Royalty Free Vs. Copyright Free: Choosing The Right Music For Video
Aug 11, 2020
Creating good video involves a lot of moving parts. And whether you work for an ad agency, freelance on the weekends, or upload vlogs to YouTube, you know how hard it can be to wear five different hats at once and somehow manage to do everything well.
One of the most frustrating hats for filmmakers to figure out is the role of “sound designer.” Not many people can hire such a specific role, and it’s difficult (not to mention expensive) to find good music and sound effects without cutting corners.
Music licensing only makes that harder. With so many platforms cracking down on copyrighted content, it’s more important than ever to understand which music you can use in your videos.
After all, that’s the only way to protect your content from copyright claims.
Royalty free music is one way to address that issue. But what about copyright free music? And is there a difference between the two? Is one better for YouTube but worse for client work?
Before we explore any of the alternatives, let’s spend a minute going over the basics of music licensing. (“Knowledge is power,” after all.)
Think of music like any other piece of art. Someone somewhere wrote your favorite song, but a lot of the people involved with that song’s creation can claim to be a copyright holder. And for you to use anyone else’s music in your videos, you need to get permission from those copyright holders.
To be clear, every song out there is copyrighted material — even royalty free music. And that’s why knowing the differences between royalty free vs copyright free can save you.
Thankfully, knowing those differences doesn’t have to be confusing at all. Once we break down what each kind of music really is, you’ll be able to pick out which one is perfect for the kind of videos you work on.
Music royalties can be loosely thought of as “profit sharing” between creators. Let’s say you want to license a Hot 100 song for your next project. As part of your licensing agreement, the song’s copyright holders expect some sort of licensing free up front.
They’ll also expect to share in any revenue the video generates.
Is the video going on your monetized YouTube channel? If so, a percentage of the revenue will be claimed by the song’s copyright holders. Is the video a TV ad for a regional company? You’ll need to send royalty payments then too.
You get the idea. Music licensing is an agreement between creators, where one artist (in this case, a filmmaker) uses the work of another artist (a musician). And while you have to pay an initial fee with the licensing agreement, royalties are like thanking the artist for the part their work played in your video’s success.
Royalty free music is just what it sounds like. Some companies — like Soundstripe — specialize in royalty free music, which means they’ll negotiate with artists so you don’t have to. And then individual content creators like you can license music out from these sites for a reduced cost.
And because you’ll negotiate with a royalty free music company and not the artist or record label, you won’t have to worry about paying royalties in the future.
One additional perk of royalty free music licenses is that some companies like Soundstripe cover personal and commercial projects, so you can use their songs in any sort of video you work on.
Based on what you just read (or the embedded video, if you watched it) you’ve probably figured out that copyright free music is music that has zero copyright holders. It’s equivalent to you writing a song and sharing it online so anyone can download and use it.
Obviously, copyright free music is a pretty rare thing. It’s unusual for an artist to put time and effort into a song and then not care about getting paid for the use of that song.
As a result, many copyright free songs are… Well, let’s just say this sort of music doesn’t have the highest quality of production value most of the time (unless it’s one of those famous classical songs that have already entered public domain). They’re tracks you might use as a placeholder, but you probably wouldn’t want to put them in a final project.
Copyright free music does exist in the wild, however. It’s even possible to find high-quality copyright free music. Tracking down these songs will take some work, but you can definitely find them if you don’t want to deal with any sort of license agreement.
So the obvious question is: Which type of music is right for you? There’s not really a right or wrong choice in the “royalty free vs copyright free” debate, although the rarity of good copyright free music makes the decision easy for a lot of filmmakers.
The truth is that either option is more convenient than traditional music licensing. Both copyright free music and royalty free music are easier to get than approval from a dozen copyright holders.
And let’s not even talk about how much money you can save by using royalty free music — suffice to say that it’ll save you on the front end (the licensing agreement) and royalty payments (because they don’t happen).
As a royalty free music company, Soundstripe is pretty familiar with this corner of the music industry. In fact, we wanted to make the “music for video” process even easier for content creators. Selling individual song licenses helps a lot of people, but we wanted to offer something new as well.
Soundstripe’s subscription plans offer unlimited access to our entire library of radio-quality songs. What that means for you is that you’ll pay the cost of your subscription (either monthly or yearly) and then get as many song licenses as you have projects.
So no matter what kind of videos you make, you’ve got options for finding great music to use. And as long as you follow copyright law, you’ll never have to worry about copyright claims again.
OK, so if you've read all of the information above about royalty free music versus copyright free music and think you're ready to make a selection, we have a great royalty free music site to recommend... us!
Unless you can find some old public domain music (which is great, but quite rare to find), royalty free means that you'll be working with royalty free songs (or royalty free photos or videos if you so choose) where the copyright holder is already taken care of in terms of copyright law and intellectual property rights.
This means you can rest assured that your royalty free song is in good standing with any ongoing license fees and can work perfectly as the background music in your video projects.
If you want to learn even more about royalty free and copyright free music, this blog post is worth checking out next.