Music has a huge part in the mood and ordinariness of videos. A good, tuneful track over your videos will determine its tone and its persuasion. Even silent movies from the 1920s and early 1930s had musical scores over their moving images. Let’s face it, a good song or soundtrack can add drama, humor, sentiment, excitement or momentum to the overall theme or narrative of your videos.
As a content creator, it becomes your sworn sense of duty to find and match spot-on music for your videos. But first, you have to get to know how music is used in YouTube videos. That means you don’t only have to hunt down tracks and scores and songs for your videos, but you also have to learn simple steps that can help you have a handle on adding music to your videos for your channel. This is our guide to help you understand YouTube music policies.
You need a license for every song you use
This is the most important rule as YouTube music policies go. The first and most vital step before adding music to your videos is understanding how to get a license. In order to avoid copyright infringement, you have to get permission to use copyrighted songs or music in your videos.
If you don’t have a license, you don’t have permission to use a song. A license is an agreement between you and the person or organization that has the copyright to the music you intend to use. There are various music licenses—six primary ones in all—but every content creator should only be concerned with two main license types when it comes to their YouTube videos.
The first one is “The Master License”, and it’s a must-have if you want to steer clear of legal issues concerning music in your videos. Here’s how it works: if you decide that you want to borrow a portion or section of a song created and copyrighted by someone else, the master license grants you a go-ahead to use that part of the song from the copyrighted track. So, if you’re looking to perform a song or play an instrument over the copyrighted piece playing in the background, the master license allows you to do so.
Any music or song you find on the Internet or use from a recording artist or recording labels—whether vocal or instrumental—must be considered. These kinds of licenses are clear-cut, but things can get complicated if more than one person owns a fraction of the song. Usually, you—the content creator— will negotiate the terms of the license with the copyright holder. The process for obtaining the license isn’t a quick one, so be prepared when going after the master license to spend some time and a good portion of your budget toward getting that song or instrumental in your video.
Now, if you don’t want to go the route of the master license, you can consider the “sync” license—known as the “Synchronization License”. The same way the master license grants you the permission to use a song or soundtrack in your videos is the same way the sync license does. A sync license is also a way to make sure the song’s creator gets recognized and compensated for their work. But there are some important differences to be aware of between the two. The sync license grants you permission to use an artist’s song based on the intellectual property, whereas the master license grants you permission to the actual master recording. In some cases, you may need both licenses. Just keep in mind that both take time to acquire.
Adding copyrighted music to your YouTube video
A lot of bad things can happen if you decide to use a song or music without permission for your YouTube video. Firstly, YouTube has restrictive policies in place for content creators who use copyrighted material and commercial songs and music without permission. You can get an understanding of the policy guidelines here:
Some of the penalties you may face include having your video taken down or the sound muted, having the video blocked in certain countries or territories and you may face lawsuits. So, to avoid these legal pitfalls, it’s better to understand how to use copyrighted music in your videos.
First, you can go the route of getting permission from the copyright holder or you can utilize features YouTube has in place for finding commercial music you can use for your video. The site gives a wide-ranging catalog of trendy commercial songs from well-known artists that you can use under specific conditions. In addition, they have an Audio Library that has free music and sound effects. You can find these collections in the YouTube Studio.
Another way you can legally use copyrighted music in your YouTube videos is by using work that is available in the public domain. Copyrighted work loses its copyright protection over a certain period of time and falls under the public domain. Therefore, music within the public domain is free for everyone to use. For more information on public domain music, visit The Public Domain Information Project website:
Alternatively, you can always reuse music from YouTube videos with a Creative Commons license. There are a handful YouTubers who use the Creative Commons license to make their work available for reuse to others. YouTube allows these users to indicate their videos with a CC BY license. Content creators can use these videos for commercial or non-commercial intentions via the YouTube Video Editor.
Look for free music
If you decide that you don’t have the budget or time to negotiate permission to use a song or music in your video by a commercial artist and you don’t want to search through hours of public domain music, you can find free music to add to your videos by subscribing to royalty-free music.
For YouTube creators, royalty-free music is easy to download and tremendously cost-effective. You can find top-notch music and songs for your videos any time you want to. Once you subscribe to royalty-free music, you’ll have access to a library with thousands of songs at a bargain-basement price than most single-song licenses. You’ll save on the expense of spending cash each month for royalties. Not to mention that each download comes with a lifetime license and your subscription plan legally protects your projects even if you decide to cancel your subscription. Check out our recommendations for the best royalty-free music here.
You have plenty of options
Now you know a little more about YouTube music policies. As you can see, you have many different options when it comes to using music or songs or instrumentals in your videos. You can obtain licenses to use music or you can use the YouTube Audio Library to get royalty-free production music to use in your videos. The choice doesn’t only come from the right options or your budget, but from the excitement of choosing the perfect song or music that will play a considerable role in how your viewers and audiences respond to and enjoy your visual content.