Social media use continues to grow and grow. With the increase in online video content, a number of legal issues are bound to arise. One key question is whether royalty free music can be used on social media channels. These can include Twitch, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. The answer isn’t necessarily straightforward. Here we break down the things you need to consider when choosing background music for your social media posts.
Should I expect to pay royalties?
Obviously the royalty free element is attractive for those wishing to monetise their content without needing to pay royalties for the music they’ve used. This does not necessarily mean the music is free to use as you please, and you may wish to consider protecting yourself with a royalty free music license.
There are different things to take into consideration before using any music, even if that music is royalty free. Royalty free does not mean copyright free, and it’s important, to avoid any legal issues, to firstly respect the wishes of the music artist and copyright holder by understanding the various requirements of licensing royalty free music for your videos and projects.
A check list for content creators wanting to use royalty free music on their social media channels.
1: Check the license of the track you want to use.
Most sites that offer free music downloads, like the FMA, Jamendo or the Internet Archive, do so by enabling the various artists to release their music on a royalty free Creative Commons license. However there are 6 different CC licenses that allow different levels of use. Using Creative Commons music is definitely not as simple as “I can use this if I give attribution…”
It is therefore essential to check the specific Creative Commons license for the track you would like to use and gain a good understanding of these licenses. You may be able to use the track, you may not. It all depends on the license that Creative Commons music is released under.
There’s a thorough Creative Commons license guide on the FMA website:
2: Can my project be considered commercial or promotional?
Think seriously about your project. Is it commercial, promotional or linked to an organisation or company in any way? This will affect what track you’re able to use.
Unless the track you’ve chosen is either released on a CC0 or CC-BY license, then this is a very important consideration.
For example, if you use background music on your YouTube channel, and your intention (like most) is for your channel to grow and become monetised, then this would be considered commercial use. Say you have used music that states non-commercial use allowed only on the CC license. A year down the line your channel is monetised and you are earning money from it. Are you going to go back and clear all the music you’ve used previously? If not, you could find your channel being subject to a copyright strike and your hard work lost.
This is why understanding royalty free music licensing for your social media channels is essential. It is always recommended to check out some music licensing services to see what they offer.
If you’re a professional artist that uploads time-lapse videos of yourself painting for example, this would also be considered commercial use as it’s promotional to your work. The best practice if unsure whether your project would be considered commercial or not is to contact the artist directly to ask permission. You will likely be able to pay a nominal fee to them to clear perpetual use of the track.
3: The track isn’t clear for Derivative and/or Commercial use but I still want to use it. What now?
Always contact the artist before using a track in these cases. Many independent artists like myself and the artists on the IMLC have music licensing websites that enable easy and cheap perpetual use of tracks. We’ve centralised a royalty free music library of over 2000 high quality tracks from independent artists at the imlcollective.uk. It’s easy to become an annual member and use as much pre-cleared and licensed royalty free music as needed within the membership year. It’s also easy to clear just one track for use forever.
Independent artists are also generally very flexible and may allow free or donation based use to you depending on circumstances. So it’s always worth checking.
Be warned, using royalty free music on your social media channels that’s not released on a CC0 or CC-BY license or been cleared by the artist is a breach of copyright. A pretty serious legal offence that can prove costly to fix.
So, can I use royalty free music on social media?
The simple answer is yes, but as with all royalty free music it is important to get all the information about what your use means. It always pays to carefully search where to download royalty free music for commercial use.
Here at the IMLC we offer independent royalty free music created with these scenarios in mind. That’s why we are regularly addressing these issues and others to give content creators the best royalty free music information and advice for their projects.
All in all, royalty free music can be used on your social media channels IF the music is released on a license enabling you to do so for free, OR you’ve received permission or bought a perpetual license from the copyright holder of the music.
Music licensing companies like the imlcollective.uk have simplified this process. For a small fee content creators are able to license quality independent royalty free music to use in social media channels and beyond without fear of copyright infringements.
Visit the IMLC’s royalty free music library for peace of mind on social media use.
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