What is royalty-free music?
Royalty-free music is music for which you do not have to pay for every time you use it. But is it really so?
There are many contradictions around the concept of royalty-free music, such as: is it free to use, can it be used commercially, is there any restriction on use, or is it copyright free?
In this article we will try to dispel all misunderstandings, explain the essence of royalty-free music as clearly as possible, and give answers to the most frequently asked questions.
What does royalty-free music mean?
In short, the true concept of royalty-free music means pay for music once and use it forever, without additional fees. That is, when you buy a royalty-free music track, you get a royalty-free music license that gives you the right to use this track for non-commercial and commercial purposes, as well as in creating media projects without limitation in the number of projects, downloads, copies, audience, and territory.
The most important condition is that you can’t sell or distribute the music track as it is, and you can’t sell or distribute projects that contain this track if the main value of these projects is the music track itself.
But in the real world, each royalty-free music provider has its own royalty-free licenses, which has different limitations.
How does royalty-free music work?
To start using royalty-free music in most cases, you need to choose and buy the proper license that will give you all the necessary rights to use the music and cover all your needs. There are also royalty-free music tracks that you can use for free, some may be in the public domain, others may be distributed under a Сreative Сommons license or without a license at all.
In any case, before using royalty-free music, you should: - determine in which projects you will use it, for example, wedding video, training video, slide-show, online video for YouTube, a commercial for radio, TV, or social media, etc. - find out all the conditions in which it will be used, such as territory, number of projects, audience, downloads, copies ... - and the ways in which it will be used such as broadcast online, by radio, or television
Can royalty-free music be used commercially?
If you want to use music for commercial purposes such as monetization of online video, advertising on radio or TV, etc. we recommend buying a license that will cover this use. This license will be proof that you use the music legally and will protect you in the event of claims from third parties.
Some authors allow using their music for free in online videos, even with monetization, if you specify the author’s name in the description of the video or put a link to their website, music track page, or social network profile, this is one of the Creative Commons license options.
But if you want to use music for non-commercial purposes, such as an educational project, family home video, online video without monetization, etc. You can use royalty-free music that does not require to buy a license for non-commercial use.
Is royalty-free music copyrighted?
In most cases, yes. Any music track consists of musical composition and audio recording. Copyright appears automatically after the creation of the musical composition and belongs to the author (or authors if it was made by a team), and also copyright appears automatically after the audio recording is made by the same author or another person and refers to the record itself. Therefore, in fact, any music track consists of at least two stages, and each is protected by copyright.
But sometimes, in very rare cases, the authors deliberately hide their authorship and dedicate the music to the public domain by waiving all of their rights to the music worldwide under copyright law, and do not require anything in return.
On the other hand, most classical music is in the public domain, but only as a musical composition, and audio recordings can be protected by copyright.
Therefore, if you want to use a classical music track which record is not marked as public domain, it is most likely not copyright-free.
In other words, today 99,9% of the royalty-free music on the market is copyrighted, even if it is called copyright-free music, or no copyright music, or uncopyrighted music, or music without copyright, is all the same. The exception is royalty-free music, which composition and recording are in the public domain.
Then why do authors call their music copyright-free if it is not? Well, they probably mean that their music is not registered in music recognition systems, that protect music from being used illegally, such as YouTube Content ID, and you will not have any copyright claims from the author or copyright holder when using this music.
What about free royalty-free music?
As we mentioned above there are some options to use royalty-free music for free even commercially. The first one when royalty-free music is in the public domain, and the second when royalty-free music is covered by Creative Commons licenses.
Music considered being in the public domain at 100%, only if music composition and its record are both in the public domain. But very often music composition could be in the public domain but music record of the same music composition is copyrighted, and a good example of this situation is classical music.
Therefore, be very careful if you decide to use this type of music for commercial purposes, try to find the author of the recording and get permission from him to use the music track in your commercial project.
On the other hand, if you want to use such music for non-commercial purposes, it is not so risky, but nevertheless, it will not be superfluous to obtain permission from the author of the recording if possible.