When And How To Use Royalty-Free Music

Princeton,NJ/ 360prwire/ November 12/

What is Royalty Free Music?

The term Royalty-Free Music is a way to describe music that you can legally and safely use in your own media projects such as videos, film, games, apps or stage productions, or to use as background music or telephone on-hold music without fear of infringing anybody’s copyright and getting into trouble over that.

[Royalty-free music website]

It’s quite obvious from the term itself, that Royalty-Free Music is music that does not require royalties to be paid to the creator or rights owner. This doesn’t necessarily mean that using such music is completely free of cost, because usually with Royalty-Free music, you pay a one-time sum to the creator or their representative, rather than to calculate royalties based on sales, income, number of streams, scope of use etc. 

Some times royalty-free music is called stock music, library music, or production music. There are slight differences in the meaning of these terms, but in practice these terms are used pretty much equally as a way to describe music that already exists in a kind of «archive» or library of ready made music, which you then pay a certain amount to license, and when you’ve made your one-time payment, you’ve fulfilled your obligation towards the creator and therefore, you don’t have to spend months or years keeping careful track of how much you use the music, or how much income you make on your activity, in order to calculate how much monthly or quarterly royalties you should be paying to the creator. This is what you would have to do with «regular», not royalty-free, music.

[Music CD collection]

A few decades ago, royalty-free music or stock music typically existed on CDs released by production music labels, and these CDs would be sent to clients, who would then browse the music and then decide which track(s) or CD(s) they wanted to license royalty-free.

Today’s stock music libraries offer their tracks and album collections of music over the internet, which is obviously helpful in terms of speed and ease of access. Visiting one of many royalty-free music websites, you can quickly and easily use various music browsing and sorting tools to find the music that matches your needs. 

Some music services also use their Royalty-Free Music YouTubechannel to demonstrate their various styles of music and examples of how that music can be used in videos. 

[Royalty-Free Music YouTube channel]

When to use a royalty-free music service:

It’s a good idea to consider using royalty-free music if:

  • You are a creator of YouTube videos and you need music that you can use without getting copyright claims on your videos – or, if a copyright claim appears, ask that the claim be released.
  • You create Podcasts, Audio Books or other audio-based content.
  • You offer an advertising / marketing service that sometimes requires audiovisual content such as videos or interactive presentations including music.
  • You create film or content for TV.
  • You are creating corporate video content, instructional videos, in-house training videos or interactive training media.
  • You need music that you can play as background music in your workplace, waiting room, studio, shopping mall, store, practice etc., where background music is used to the benefit of your employees or visitors.
  • You need music that you can play as telephone on-hold systems on your business telephone system, without risk of infringing copyrights or having to pay royalties to a Performing Royalties Collection society (PRO).

Things to consider when licensing music:

Know the difference between «generally royalty-free music» (PRO-registered) and «completely royalty-free music» (Not PRO-registered). 

Perhaps it’s not fair to expect the regular office worker or amateur media producer to know the ins and outs of royalty collection societies (PRO’s) but unfortunately, this is rather important knowledge. For some types of use, even royalty-free music isn’t actually entirely royalty-free. This is because most music composers are members of Performing Royalties Organizations and if they are, it’s that PRO that is responsible for collecting royalties when their members’ music is played in public or over the telephone on-hold system. 

Because these «PRO royalties» — sometimes also referred to as «Back end royalties» only occurs in certain types of use, many royalty-free music services don’t really make any effort to explain this to their customers, which can sometimes lead to confusion or even unexpected expenses. 

Here is an article about general royalty-free music vs compeletely royalty-free music. It takes 5 minute to read it but it really could save you a lot of trouble down the road, so it’s recommended reading.

[Waiting rooms are an obvious place for using royalty-free background music]

Make sure you get real documentation with your license

You’re always in a hurry when you’re working on your project, and chances are that even as you are downloading the royalty-free music you’ve just licensed online, the media project is on-screen and you just want to download that music now and get on with your project. It’s still worth stopping for that 1 minute to make sure you also download your license certificate. You will probably need that at some point – if not today, or next week. Maybe even 15 years down the line, some «copyright claim» may appear from someone or somewhere, or some other unforeseen circumstance makes you wish you had kept that license document together with the music file. Trust me, I speak from experience. 

Find the mix or version that best suits your project

As you’re browsing through dozens or even hundreds of potentially suitable stock music tracks to find the one that’s just right for your project, you’re probably listening only to the first few seconds of each track, and you’re most likely also listening only to the «full mix» version of the track.

But a pretty standard feature of royalty-free music libraries is that they also offer various different edits, mixes, cuts and loops from their tracks.