So, you’ve been told time and time again that royalty free music is the way to go when it comes to selecting beats for your videos. But part of you can’t help but wonder about the alternatives.
Like, seriously, how bad would it be if I just included ten seconds of that Macklemore track for my opening credits? I mean, what's the worst that could happen?
Let’s walk through it, shall we?
Delete Delete Delete
Assuming your content is destined for social media, chances are it’ll be deleted or blocked from during the upload process. Most of the major players like YouTube and Facebook have sophisticated content ID systems in place to detect commercial music in videos and block them before they ever see the light of day.
So hard-line are these systems that even if you do have authorization to use that catchy Kings of Leon or Taylor Swift tune, social media will preemptively block your content anyway, leaving the onus on you to prove that you do indeed have rights to the featured song. This a process that can take weeks, sometimes months, to resolve.
In fact, in some instances where copyrighted music has managed to make it through the cracks, the video containing it has not only been removed, but the individual or individuals who published it have had their entire YouTube channels deleted and their monetization privileges suspended.
Harsh, right? But believe it or not, this is actually the best case scenario should you find yourself getting sprung for breach of fair use. In the worst case scenario….
You Could Get Sued
If the artist or music label that owns the rights to the song finds out you’ve been using their beats sans authorization, then one of two things will happen. If they’re feeling friendly, they’ll send you a cease and desist letter outlining what will happen if you don’t take down the video. If they’re feeling not-so-friendly, they’ll sue.
To be clear, taking someone to court for this particular kind of copyright infringement is pretty rare. You’d have to do something pretty naughty—like I dunno, say, conduct 50 breaches of copyright policy—for things to escalate that far. Still, it is a possibility.
Getting Permission Is A B*tch
Even if you do decide to play it safe and get a license to use your song of choice, you’re still looking at an equally rocky road ahead.
In order to procure the rights to a single song, you need not one but two separate licenses—a synchronization license and a master use license. These licenses are not mutually exclusive which means you cannot proceed without securing both. And doing this, pardon my French, is convoluted AF.
First of all, you need to find out who owns the licenses to the specific song you want—a tedious process that will take you down a rabbit hole of music label registries.
Once you’ve worked out the correct person/s to approach, you’ll need to prepare and submit a pile of information on par with that of your college applications. This will likely include a synopsis of your video, where for how long you intend to integrate the track, how your video will be distributed, whether you intend to yield a profit, yadda yadda yadda.
Once all the paperwork is done and dusted, you then have to around three to six months to get a response. Now, I don’t know how your deadlines operate, but in my line of work, that’s what we call a blowout.
And finally, the kicker. Even if you do get the green light to use your song of choice, you’re looking at a licensing fee of anywhere between a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on frequency of use and how you plan to distribute.
Like we said, getting permission is a b*tch.
Custom Music Peut-etre?
Okay so you don’t want to have your YouTube channel ripped down, you don’t want to get sued, and you don’t want to get pay a year’s rent on a license for Mambo No.5. What are the other alternatives are there?
Well for one, you could have an artist produce something under a royalty free contract. This way you end up with a nice little tune that emulates the song you originally wanted, but without having to go through a maze of red tape to get it.
But (and it’s a big but) these kinds of contracts typically come with a whole heap of restrictions and conditions relating to broadcast limits, credits for the artist, or sneaky additional fees for high distribution which could see you making ongoing payments just to keep your video alive.
Enter... Royalty Free Music
It’s for all these reasons above that royalty free music is your best bet when it comes to selecting music for your videos.
But it’s not just because of the risk-free element that you should be gravitating towards royalty free libraries. Royalty free tunes carry a whole host of benefits that often get overlooked.
- They’re super easy to find and download
- Once purchased, most royalty free libraries (like Motion Array for example) let you use the same track in to perpetuity for no extra cost
- The quality is top notch
- By using royalty free music you’re helping to support small-time and often struggling artists
- And, most importantly, it’s CHEAP!
But, if like most people you don’t, then don’t waste your time. There’s loads of cheap, royalty free music out there. If you’re the talented and versatile content creator you profess to be, then you shouldn’t have any problem working with it.