Music for YouTube

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Music for YouTube - All you need to know

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. 

Where can I find the best royalty-free music for YouTube?

Want to find quality royalty-free music fast? We’ve put together a selection of five of the best sources online.

1/ YouTube Audio Library

In the ‘Create’ section of YouTube, you’ll find their free music Audio Library, which contains a searchable database covering a wide range of genres. The tracks are a mixture of public domain works and Creative Commons tracks – which usually require you to attribute the music.

You can also check out YouTube’s Music Policies section, where you’ll find a list of popular tracks and details on whether or not – and how – you can use them in YouTube videos.

2/ PremiumBeat

Owned by Shutterstock, Premiumbeat offers one of the most diverse collections of royalty-free music. There are over 10,000 tracks and you can search by genre, artists, instrument, beats per minute and more. Their own music industry experts also handpick an Editor’s Pick playlist with their favourite tracks.  

3/ Musopen

Looking for something classical? You’ll want to head to Musopen who ‘provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions.’ You can browse by composer, performer, instrument, period or form. Plus they have dedicated sections such as ‘sound effects’, ‘cinematic music’ and ‘music for videos’. Ideal if you’re looking for royalty-free instrumental music.

4/ ccMixter

ccMixter is a community music site hosting music that falls under the Creative Commons licence. Musicians, singers and DJs share their music for free, as long as you credit the source within your video. This is a great source for finding unique background music. Browse the highest rated tracks to see what’s popular, or use the tag cloud to navigate your way around. Just remember that some creative commons licences may not be used for monetised content.

5/ Free Soundtrack Music does what it says on the tin, providing royalty-free tracks for use in films, YouTube videos, games or other multimedia productions. Some of its music does cost money. However, those tracks labelled as ‘FREE’ can be easily downloaded and added to your video.

As the amount of content grows every year, there are new royalty-free music sites coming through all the time. Looking for an easier, faster way of sourcing music? Here at Audio Network, we offer a number of licence subscriptions which take the pain out of searching for that perfect track and guarantee you’ll find premium-quality music, fast. The Audio Network Creator+ Licence enables you to:

  • Monetise your YouTube content via AdSense
  • Stop unwanted advertising showing on your YouTube videos (ads may still apply if you use other 3rd-party copyrighted materials)
  • Sell your video or podcast on iTunes

Why not try downloading ten free music tracks from our huge catalogue and get started right now?


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