If you’re taking steps to become a content creator, you’ll need to learn that you can’t just plop any song on your video without acquiring the proper permission. FilmToolKit has put together this guide to help you understand music licensing for YouTube and filmmaking!
- 1 Understanding Music Licensing For YouTube And Films
- 1.1 What about commercial music?
- 1.2 Who needs to license music?
- 1.3 What about ‘home movies’ and ‘personal projects’?
- 1.4 The risks of using commercial music in professional video
- 1.5 Why license royalty free music?
- 1.6 What about free music?
- 1.7 Why pay for music?
- 1.8 What can I do with licensed music?
Understanding Music Licensing For YouTube And Films
Music licensing commonly refers to ‘royalty free music‘ or ‘production music’. This is music that has been written and produced with the sole purpose of being used in another project. Anyone can then license this music for a fee, to use in their project.
What about commercial music?
Commercial music, written and performed by artists like Adele, M83 and U2 for example, cannot be used for any purpose other than personal/private performance. When you buy a CD or download an MP3, it is specifically stated that you cannot do anything with that song or music track except listen to it yourself. Any business use is prohibited, even playing it on the radio to customers at a hair salon.
To play commercial music to the public, a public performance licensed is required by the appropriate performing rights organisation of that country. In the UK it may be PRS or PPL. In the US/Canada, it may be BMI or ASCAP. These organisations arrange a fee to the proprietor of the business, based on the size of their business/location. This can be expensive, and time consuming just to play the radio to your customers on your premises, but does permit the business to play the radio to its customers without legal issues.
This is not a suitable solution for video production and filmmaking, as the usage and purpose of music is not the same. As many video production companies produce content for clients, they need background music for their video/film that is cleared for its intended purpose. When licensing commercial music, arranging such a license for online, public performance, in-store and mass distribution quickly becomes expensive and convoluted.
Royalty free music licensing offers a simple and cost effective solution to acquiring well produced music with all necessary rights for the client, within an affordable, transparent license.
Who needs to license music?
Anyone creating digital content with the intention of publishing it online or publically. It’s really that simple. You cannot legally use music you have not written yourself, or licensed from a music library.
What about ‘home movies’ and ‘personal projects’?
The same rules apply to home movies and personal projects, but because these are produced not-for-profit, nor professionally on behalf of a client it is possible to use commercial music in this type of content.
However, when this content is published to social platforms like Facebook and YouTube, you may find your video is blocked in certain countries, or deleted entirely. This is because commercial artists and record labels have an agreement in place that monitors use of their content on these platforms, and can enforce accordingly. However, there are many commercial artists and record labels who permit the use of their music in exchange for advertising.
An ad will be attached to your content as a pre-roll, overlay or half-time break during the video in exchange for permission to use their music track. If you’re producing something personal, ‘for fun’ then this shouldn’t be an issue.
The risks of using commercial music in professional video
A client may want the latest chart hit in their video because it resonates with their target audience, or they feel it represents their brand. However, as outlined previously this could end up immediately being blocked or deleted with further implications like account suspension. If the video is not blocked or deleted, then it will be served with ads.
This is the last thing you want for your client. You’ve produced a video promoting their new product, and before the video has even started, viewers are being shown ads for competing brands and products. It degrades the potential of the video and the brand.
Why license royalty free music?
There are THREE key reasons why licensing music correctly is hugely important.
- You’re using music that will NOT be subject to copyright claims, blocks or deletion when it is published online. This means you can deliver your end-product to your client without fear of any music related issues.
- You can MONETISE the content you produce. If you’re producing the content for your own online channel on YouTube, you’ll no doubt be entered into the partner program, to earn money from ads displayed on your videos. You cannot earn money from these ads if the music is not licensed, as it will go straight to the artist/producer of the music. Pay for the music license, earn money from that music license. Simple.
- It creates an identity for your video. Whether you’re producing something on behalf of a client, or yourself. If you use a hugely popular, well known commercial music track, chances are that song will resonate with the viewer more than your content. However, if you create really good video content AND license the perfect music track nobody has heard before, you’re offering a completely unique audio/visual package that is new and fresh.
What about free music?
If you look for it, you will find music that is available to use for free. But ask yourself, why is it free?
Free in exchange for ads and revenue.
The creator could be giving you permission to use their music in exchange for ad-revenue online via YouTube and Facebook, and you won’t know this until you publish it and get informed ads will be displayed alongside your video, with all revenue going to the artist.
A poor quality sample
The free music track you’re using could be a low quality sample of something an artist is trying to sell. This could be a low 128kbs MP3 that appears suitable, but when played back against high quality content, will sound quiet, muted and generally not as good. When music is licensed from a library, it should be available in broadcast quality WAV or 320kbps MP3 as standard.
Who else is using it?
You won’t be the only one looking for free music. People creating content purely for personal projects don’t have a budget for music licensing so they need something free. If you’re producing a project for a client who is paying you, would they be happy with you using the same free music track as everyone else? If it’s free, chances are a lot of people will make use of it.
Clearance and Assurance
Anyone can upload a music track online. There is no vetting, no quality control or legal assurance. Any Blog or digital content platform can host a music track for others to share. So, when you’re downloading a ‘free music track’ how do you know the provider actually has the rights to provide it to you? When you license a music track from a professional curated library like Beatsuite.com, you have the assurance that every single music track has been reviewed, contracted and published legally for you to license and use.
Why pay for music?
There are thousands of music tracks online. What difference is there between ‘Track A’ and ‘Track B’? As a video producer/filmmaker, ask yourself this question: “There are thousands of video cameras available. iPhones can shoot 4K video and you can plug a microphone into them. Why should a company hire me to shoot their video”?
When you license music from a reputable library, you’re paying for the expertise in writing and composing the music track. From the start, middle and end. The quality of instruments used. The production of dynamic audio, the builds and crescendos. The post production mastering and edits so that a 3 minute piece can be condensed into a short 30 second edit without losing any of the magic of the music track.
The difference you get when someone films a corporate video on their iPhone compared to someone filming the same video with a professional camera, lighting and staging is painfully obvious. It is no different when it comes to music or photography. There is the technology, the knowledge the skill and ability to combine them to achieve the highest quality result.
What can I do with licensed music?
Whatever you want. Music can be licensed for limited use or global distribution, mass production and broadcast. You can license music for a specific purpose and tailor it to accommodate any additional requirements at any time.
Licensing royalty free music is intended to be the most cost-effective and practical solution for using music in your professional projects. General online distribution is commonly a one-time license fee per track for lifetime usage.