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If you’re a creator, then you’re probably looking for music for your videos – it can make or break your content. And you probably also know that copyright can be a bear trap for the unwary (not to mention expensive, if you get on the wrong side of a lawsuit). So, what are your options, and where can you find music for your YouTube videos?

We’ve put together a guide to using royalty-free music on YouTube, and the best places to find it.

What is the difference between non-copyrighted music, and royalty-free music?

Many people use ‘non-copyrighted’ and ‘royalty-free’ interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Music that isn’t protected by copyright (the general rule is that the copyright lasts until 70 years after the composer’s death) are in the public domain. You can use these materials without asking permission – but you can never own them.

However, sound recording copyright lasts for 50 years after the music is first released. So, whilst your chosen piece from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto might be out of copyright, the classic recording of it by the Philharmonic Orchestra that you want to use won’t be. For Classical music perfect for video and broadcast, check out our Classical Collection.

Confusingly, Royalty-free doesn’t actually mean that you don’t have to pay for it. It  means that you pay for a one-off licence fee to use the music, for a stipulated period, and you don’t have to pay a fee to the copyright owner.

Music Royalties on YouTube Explained

‘Monetisation’ is how you earn money from advertising, based on the number of views your video gets. YouTube has integrated this system into your YouTube account, under the ‘Video Manager’ menu. Once you’ve agreed to YouTube’s T&Cs, you can allow ads to run alongside your videos, and YouTube shares a proportion of the ad revenue they generate with you.

Advertising will appear on most videos that use copyrighted music – the revenue (royalties) paid is shared with the composers. YouTube identifies tracks covered by copyright through their Content ID system, and will block or take down videos that violate the copyright terms.

You essentially need to own the rights to the music track you’re using, in order to monetise your video. Purchasing a one-off license for royalty-free music provides a cost-effective way of using music, whilst still enabling you to monetise your video, which is especially important if you’re a creator who relies on the ad income that your channel generates. 

Background music for video

Our category playlists are created especially to provide music for vloggers. Showcase tutorials, lookbooks or hauls with our Fashion and Beauty selections. We’ve got an expert menu of bright, fun tracks for recipes and demonstrations on food videos. Up the ante on Gaming videos with everything from the epic to the eerie. Creating parenting videos? Take your pick of our cheerful songs, while Travel experts can go globetrotting without setting foot outside. Choose from swinging Parisian jazz, go on a jungle trek, or get your Om on with a spiritual sitar sound.

If you’re in charge of creating wedding videos to commemorate the happy couple’s special day, then you’re spoilt for choice – we’ve got the traditional wedding march by Mendelssohn, or a tune for a traditional Jewish wedding dance. Or maybe you’d prefer euphoric indie rock or some uplifting pop?  

Feeling festive and looking for Christmas music? We have everything to create a holiday mood, from big band swing to beautiful string arrangements of classic Christmas carols, and swinging soul.  

Whatever your content, we’ll have a track to fit – our catalogue of high quality original music covers every mood and genre, with a wide variety of licensing options to suit you.

Here’s a pick of some of our favourite tracks and artists:

You Know It's Time by Peo Haggstrom and Jamie Eldner

Autoschediasm by Raithe Laurence

Party Hunt by Julian Emery and Jeremy Wheatley

Born To Be A Winner by William Davis and Dag Torgersbraten

Jupiter Beach by Alexis Smith, Joe Henson and Pete Davis

This was originally published 21/08/2015 and updated 11/12/2019.


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