How to License Music for YouTube
Updated: Mar 28
Are you a YouTube creator looking to add some killer tunes to your videos? Well, buckle up, because navigating the world of music licensing can be a real doozy. But fear not, my friend! We are here to guide you through this complicated (and expensive) process.
Step 1: Know Your Options
When it comes to music for content creation, you have a few options. You can either use music that is in the public domain (which usually means the song is so old it is not protected by copyright anymore), create your own music, or license music from a music library or catalog.
Now we know you are here to learn about licensing cool modern music for your videos, so let's get straight into discussing this option. There are tons of music catalogs out there. For example, some catalogs only offer specific genres, such as Lofi Girl, which may not work for your content needs. Some catalogs offer pop and radio music, but are more expensive as a result. Some catalogs offer subscriptions, such as Epidemic Sound, which quickly adds up to hundreds of dollars per year if you need a lot of music, and at the very least will cost you over $100 per year. Others will charge upfront for the use of a song. There are even catalogs that offer all of their music for free (but usually the quality isn't that great).
YouTube itself offers its own Audio Library, which is a free option (that isn't very good) that we've discussed in detail here, and as of 2023, YouTube is also rolling out YouTube Creator Music, which provides the option to pay upfront for the use of music, or to enter into ad/revenue share agreements for the use of the music. Again, this can become quite expensive, especially if your content goes viral and you have to share all the profits with others. A quick google search will reveal dozens of options, at a variety of price points, so do your research and find one that fits your needs.
Step 2: Don't Break the Bank
As hinted at above, music licensing can be expensive, so it's important to find a license that fits your budget. If you're a small-time creator, you probably don't have the funds to license a hit song from Taylor Swift. And while many libraries offering a subscription seem cheap at first glance, the subscription costs will add up over time, often becoming more expensive than non-subscription services that charge a simple one-time fee for the use of the music. But worry not, there are plenty of affordable options out there, including some phenomenal free options (which we will discuss below).
Step 3: Understand What You Can and Can't Do With the License
Once you've found the perfect tune, it's time to make sure you're legally covered. Make sure you read the fine print and know what you're getting into. You don't want to get hit with a copyright strike and lose all your hard work. Most music libraries will provide you with a license agreement that outlines how you can use the music. Make sure you read it thoroughly and follow the rules. And if you're unsure about anything, reach out to the music library or consult a lawyer, as most licenses come with restrictions on how the music can be used.
Here are some common restrictions when it comes to licensed music, especially when the license is inexpensive or free:
Attribution or credits are required: This is the most common restriction and requires the content creator to explicitly state the name of the song and author in the description of the video. Most free music libraries require attribution, and you will receive a copyright strike if you fail to do so, or attribute incorrectly.
Platform restrictions: This is one of the more severe restrictions that exist. Most content creators want to create a piece of content and share it across many different platforms. Unfortunately, platform restrictions prevent them from doing so, as the content creator will have to pay for a separate license to use the music on each platform (and may have to contact different license providers for each platform as well... which can really make things complicated). Furthermore, some music simply is not available on certain platforms, but is available on others.
Geographic restrictions: Many licenses will restrict the use of the music to a geographic area, such as North America, and will not permit individuals living in other countries to use their music.
Expiry dates: Many licenses are only for a short duration of time, such as two years, after which the content creator must renew the license (and potentially pay more money).
Step 4: Understand the Risks
A lot of the free music libraries claim their music is safe to use on YouTube, when in fact it isn't... and you will end up with a copyright strike and the inability to monetize your content. Remember when PewDiePie told everyone his song awas safe to use, and then everyone who used the song ended up with copyright issues? And of course, these libraries often have many restrictions in place, such as those mentioned above, about how the music can and cannot be used.
And also be aware of risks that are out of your control, even if you do all the research and use trusted sources of music. For example, YouTube's Audio Library is supposed to be safe for content creators. But all of the music in this library is licensed to YouTube. Suppose an artist whose songs are in this library decides they've changed their mind and no longer want their songs in YouTube's Audio Library. When the songs are removed from YouTube's audio library, they will also be removed from any videos you posted containing the songs. This is why there are tons of videos on YouTube with millions of views that say "audio removed".
You have to fully trust the source of music before using, as even YouTube's own music can result in copyright strikes and the inability to monetize your content.
But what about free options?
Unfortunately, most options for free music for YouTube, such as YouTube's Audio library and most "DMCA Safe" or "copyright free" libraries, are simply not that great. The songs are boring, generic, and repetitive, and are clearly of much lower quality than paid options. The songs are not modern, are not catchy, and detract from the viewing experience of your content.
That being said, there is one option for free awesome music that has absolutely NO restrictions in place. This music is safe to use, forever, across all platforms. So if you've read this far, consider yourself lucky, because now you too can access the best music for content creation, completely free.
This music is StreemTunes. The world's biggest and best catalog of awesome modern music, with no strings attached.
Copyright free? ✅
DMCA Safe? ✅
Safe to use forever? ✅
No attribution required? ✅
Unlimited use license? ✅
Usable on all platforms? ✅
Commercial use? ✅
Most users prefer to stream our content on platforms such as Spotify, where there are over a dozen curated playlists for various genres of music, including: LO-FI, Hip-Hop, Synthwave, EDM, Rock, Latin, Trap, Dubstep, Chill Out, Chiptune, Holiday, Content Creator and more here.
To get started with StreemTunes, it is as easy pressing play. Everyone in the world has a free license to use StreemTunes' music however they please. You can stream and listen to all of StreemTunes’ music on Spotify, Apple, YouTube, Amazon, Deezer, and all other major streaming platforms. Simply search for "StreemTunes"!
If you need a copy of the songs themselves, head on over to our content creator portal where you can download all the songs in our catalog, for free!
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