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How to use licensed music

Have you ever listened to a song and wondered if you can apply it to your video? Rules for using someone's audio material differ enormously - some tunes can be used by simply giving a credit to it's author, some tunes cannot be used at all. It's hard to imagine taking a popular pop song and adding it to your latest YouTube vlog; some labels allow to use their artist's material due to the agreement, while some will give you a harsh copyright strike. So, how to avoid music copyright strike on Instagram or Youtube? 

You want to use famous song in your Instagram post? Sure, but don't forget to follow these rules:

Have visual content.This should be a video, so the music you add is just a background for your content. Well, it's perfectly logical -Instagram is all about visual content, not audio.

Keep your video short.The shorter part you took from the song would be, the better chance you won't get claims from Instagram. Best duration - 30 seconds or less. You can use Reels - 15 seconds of content and you're safe from copyright claims.

Mix it. If you place parts of the song in different parts of your video, it will be harder to receive a claim. Combine it with other tracks but keep it short - multiple tracks up to 30 seconds are the best!

Give credit in your caption. Mention the song in your description - if your video got claimed, you can show to Instagram that you gave the song proper credit, not just used it as your own.

Nowdays this problem is mainly solved - you can use the sound you need by getting the tune with Creative Commons rights or purchasing it from specialized Royalty free platforms.

Quick dive into the types of licenses

Depending on where you got to use the track, you should choose the suitable license and overall, make sure the track has this type of license.

Sync license

any video format, including your YouTube videos, personal films etc;

Mechanic license

audio format only, owned by labels to distribute the track;

Public Performance License

broadcast license for radio, concerts, business (you put the song on the speakers in your coffee shop);

Master license

similar to sync license in most parts, but still has it's own use: apply it where you need but don't cover or edit the track. Perfect for commercials or ads;

Theatrical license

a specific type of license, with this one you can use a song in a play or any kind of performance seen by the audience;

used for physical reproduction of any copyrighted work, like owning CD or recordings, using lyrics on the brand poster.

Most likely, you'll only need the sync license for your content. After you decided where you got to use the track, you can choose among the following music categories.

Music categories

Let's finally divide the tracks you hear in categories:

  • Copyrighted
  • Creative Commons
  • Royalty free
  • Public domain

Under copyrighted music are following all popular songs or songs owned by labels. Songs that belong to the public domain, are those which don't have intellectual property rights, or the rights for these songs already expired. Most likely, you won't be able to use copyrighted music anywhere (unless you get exclusive rights or can afford a song that costs thousands of dollars), but you can use songs that fall under public domain distribution.

For the best, you have more options among CC or Royalty free music.

What are Creative Commons?

In simple words, Creative Commons tracks are those you can use for free and all you got to do is give a credit to it's owner(or not). The main idea of distributing tracks this way is to hand them out more effectively and get wider recognition of your work. Apart from distribution, you can feel free to modify, reuse and change tracks the way you find suitable for your work. 

Where to get CC licensed music

You can find a great list of Creative Commons tunes on the main website of non-profit organization itself, by simple google search or on CC licensed platforms, like FMA or CCMixter.

For your YouTube videos, you can do it straight on YouTube Audio Library, though you have no rights to distribute these tunes further, just use.

What is Royalty free?

You pay for your license just once, after that you can use the tune as long as you need and wherever you want. Rules also may differ from license to license, though the main idea is the same - buy once, use forever. It's a great business for platforms, as they can suggest you to buy a subscription and download the named amount of tracks, each for free or just for couple of dollars.

Where to get Royalty free licensed music

As you can see, some platforms use subscriptions, some sell royalty free tunes for just a few dollars. That's convenient for both user and platform, because the rights for tracks are not exclusive and can be used freely by any subscriber. The platform can distribute the track for unlimited amount of users and each will purchase the track for a good price.

Before you got the desired track and applied it to your project, you need to check on these things:

Does the license allow you to use the track in your video?

While purchasing a song, check it's license agreement. In the video, you can only use song with a sync license. Most CC and Royalty free tracks have it, so you can download them freely.

Are you planning to distribute the track?

It's going to be harder than using, remixing or altering the track, so your license (or platform rules) should cover that. They usually specify this rule very clearly, so it won't be hard to find.

Will you use the track in different places/on multiple accounts?

Some platforms allow to use the track only in one particular place/account/YouTube channel, even if the amount of uploads by one person is unlimited and the channel can be monetized. This also is specified by the platform/owner of the track.

Will you use the original track or edit/mash it up?

Again, most platforms allow you to edit the track for your own needs, but some respective owners would like to see their tracks unchanged. Check on this before you're going to sample the track. 

To wrap up

The only rule here - double check the rights on the sound you have. Each owner specifies the rules of using his work and you can easily find them when you download the track.In case you get the claim, you can attach the license to the claimant and the dispute will be quickly settled without any harm to your project.

 Good luck with picking the right track!