Royalty-free or copyright-free music, what's the difference?
Finding the perfect music for a video is no easy task.
But it gets even more complicated when it comes to finding music that you can actually use without violating any copyright laws.
So what's the difference between royalty-free and copyright-free? Well, that's what we're going to tell you today. Let's get down to business...
What is royalty free music?
Many video on demand (VOD) creators face the problem of finding music that they can put in their content without being demonetised or receiving any legal notice. This is why for video on demand and live streaming, you should always use royalty-free music, also known as songs that you have the right to use. This "right to use" can come in a wide variety of forms and the most common is to buy it from a specialised website.
One of the most common misconceptions about royalty-free music is that it is free. While this may be the case for some websites, many others charge licensing fees to use these tracks. What you are paying are royalties, the right to use a certain song in a video. These royalties are paid to artists, record labels or website owners, depending on where you buy the music.
Most websites offer royalty-free music for a price ranging from one-time licences to all kinds of subscriptions. However, what you pay for is not the ownership of the audio track (the copyright), but the royalties. Below, we will look at some of our favourite sources of stock music.
This is why most royalty-free music websites have legal information, which I advise you to read carefully. Generally speaking, once you purchase a track, the content you created during your active subscription or if you paid the licence fee, it will be royalty free forever.
Please note that once your subscription ends, many sites do not allow you to use downloaded tracks in any content other than what was already published during the active period. If you do so, you may face copyright issues.
Why is royalty-free music important?
For all types of online content creators, royalty-free music is a must, especially when it comes to video monetisation. Even if your video is not on YouTube, this is something you need to pay attention to.
The bottom line is that you can't just use any kind of song, as you will be in violation of legal copyright regulations. This is why some pay-per-view and VOD creators respond to Spotify playlists, which they link to in the description of their videos. But let's face it, this can be very annoying for viewers, as it requires extra effort. Your best viewing experience will have background music directly in your videos, which is where royalty-free music comes in.
Not using the right kind of music can be counterproductive for both creators and viewers. Therefore, consider royalty-free music as an investment for your platform, especially if you plan to make a living from your content.
What is copyright?
In general, copyright, also called author's rights, is a legal means of protecting an author's work. Copyright provides creators with exclusive intellectual property rights over their content. Once someone completes a creative work, whether it is a painting, a stock photo, a book or a song, they automatically become the copyright owner of that piece. This means that the piece cannot be used without the creator's consent.
In the case of a song, if you want to use it, you must first ask permission from the creator and/or give attribution. Attribution is basically giving credit to someone's work. Some creators have a format, which usually includes the artist's name and a link to their website. This is also the case for some copyright-free music websites, which allow users to use their music for free, but with attribution included.
But even if they do not have a specific format on how to credit an artist, you should include attribution not only to avoid copyright claims, but also out of respect for someone's creation.
One way to have royalty-free music without giving any attribution is to produce it yourself, which is not an easy task for non-musicians. In this way, you own the copyright to the track and can use it as you wish.
What is the difference between a royalty-free or copyright-free song?
Now that we have defined the two terms, let's look at the differences, as copyright-free and royalty-free are two terms that tend to be confused. Finding real royalty-free music is almost impossible, as any tune has been created by someone and that person owns the copyright.
What you can find, however, are libraries of public domain music and creative commons music. However, in order to use the music, it is almost always required to include attribution. This is the case with the YouTube Audio Library or Soundcloud, which we will get into later.
The great thing about royalty-free music sites is that you will have access to high quality original music, which is not usually the case with free ones. As a content creator, you will want to include music that is easily editable and as original as possible.
Where can you find royalty-free music?
A quick internet search will show you tons of options, but we've selected some of our favourite music licensing platforms.
HookSounds is a royalty-free music website created by artists. The selection of tracks is very carefully selected, as they are very original and exclusive.
You'll find over 3000 tracks here, as well as sound effects, and you can choose to pay for one-time licenses (for one-time use) or subscriptions, either yearly or monthly. Be sure to check out their licensing page to see which works best for your needs, and note that both Premium and Business cover video on demand (VOD) platforms, as well as YouTube and other social media platforms.
