of the most common “suggestions” that I often see popping up in Yahoo Answers, Quora, and in numerous blog posts around the Web.

Myth 1: I can use any music I like if I give credit to the artist

As a rule of thumb, you need to obtain permission from the copyright holder to use any copyrighted material.

In case of music you need to secure the permission from both the composer / songwriter and the performing artist (or from the recording label and the publisher representing them). Giving credit or adding a link does NOT substitute for that permission.

Giving credit does NOT automatically give you permission to use the music!

If you want to use a commercial recording as a soundtrack for your video, you need to contact the copyright owner(s) and to negotiate what is called the “sync” license. This process is covered in greater details in this post: How To Legally Use Copyrighted Music in Your Video.

One may argue that YouTube commonly allows uploading videos with commercial music used as the soundtrack. Yes, it does. However, note that this will not work for every song. If it does, YouTube may start showing the ads alongside your videos to compensate the copyrights holders. All in all, this may be an acceptable solution, unless you’re monetizing on your own or object to having the ads.

Furthermore, that’s only possible when YouTube has the proper agreement with the publisher. If not, the chances are you’ll get the video muted or removed.

What about small and independent artists? Don’t they want the extra exposure if I use their music in my video?

While it’s true that many artists will be more than happy to give you the permission to use their music in return for exposure, you still need to ask.

Myth 2: I found the music on a “free download” site, so it must be free

I’m not going to spend much time on this one. Suffice to say, the Recording Industry Association of America certainly does not see this as a good excuse suing people left and right for using illegal file sharing. Yet again, you need to secure the permission of the copyright owner to be perfectly sure you are not infringing. The fact that someone uploaded the track to the file-sharing site does NOT substitute for the permission.

Myth 3: If I use the music in a non-commercial video I can use it for free

If you’re not making money from your film or video, it does not automatically mean the copyright holder is going to share your passion. Even though, many artists, labels, and publishers may be willing to offer you better licensing (or even a free license) to contribute to your cause, you still need to ask first.

Myth 4: If I purchased music I can use it for anything I want

If you purchased a CD or downloaded legally from iTunes, this does not make you the owner of the music and does not give you any additional rights on top of merely listening to it for your own enjoyment. The rules are especially strict (and very much enforceable) if you’re going to use the music in any business related context.

Myth 5: Royalty Free Music is copyright free

Simply put, no. This probably depends on how you understand copyright but in the legal sense, even the royalty free music songs still have their owners.

Royalty free does not necessarily mean it’s free or has no copyright. It merely refers to a permission to use and re-use the music without the need to pay royalties for recurring use.

In fact, most royalty free music available for use in video and marketing is not free and you have to pay the license fee.

Royalty free music is NOT copyright free!

Related: What is Royalty Free Music?

I am getting YouTube copyright claims for using royalty free music. Why??

As stated above, royalty free music is not copyright free. Many royalty free composers rely on YouTube’s Content ID system to monitor how their music is being used on YouTube. Whenever the system detects a match, you get a copyright claim.

If you have the permission (or purchased the license) to use the music you can easily remove the claim by contacting the music copyright owner (supposedly the one who gave you the permission to use the music) or by disputing the copyright claim with YouTube.

If you are getting the claims from a company called AdRev for a Third Party or AdRev for Rights Holder read more here:

You Think AdRev Is Stealing Your YouTube Monetization Money?

Where can I get YouTube safe background music for my business or promotional videos?

If you’re in a crunch to find decent soundtrack for your next video, your easiest option is to license the production royalty free music that was made specifically for video use.

There are plenty of online royalty free music marketplaces, including YouTube’s own free audio library.

I also make music for royalty free music for commercial business videos. Many large and small businesses already use my music in their promotional videos on YouTube and elsewhere.

In most cases, getting a license is just as simple as buying any other thing online. Simply, pick the music that works for your project, pay the license fee, download, and use it in your video right away.

Always read the licensing details to understand what usage is covered. If you monetize your videos opt for the license that explicitly cover YouTube commercial use. In this case, you will be able to remove any future copyright claims.

Related: How to Dispute YouTube Copyright Claims

Related: Where To Find Great Background Music to Use in Low-Budget Videos

Making lots of videos?

download unlimited royalty-free music for personal commercial use

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About the author: Hi, I’m Mik. I make royalty free music for promotional videos, YouTube business vlogs, marketing campaigns, film, and more. All my music is available for licensing online with a simple royalty free commercial license. Buy once, download instantly, use forever!


  1. Hi Mik and thanks for this.

    Can I ask what the implications are for instances where there is a “Matched Third Party Content” notice? I understand that this isn’t as bad as a copyright strike but I’m concerned that this still isn’t a good place to be so I’m trying to feel for possibel repercussions. Can an acknowledgment (that material does belong to claimant) lead to a copyright strike?

    1. Hi Jose and thanks for the great question!

      If you get a Content ID claim three things may happen: your video may get blocked, monetized or tracked by the content owner. Blocked video is the worst outcome and it means your account is being penalized. With monetization your video will show ads or promotions. Naturally, the advertisement money will go to the content owner. Tracking is the best outcome – the video will be unaffected but the content owner will be able to track viewing stats of your video.

      Which one will happen is hard to tell beforehand and depends on whether you are a YouTube partner, the nature of your video, and the decision of the content owner.

      Hope that helps! And here’s another fact that not many people know. Deleting offending videos does NOT remove copyright strikes from your account!

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