Music for YouTube Videos

by Sam Campbell

Have you ever watched a video on YouTube that doesn’t have any music? Probably not for long! All the top YouTube channels use music in their videos. For a good reason, too. A great video isn’t complete without a great soundtrack!

A professional and engaging YouTube video requires music to fill in the background, cover up any awkward silence, and with the right music, shape the feel of your entire video. That’s right; music doesn't just fill in the gaps of your video. It can truly make or break the whole viewing experience and make the difference between success or failure.

Several case studies have even shown how a music soundtrack added to video content can boost engagement metrics.

music for youtube videos

Music for YouTube Videos: What Music Can I Use?

Now we know we need music for our videos, it’s time to pick the right piece. But before we do, here are a few questions to consider:

  • Can I use any song?
  • How about my favorite song on the radio?
  • Do I need permission from the artist?
  • Can I get sued for this?

These are all critical questions to answer before creating your videos and sharing them with the world on YouTube. While it’s not likely you'll get sued, there are strict rules on using music in YouTube videos. Every YouTube creator must be aware of these before using the platform.

No doubt, finding usable music for your videos can often be confusing. However, we’ve got you covered on the rules around adding music to YouTube videos and the best places to find the right tracks for your project. In this article, we’re going to discuss what music you can and can't use, why it matters, and where you can find tracks for your videos. We’ll also explore platforms that provide free music and help you decide which option is right for you.


A Guide to Music Copyright

Let’s start by keeping you out of trouble. In short, if you haven’t made something yourself, you can’t put it on your YouTube channel. YouTube strictly enforces what’s called Copyright, and it means that “intellectual property” or something that someone makes, is protected from being used by someone else without permission.

music copyright

The subject of Copyright can be complicated. Copyright is even a complete practice of law in the United States; you should see some of the lawsuits! Why is Copyright important?

Imagine you wrote a song, recorded it, and then published it to YouTube. Then a company came along, made a commercial with your music, and started making boatloads of money from the commercial without your permission or agreement. Don't you feel like they owe you something?

If you own a registered Copyright to the music, they do!

Copyright is designed to protect creators just like you, and it’s not just a good practice to safeguard fellow creators. It is relevant both in law and as a YouTube policy, and it is strictly enforced.

If you’ve read over YouTube’s guidelines, you’ll see the first rule of Copyright:

“Creators should only upload videos that they have made or that they're authorized to use. That means they should not upload videos they didn't make, or use content in their videos that someone else owns the copyright to, such as music tracks, snippets of copyrighted programs, or videos made by other users, without necessary authorizations.”

This also goes for all the elements of your YouTube content like images, video clips, AND music.

The table below answers some of the most frequently asked Copyright questions.

Why can't I choose my favorite Beyoncé track and add it to my YouTube video? Because it is Copyright protected.
What is Copyright? Art and ideas are considered property. To use them, you must have permission from the copyright owner. The owner is often, but not always, the creator of the content.
What if the new Beyoncé track is perfect for my video? She’s singing about food, and I have a fantastic recipe video! You still shouldn’t use the track. YouTube analyzes all uploaded video content and can detect copyrighted music.
What happens if I violate Copyright? YouTube will immediately remove your video, without warning, even if you do manage to upload it.

As we can see, all that you’ll achieve in attempting to publish a video using copyrighted music is a colossal waste of your own time!


So, What Music Can I Use for my YouTube Videos?

Sometimes, platforms like iTunes, Spotify, or even YouTube will give you access to copyrighted music. It’s easy enough to grab those tracks and put them into our editing timeline. Still, as video creators, we might not be aware of the rights associated with the music. How can we be sure if we can use them in our YouTube project without violating Copyright?

Enter Creative Licenses!


What Are Creative Licenses?

creative license agreement

Remember when we said you must get permission to use a song? Well, that’s a creative license! A creative license is an agreement between a copyright owner and someone that wants to use copyrighted material for their project.

How do you get one of these agreements?

To continue our earlier example, you can't exactly call up Beyoncé and ask her for permission to use her song for your YouTube video. You probably aren't ready to shell out the kind of dough Queen Bé would request, either! There are usually protracted negotiations, complicated contracts, and even bigger paychecks if you want to use popular music in your videos.

Who has the time and the money for this? Not us, so let’s explore how we can get cheap (or even free!) music for our YouTube videos right now.


Where to Find Music for Your YouTube Videos

You’ll be pleased to learn that you can use a wealth of sources to find music for your YouTube videos. However, when conducting your search, you’ll find yourself choosing between free and paid options.

The optimal solution is to try and settle on a specific platform you enjoy using. This will supercharge your productivity and allow you to create videos and access the music you want as and when you need to.

Let’s look at some of the paid and free options available, and the potential pros and cons associated with each choice.


Paid Sources of Music for YouTube Videos

In opting to pay for music to add to your YouTube videos, you will usually find yourself using "royalty-free" music.