What we like most about HookSounds is its custom request feature. Business subscribers can request tracks specially designed for them, simply by sending a reference or a description of what they want. This is a great way for video creators to have exclusive music.
- YouTube audio library (free)
If you're looking for free background music, YouTube's audio library is a good option. There are tons of options, which can make you feel a bit overwhelmed, but the good news is that you can use it only by giving attribution to the author.
- Epidemic Sound
Undoubtedly one of the most important websites in the royalty-free music industry, Epidemic Sound is one of the best options when it comes to finding music in stock. Their website is quite good and, like others, they have two types of subscriptions: personal and commercial. They also have single-use licences, but the prices are higher compared to subscriptions.
Their music library has more than 30,000 songs (they also offer sound effects!)
Bensound offers a wide variety of subscriptions and licences, as well as a free licence for those who wish to give attribution to the site. It can be a little complicated to navigate the library and there are not many categories of music, but the reality is that Bensound was created by a single artist who still runs the site.
Bensound offers several subscriptions, which can be a bit confusing, especially when it comes to pricing (all prices are in euros). Although its four licences cover YouTube and social media, only its extended licence and TV/radio ad licence cover video-on-demand platforms.
Soundstripe has a fairly easy-to-navigate music library, with lots of tracks and simple filtering options. One of their latest features goes beyond music and is their video library. As with music, they offer a variety of ready-to-use videos that you can use in your creations.
In terms of pricing, they have three different plans and single licenses, as well as an enterprise API option. The difference between the three plans is what they include (music or sound effects and music, and team accounts), but according to their FAQ, all three cover all types of content. Their rates can be paid annually or monthly.
One of the main differences between Artlist and other royalty-free music sites is the fact that they offer a single subscription that covers everything. Artlist currently only offers annual subscription plans.
With over 8000 songs in their library, they offer a pretty good filtering system, including a video theme. This allows you to get track recommendations based on the type of video you'll be shooting, including sports and fitness, food and travel.
Well, now you know how to choose songs to use in your video content. If you are already convinced of the idea and want to get started, you can sign up for the PLAYBAK BETA version. Today is the time, it's totally free and it will allow you to REVOLUTIONIZE your business by becoming a #Playbaker.
Be one of the first 50 lucky ones to try it for free before it launches 🎉
If you have a specific question that hasn't been answered in this article, let us know. We'll be happy to help.
Frequently asked questions about royalty-free music
What is a royalty-free licence?
A royalty-free licence is a fee you pay to be allowed to use a song. Licence fees can be a one-off fee (meaning you only pay for a certain track), a subscription or, in the case of some free services, an obligation to include credits when using the song.
Generally, once you buy a royalty-free song, you will be sent an invoice or a certificate stating that you now have the right to use it. This is very important in case you receive copyright claims, to prove that you are legally entitled to use the music in your content. YouTube, for example, allows you to upload the invoice when you receive such a notification.
Does royalty-free mean free for commercial use?
No, and this is a common misconception. Royalty-free does not necessarily mean that the song (or image or video) is free, especially when it comes to commercial purposes.
In fact, many services clearly state that their product cannot be used for free for commercial content, such as monetised videos. If this is the case, read their terms of agreement carefully to see what their requirements and exceptions are.
Can I use royalty-free music on YouTube?
Of course you can! Depending on the royalty-free music provider you use, be aware of their terms and conditions. Some sites, such as HookSounds, for example, allow you to use their music for free only in videos that will not be monetised (i.e. you will not make money from them, either through ads or sponsorship), while YouTube's audio library allows you to use any of their tracks only when proper credit is given.
What happens if I post copyrighted music on social media?
It depends on the platform you are posting on. For example, Facebook and Instagram have strict restrictions and copyright protection, and if you post a video or story with a copyrighted song, it will most likely be removed.
The same applies to Twitch streams, for which you'll have to use royalty-free music, even if it's just playing in the background. So, just like YouTube, we recommend that you choose royalty-free music no matter what platform you're using.
To sum up...
Each creator has their own requirements and particularities, so finding the perfect match when it comes to music will take a bit of time. Fortunately, most of these websites allow you to listen to the tracks for free, so you can check the quality of the music before you decide where to buy a subscription.
Final tip: take your time, check out as much as you can and decide which one best suits your needs.