Essential Differences Between Royalty-free and Free Music

Learn about the differences between free and royalty-free music. Get informed before downloading music.
Free Music vs Royalty Free Music

Learn about the differences between free and royalty-free music. Get informed and check the links to the music sites we provide below.

A video project usually needs some music. Audio helps transition between scenes, build emotion, or set the tone of your video story. Music is also that asset that video editors and video makers may not consider as essential for their projects. Oftentimes, we hear editors say “we’ll figure out the sound later”. With this attitude, music licensing is sometimes disregarded until the very last moment.

Let’s talk about music licensing here. Video makers need to be informed about the differences between free music, royalty-free music, copyright free music, and public domain music. Knowing the limitations of your music license is important, especially if your video is made for commercial use.

Copyrighted Music

You should not be using any copyrighted music, like the newest radio hits, in your video projects. It may be cool if you insert a song or two in a home video to show your family. But such a video uploaded to YouTube will be detected, muted out, or even removed.

YouTube’s Content ID algorithm is a potent tool used for copyrighted music detection.

Here are the potential consequences that your YouTube video and channel may face:

– the video may be deleted automatically
– there will be an alert sent to your account
– YouTube may take half of the earnings from that video (if you monetized it) and direct it to the owner of the music.
– the video may be restricted in different locations and regions
– your channel may be banned and discontinued

In other words, video makers need to approach their selection of background music and soundtracks carefully. Being careful means using the proper music license for the tracks you’d like to use.

In short, don’t use that Shakira song in your next video project. And no, you cannot modify the song and use the modified version, either.

Free Music

Free music is about downloadable music tracks that free music sites offer free of charge. Usually, this type of music is available for use in personal and commercial projects.

Despite its “free” character, video editors need to check the license. Free music can be usually used in multiple creative projects. But free does not mean that the ownership of that track is transferable. You don’t pay any fee for using it, but you don’t own it. Re-distribution is often forbidden as well.

We keep a list of free music sites on our site. But we always recommend to check the respective music licensing agreement even if the music track is free.

Also, keeping track of all music licenses – whether for free tracks or not – can help provide proof in case of disputes on YouTube, for example. We know of cases when YouTube’s Content ID algorithm would spot music obtained on free music sites. Such licensing proofs help solve such disputes.

Let’s add a couple of words about Public Domain Music and Creative Commons Music.

These two concepts are related to “Free Music”.

Public Domain Music

Music under Public Domain is that music where the owner chose not to copyright protect it or the protection time expired

Let’s give an example. Ludwig van Beethoven’s music and most early silent films fall under public domain because of either they were created before copyright existed, or their copyright term expired.

Creative Commons Music

Music under Creative Commons licensing is protected by its author, but some uses are allowed for free. Usually the creator asks for attribution and credit. The creator may also choose to prohibit commercial use or monetization.

In short, if you download music from sites like Bensound, you need to comply with their music license

Copyright Free Music

Well, the phrase “copyright free music” is currently used to mean “royalty free music”. It’s not very correct, by the way.

“Copyright free” means that something, like a song, was copyrighted once. Now that copyright expired and another party acquired the right to use it. We would not recommend using this ambiguous term in relation to music for video. Let’s just say “royalty-free music”, because this latter term describes such music better.

In short, copyright free music is not the term to use. See Royalty-free below.

Royalty Free Music

Royalty-free music means that anyone can use this type of copyrighted music (usually for a fee) without paying royalties to the creator.

In other words, you pay for the license to use the track in one or multple projects. The licensing contract is the proof you obtained the license lawfully, and can use the music track in your work. The licensing company or website deals with the musician, and not you.

In short, buy tracks from sites like PremiumBeat.com and stay worry-free. The site deals with the royalty piece, not you.

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