Find out how you can legally and ethically use copyrighted and library content in your academic research, instruction, essays & writings, and creative projects. Legal disclaimer: this copyright guide is meant for informational & educational purposes only.
This page will introduce you to how to incorporate music in your videos by using music that is royalty-free. This is the third subpage and third step to using music in videos in a legal and ethical manner.
Royalty-free: music free of paying royalties
Royalties: usage-based payments to a private entity
For example, a movie producer may pay a hefty royalty fee to have a well-known pop song in the opening credits of her film. The movie producer would likely have to pay another royalty fee to have the same song in another scene or another film.
Royalty-Free Myths Debunked
Myth: "Royalty-free music is free."
Reality: some royalty-free music is free, but most of the time, you have to pay for it.
Royalty-free music can be as inexpensive as $1 and as expensive as thousands of dollars or more, depending on the intended purpose of the use.
Myth: "Royalty-free is copyright-free."
Reality: the copyright remains with the composer/creator. However, when you purchase the music, you are usually purchasing a specific license that allows for a range of uses or for a specific type of use, usually in perpetuity. In contrast, royalties paid for songs are usually a one-time use and only for a specific type of use.
Myth: "Creative Commons Licensing (CCL) and royalty-free are the same."
Reality: CCL is a type of open licensing for all types of creative content. It is free to download and use in your own work, so long as you follow the terms of the license, which are simple and easy to understand.
Royalty-free music, on the other hand, is generally a specific license attached to individual music or audio files; it is also purchased by individual users and gives the user certain permissions to use the creator's music in their projects. License terms can vary, so be sure to check the terms of the license before making a purchase.
Myth: "My purchased music, (e.g., iTunes) is royalty-free, so I can use it in my YouTube video."
Reality: Your personal collection of music is not royalty-free, unless you explicitly bought a track that had a royalty-free license attached to it. When you purchase music for your individual/personal use, it does not include permission to use it in videos or other creative projects.
Royalty-Free Music Providers
Requires a Google account.
AudioPad describes their YouTube channel as the "home of royalty-free music on YouTube." Many of the songs are licensed under Creative Commons Licenses, but some are only royalty-free. They make it clear in the description of the video what rights and permissions you have with each song. The intro video on this landing page will explain more thoroughly how to legally use music in the collection.
You can use and download free music and sound effects in the YouTube Audio Library to use in your videos. The music available in this library is a combination of Creative Commons Licensed and royalty-free music on YouTube.
You can use these royalty-free music tracks in commercial projects, make money, and reuse the track as much as you want. However: the creator asks that you please not sell or give away the original music file(s) to other filmmakers. He asks that users refer others to his site, since this is a big part of his living. He also asks that he's given attribution/credit in any project: "Chris Collins, indiemusicbox.com."
This site provides information and samples of music and sound that can be licensed from FirstCom and its partners for professional production uses. It is intended for business‐to‐business use, and is not intended for non‐professional use by consumers.
This site offers two simple license options, a standard and premium license for the use of a single track. The purchase of one of these licenses will allow you to download and use the music file/track in your own projects. However, each license has specific permissions, so review the terms of the license before making a decision.
A note of caution: you may purchase or download royalty-free music, but it is an ambiguous term, especially since an implied license is involved. You may be agreeing to a license that allows for only a specific type of use. Be cautious of language that is extremely specific or restrictive about your use or that has an expiration date.
The resources provided (above) can be trusted, but each license will vary depending on the artist/creator, the track itself, the purpose of your use, and other factors.