Licensing music is essential for creators to avoid copyright claims and it’s core to respecting artists' intellectual property. That’s is why it's increasingly important to be familiar with how to properly license music for your content. Let's dig into the different types of music licenses and answer some common questions about using music in content.
Types of music licenses
Before getting into various types of music licenses, it should be said that you're probably best off using royalty-free music. If you get that royalty-free music from a direct licensing company that owns all rights to their music, like Epidemic Sound, you've done your part and can move on to the fun stuff!
Epidemic Sound's direct licensing model and how we work with music creators ensure competitive artist compensation while retaining simplicity in our licensing. Read more about how to avoid claims by licensing music from Epidemic Sound.
Traditionally, for example, with movies, you have production companies asking record labels (who own all or parts of the rights to the music) to use music in their films. While this still happens, problems tend to arise if you are a different kind of content creator, such as a podcast producer, a YouTuber, or a Twitch streamer. That's because you (most likely) don't have the same negotiating power nor financial capabilities as a bigger production company. So, if you're a smaller producer or content creator, the most straightforward way to get your hands on music that you can use is either asking the permission of a music creator, create your own music, or simply use a platform like Epidemic Sound.
Most types of music licensing lack set definitions, but this list can be helpful to understand what they mean.
- Copyright-free: This is not the same as royalty-free music, and it doesn't necessarily mean that the music doesn’t have copyright protection. It does, however, mean that the music creator has decided to let their music be used without restrictions. Copyright-free music is very rare to come by. It exists, but most often, it's very simplistic in style and comes in low quantities.
- Stock music: Stock music is often offered on a royalty-free basis, but what's allowed and what's not varies; there are both paid-for and free stock music libraries. The problem with free stock music libraries is that their music can be very limited, and they tend to be exclusively licensed to one platform. For example, the stock music in YouTube's Audio Library can only be used on YouTube and not on other platforms, unlike a direct license and royalty-free music service like Epidemic Sound, which covers a whole range of platforms.
- Creative Commons: This means the music creator has given permission to use their music on conditions of their choice. Those conditions are important. For example, the majority of music released under a Creative Commons license prohibits commercial use (meaning no monetization). Further, one of the Creative Commons licenses that get used is a "No Derivative Works license," with which you cannot use the music in content at all.
- Public domain music: This means the music no longer is copyright-protected because the copyright has expired. Music, along with most other creative works, generally enters the public domain fifty to seventy-five years after the death of the creator, but this varies from country to country. Remember that even though a track may be considered public domain, a recording of that track may be copyright-protected.
How to license music for YouTube
YouTube is a particular case, as music copyright on this platform is taken very seriously nowadays. Problems with copyright in your videos will most likely cost you ad revenue or, in some cases, even the penalization of your channel. These circumstances make it extra important to have a safe way to use music.
One of the easiest ways to avoid copyright claims on YouTube is using a platform like Epidemic Sound. This not only gives you access to a wide catalog of high-quality and original music made by emerging artists but also grants you safety on YouTube, Twitch, Instagram, and other major content platforms.
Epidemic Sound owns the financial rights to its whole catalog and submits every track to YouTube Content ID. Once you start your Epidemic Sound subscription, you get asked to connect your subscription to your YouTube channel. By doing so, YouTube recognizes through Content ID that you're licensed to use the Epidemic Sound tracks featured in your videos.
If you want to learn more about how to avoid copyright claims on YouTube with Epidemic Sound, check out our dedicated guide.
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Can I use 10 seconds of a copyrighted track?
Many people ask whether they can use parts of copyrighted tracks in their videos to avoid copyright infringement. The answer to this question is "no."
It doesn't matter if it's 10, 20, or 30 seconds; the track's intellectual property is still owned by the artist or the person/platform that represents them.
How much does it cost to license a track?
There is no set price table for tracks and their licensing. The price may vary quite dramatically depending on the popularity of the artist and the track but in general, one track will most likely end up costing you as much as several months on an Epidemic Sound subscription – with unlimited access to the whole library.
Can you use copyrighted music if you give credit?
Just like the case of the "10 seconds" that we've covered above, generally, it's not legal to use copyrighted music even if you do give credit to the artist. What makes this scenario different is that some artists might only want credit as compensation for using their music. If, for example, an emerging artist (who owns the rights to their music) asks you to use their music in your videos and only requires you to credit them, that's perfectly legal since you have permission from the rights owner.
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