Why do you need to pay for it if it’s royalty-free? Royalty-free music doesn’t work in the same way as royalty-free images. With royalty-free images, you can go to a site like Pixabay and select photos to use without attribution or credit to the creator.

Instead, royalty-free music means you buy a license to use a specific track or piece of music. As the license holder, you can then use that piece of music on as many of your videos as you wish.

Different sources of royalty-free music operate with various business models. You will usually be able to choose between:

  • Subscription sites, where you have access to the full music library to download tracks as you need to use them. Most subscription sites for royalty-free music usually allow you to keep the tracks you downloaded while a subscriber. Others may have specific terms and conditions attached to their service and various pricing options depending on the volume and types of tracks you want to access.
  • Single purchase sites, where you can buy a specific track or piece of music as a one-off to use in your videos.

If you’re a prolific YouTuber, a subscription is a fantastic way to ensure you find the right piece of music to match each video. As you’ve paid for the rights to use the music, you can use it on YouTube or anywhere else, helping you commercialize and make money from your creative activities. As an alternative, you might also look for video editing tools that offer access to royalty-free music as part of their service.

The beauty of using these sites is that they usually have a high bar for sound quality. Therefore, you can choose tracks with confidence that they’ll enhance your video content. Your viewers also won't be left wondering what message you were trying to send with your sound interference!

The only real drawback with these sources is the cost. However, if you’re making money from your YouTube channel and your blog or other platforms with your music, the return on investment you'll achieve is potentially huge.

The vast library of music you’ll have access to with a paid subscription or one-off license purchase makes what you spend well worth it!

The below table highlights some of the options you might want to consider.

Service Service Type Key Features
Shutterstock Subscription or one-time purchases available. Free accounts available, ability to purchase full tracks or 15, 30, and 60-second cuts as needed.
Get unlimited access to Shutterstock’s music library with a CyberLink PowerDirector 365 subscription.
Premium Beat One-off license purchase for unlimited access to music. Premium Beat is part of the Shutterstock brand, but with a different pricing model. All music on Premium Beat is also exclusive to the platform.
Artist.io Annual subscription. Access to over 14,000 tracks that you can download and keep forever. New tracks are added daily, ensuring fresh music is always available.
Epidemic Sound Monthly subscription. Over 30,000 tracks spanning 170 genres. Sub-licensing rights with commercial subscriptions.


Free Music Sources for Your YouTube Videos

Most subscriptions or licensing fees for royalty-free videos aren’t expensive. You’ll be able to afford most of them by ditching your daily coffee from Starbucks or spending a little less on your lunch!

Still, if you’d prefer not to shell out anything for the music you'll add to your videos, you have plenty of options.

Three crucial things to note if you go down this route:

  • You’ll often have strict limitations around how you can use the music.
  • Most providers of free music also offer paid subscriptions. They will often clarify the limitations you have around free use to push you towards a paid subscription.
  • Use an editing software like PowerDirector 365 that comes with royalty-free music included

Common limitations and conditions you’ll encounter will include:
  • Having to provide attribution to the composer.
  • Potentially limited time use of tracks.
  • Restrictions around using your music for commercial use. For example, if your YouTube video contains ads or makes you money in another way, you might not be able to use a free piece of music. This will also limit how you can use your music for video content elsewhere online.
  • Restrictions around remixing music.
  • Inability to sub-license tracks.

Given these restrictions, 100% free music sources might be useful if you’re getting started with video editing or are creating a portfolio to highlight your video editing skills. However, if you’re serious about creating excellent YouTube content, you're better off opting for a paid solution and using royalty-free music.

Some free platforms also allow musicians to upload their tracks with pretty much no quality checking. As such, you might find yourself having to listen to a lot of low-quality music before finding something that you can use.

The below table highlights some options for free music.

Service Service Type Key Features
YouTube Audio Library 100% free to use music, subject to compliance with the YouTube Audio Library Terms & Conditions. New music is added monthly. Can filter tracks that require no attribution.
Bensound Limited use of free service, with paid subscriptions available. Music tracks can be used at no cost, but attribution must be given.
ccMixter 100% free to use music. Some tracks have license conditions but remain free to use. Over 4,000 tracks are available for immediate download with no sign-up.
Free Music Archive 100% free to use music. Filters to find tracks requiring different levels of attribution. Immediate download available, plus the ability to browse genres and content creators.

Finding Music for Your YouTube Videos

We hope you realize that taking your chances with a copyrighted track isn’t worth your time!

However, just because you can’t use the latest Billboard 100 hit in your next video, it doesn't mean you can't find a fantastic track for your content.

Now that you know how to steer clear of copyright issues, you can dedicate your time to finding the best music solution for your video content and focus all your energy on creating incredible videos for your YouTube channel.

If you liked reading this article, you may like reading our ultimate guide to becoming a YouTuber. Check out our blog section to view even more great articles

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