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Anybody who has tried their hand at creating videos for distribution on streaming sites such as TikTok and YouTube will surely have recognized the importance of music. Sometimes we don’t even notice the music in our favorite influencer’s videos… until it is gone. But choosing the right music to combine with influencer marketing can be a minefield – most songs are protected by copyright, meaning that you cannot simply add your favorite musicians as background music. If you know where to find it, a large amount of copyright free music is available, but just what is copyright-free music and how can you choose the right songs to boost engagement with your audience?

What is Copyright Free Music?

When an artist chooses to release a song “copyright free”, they give up their right to claim licensing fees or royalties when that song is used by another person for any purpose. This is different from “royalty-free” music, which usually means that you will pay a flat fee to use a song in your own work without any ongoing or per-play royalty fees being due later.

Royalty-free music is extremely convenient for influencer marketing videos as it gives you a fixed cost that you can build into your budget. Copyright-free music is even better, especially for smaller creators, as there is no price to pay whatsoever, meaning that you can concentrate your budget on important costs such as recording equipment and marketing.

Why Should I Avoid Copyrighted Music?

Many smaller creators mistakenly believe that they can use copyrighted music in their work because they have a low number of subscribers; this might have been true at some point in the distant past, but automated recognition software has now reached the stage where no matter how small you are, eventually you will be caught. 

When the owner of a copyrighted work discovers that you have used their music in your video, they will take action against you to protect their work. This will usually mean sending you a “cease and desist” letter which instructs you to either change the music in your video or take the video down altogether. The letter will also tell you what further steps will be taken if you do not comply with the demand.

If the artist feels strongly that you have profited substantially because of the inclusion of their music into your work, they could decide to skip the cease-and-desist step and go straight to suing you for copyright infringement. This is rare, especially if you are a smaller creator, but it is nonetheless a real risk and is definitely not a situation that you want to find yourself in.

We mentioned automated music recognition software earlier; this is a technology implemented on social media and video streaming sites to automatically protect the rights of copyright holders. If your video gets flagged for containing copyrighted music it will not be suitable for monetization, and any ad revenue that is earned will automatically be paid to the copyright holder instead of yourself. You may also receive a strike, and your entire channel can end up being deleted if you receive three strikes for copyright infringement.

Can I Get Permission to Use Copyrighted Music?

Yes, but it can be extremely tricky to pull this off if you are a solo creator. Most major artists have their music distributed by a record label, but the terms of the deal between the artist and the label are not always public. The actual rights holder for a song can vary depending on which country you are in and the applicable.

copyright law. Copyright can be complicated – you may need a license for both the specific performance of a song as well as the music itself, and even finding out where to start the process for a particular song is not always straightforward.

If you are keen to use a copyrighted work in your videos, then a good place to start is to ask the biggest collective rights management societies in your country if they are able to license the song to you. These societies take over the task of collecting royalties when a song is played on the radio or at an entertainment venue, which makes a lot of sense for bigger artists who would otherwise face an impossible task keeping track of where their music was being used. 

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