Content creators need loads of music to make their videos heart-thumping, tear-jerking, and edge-of-your-seating. Behind every great YouTuber and video creator are equally excellent stock music sites. If you’re just jumping into the video creation biz, or if you want to catapult your YouTube channel out of this planet’s orbit, you’ll need to discover your own stock music oasis. As you begin your journey into that perilous desert, watch out for traps that have snagged many an inattentive artist before you. It’s not scorpions or mirages you have to watch out for, but hidden fees and licensing small print that can deliver poisonous YouTube takedown notices!
To help you on your journey to discover excellent royalty free music for videos, we’ll reveal the five most common traps hiding within many stock music sites. Pack your bags, feed your camel, and fill up your canteen. Here we go!
A Quick Warning Before the Warnings
Perhaps a desert isn’t the best metaphor for the stock music landscape. In fact, if anything, the internet is booming with “free music.” These days, you can get jiggy with your favorite artists on Pandora, Soundcloud, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, and literally hundreds of other lesser-known sites. Such proliferation may seem like a content creator’s paradise, but take heed!
Just because a song exists doesn’t mean you can eagerly add it to your next amazing video. Every song is covered by a copyright protection that belongs to the song’s creator or the song’s owner. (For the big music stars, this is usually their record label.) Using a song without permission is called copyright infringement, otherwise known as stealing. You might as well have shoved that song down your pants at the grocery store and made a dash for the exits.
If you illegally infringe on the copyright of an artist or song owner, they can ask YouTube to take down your video, sue you, or even take any revenue your video garnered. That is why it’s so critical to avoid simple mistakes when it comes to searching for and using stock music for your videos.
Trap One: Free Music Does Not Equal Music That Is Free to Use
Are you an Amazon Prime Member? That two-day shipping is pretty sweet, isn’t it? Amazon offers its Prime members all sorts of other bargains, including access to its growing music library. Prime members can listen to music for free and even download songs from top artists like the Foo Fighters to their phones and other devices.
Amazon is just one of many sites that allows users to download a bevy of music for free. You also have streaming sites, like Spotify and Pandora, that allow free streaming of music. If these sites are willing to let you listen to and even download songs for free, does that mean you can also put those same songs in your videos?
Nope! “Free” is not the same thing as “free to use.” Sites that offer free streaming and even free downloading have negotiated very specific royalty rights with artists and their representation. Unless specified, DO NOT assume those rights allow you to utilize the music from these sites as you see fit. Using songs from download or streaming sites in your videos (unless copyright is clearly given) will represent copyright infringement and could result in major trouble!
Trap 2: Free Music Isn’t Always Free
Stock music sites like to advertise free music to hook new content creators, but these unbeatable offers aren’t always what they seem. Tread carefully. In many cases, you’ll discover that these sites offer a relatively small amount of songs for free while charging for the majority of their available catalog. In some instances, the artists set the price. They may offer one or two of their songs for free in the hopes of building a following and then require a royalty payment for their other work. Once you start digging into these sites, you may find that the best music will cost you!
In other instances, royalty free music sites may offer a certain number of songs for free as a special deal or a first-month subscription for free. Make sure you read all the fine print. You may be swimming in great free music for a limited amount of time only to be surprised when the discount ends, and you suddenly have to pay for all that amazing music you didn’t budget for.
Trap 3: The Wrong Creative Commons License
We’ve previously written an entire article all about the Creative Commons licensing system. In a nutshell, artists can offer their songs to the masses while still retaining their copyright ownership by attaching a Creative Commons License to their work. The CC license allows artists to put specific limitations on how their works can be used.
There are six different CC licenses, each of which includes its own unique restrictions. The most accommodating license is the CC BY license, which requires you to credit the artist when you use their song in your work but allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, build upon the work, and use it in a commercial video.
Many newbie video creators assume that if something has a CC license then it is absolutely free to use in whatever way they want. However, if you use a song that has a CC BY-ND license, you’re in big trouble. The “ND” part of that license means “No Derivatives,” which means you can’t change the song in any way, including putting it into a video!
As a content creator, it is imperative that you understand exactly what each license means. If you don’t, you could unintentionally use a song outside of what the license allows. The Creative Commons may seem like the perfect oasis of free music, but if you use the song in a way that its license doesn’t allow, you’re still guilty of copyright infringement and will have to suffer the consequences.
Trap 4: The Music Ain’t So Good
All we can say here is that you get what you pay for. If you find a site that truly does offer royalty free music for videos at no cost, then there’s probably a reason. Most of the music probably won’t be that good. After all, if an artist could make money from their music, why would they offer it for free?
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. In some circumstances, a new and talented artist may want to grow their visibility. They may offer a few of their songs for free or with the most generous CC license to drum up new fans. You CAN find good, free music out in the world, but you’re going to have to dig for it, and you’ll probably have to get through a few layers of pretty awful noise before you find that diamond in the rough.
Trap 5: Restricted Use
Let’s say that you don’t want to spend your time searching in vain for high-quality free music. The rise of video has also spurred the creation of stock music sites that specialize in offering background music for videos. The beauty of these sites is that they take care of all the messy royalty questions so that you don’t have to. They also tend to offer a higher quality of music compared with free sites.
These nice benefits come with a price. Almost all of these sites incorporate some sort of payment model, whether that is a per-song cost, a per-usage cost, or a monthly subscription. Before you sign up for one of these sites, make sure you understand their payment model and any usage restrictions they impose. For example, you may think that paying for a song entitles you to use it as many times as you want or that your monthly subscription allows you to use as many songs as you need.
This may not be so. Some sneaky music sites will limit the amount of times you can use a song (unless you pay a larger fee, of course), or you may discover that your basic membership means you can only use a handful of songs each month. Guess you need to pay fork over more money for the platinum membership!
Use a Stock Music Site That Doesn’t Lay Hidden Traps
Searching for royalty free music for your videos can be a dangerous journey if you aren’t wary. Fortunately, you now know how to spot the most common traps that can assail intrepid content creators. As you search for the right music site, we hope you will consider Soundstripe.
At Soundstripe we charge our customers a very reasonable monthly or yearly subscription fee. In exchange, our customers gain access to our entire library of royalty free music. Yes, our entire library. We don’t cap the number of songs you can use per month and we allow you to use our songs as many times as you want.
Our library is growing every day and includes hundreds of songs across dozens of genres. We work directly with talented artists and take care of all the licensing and royalty issues so you don’t have to. Our music library includes a variety of filters that will allow you to find just the right song for your video.
Oh, and did we mention that you never have to worry about copyright issues when you use our music? You can’t really put a price on a good night’s sleep!
Interested in reading more top resources and getting our best filmmaking tips and tricks? Here are a couple of our most popular articles from across the Soundstripe blog:
- The Best Royalty Free Music for Your Videos
- A Guide to Copyright Free Music for Film
- A Guide to Non Copyright Music for Film
- The Best Sound Effects for Video Editing and Sound Design
- The Best SFX for Video Editing and Sound Design
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