What Is Royalty Free Music & Why Do I Need It?

If you are into filmmaking, podcasting, YouTube, or multimedia marketing, then chances are you've heard the term royalty free music before but may not fully understand what it is. In the remainder of this article, we will do our best to tell you what is royalty free music as well as give you some solid reasons why you need to make sure to use it for your multimedia projects in the future.

Defining The "Royalty Free" License - What It Really Means

According to Wikipedia, the term ‘royalty-free' is defined as:

Royalty-free (RF) material subject to copyright or other intellectual property rights may be used without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use, per each copy or volume sold or some time period of use or sales.

At its core, royalty free music (aka stock music) allows creators, marketers, and filmmakers the ability to pay to license and use someone else's audio tracks bound by copyright within their project without having to reimburse them for royalties or per sale in the future. 

This means a royalty free license must be purchased obtained BEFORE using the song within your content or project. Once this license has been achieved, you are no longer responsible for paying any additional licensing fees or royalties to the original content creator. 

While you'll often hear royalty free associated with music, this licensing concept applies to many forms of media. This includes sound effects, video, photos, vectors, and illustrations. 

What If I Just Use A Free Creative Commons License?

Many people often assume that they can use Creative Commons licensed music and get the same benefits as royalty free music without spending any money.

According to Wikipedia, Creative Commons licensing is defined as: 

A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted “work”. A CC license is used when an author wants to give other people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they (the author) have created

However, most Creative Commons songs have much stricter limitations compared to properly licensed royalty free music. The misuse of these licensing terms can result in legal trouble, a hefty fine, and potentially jail time in an extreme case (highly unlikely).

Creative Commons licenses often have one or all of the following stipulations tied to their use:

  • Attribution – others can copy, distribute, display, perform, or remix the work if the creator's name is credited as requested by the creator.
  • No Derivative Works – others can only copy, distribute, display, or perform verbatim copies of the creator's works. This means no editing, tweaking, condensing, or remixing allowed.
  • Share-Alike: others can distribute the creator's work only under a license identical to the one the creator has chosen for their work. If you are using a Creative Commons license that requires Share-Alike along with it, you must make your resulting project able to be used under CC as well.
  • Non-Commercial – others can copy, distribute, display, perform, or remix the creator's work but only for non-commercial purposes. This means no use in advertising, sales, marketing, or anything of which the project makes you money.
types of creative commons licenses

Beyond this, there is a lot of issues with using Creative Commons works that just won't come into play when using properly licensed royalty free music. This involves confusing licensing terms, irrevocable terms for share-alike licensing, lack of support/legal protection, and fraudulent CC content (someone else posting a work under copyright as CC without permission).

Why Is It Worth Spending Money On A Royalty Free Music License?

While royalty free music does cost money to license, it saves you a ton of headaches, hassles, and legal troubles that you could potentially face down the road. Here are some reasons why we think you should avoid CC licensing and invest in quality royalty free music:

  1. It isn't that expensive – many people believe licensing music that is royalty free will cost an arm and a leg. There are many quality services offering royalty free tracks for unlimited use (such as Soundstripe) for a flat affordable annual subscription fee.
  2. The terms are straightforward – depending on where you license your stock music, the terms of the licensing deal will be easy to understand and straightforward. Some services do charge more than others for royalty free music that can be used commercially. Be sure to verify you bought the right license before distributing your work for a profit.
  3. You have easy proof of licensing – with a lot of online multimedia platforms (such as YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, etc.) there are automatic algorithms which scan for unlicensed music. This will flag your account or remove your video/podcast. However, in the even of a false flagging of licensed royalty free content and submit your proof of permission to the service to have your content re-instated.
  4. The quality of music is better overall – when switching from a free CC license to a proper royalty free license, many people are surprised at how good the quality of music is. If you were a skilled musician or composer, wouldn't your best work be showcased on a platform that pays you money for licensing versus a free library? It just makes logical sense!
  5.  It saves you time (time is money) – one of the lesser expressed but most significant benefits of using royalty free music is the time-saving benefit. You can search royalty free services which often have a large database of content that can be searched through things like the genre (business, holiday, drama, ambient, etc.), tempo, vocals, length and more to quickly locate the right track for your project's needs.
soundstripe UI and search criteria
The clean interface and search criteria options for Soundstripe (our top royalty free music service).

At this point, we have covered all you need to know about royalty free music including what it is, how it differs from creative commons and why you should consider investing in it. We hope you found this article helpful and learned something valuable to help you in your future multimedia projects.

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