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Music Licensing: What, How, and Why Matters to Your Business

Music licenses are commonly referred to as “royalty-free music” or “production music.” This is music that has been written and produced for the sole purpose of being used in another project. Anyone can then license this music for a fee, to use in their project.

And commercial music?

Commercial music, written and performed by artists such as Adele, M83 and U2, for example, cannot be used for any other purpose than a personal or private performance. When you buy a CD or download an MP3, it is specifically stated that you cannot do anything with that song or music track except listen to it yourself. Any commercial use is prohibited, including playing it on the radio for clients in a hair salon.

To reproduce commercial music for the public, the relevant performance rights organization in that country requires a licensed public performance. In the UK it can be PRS or PPL. In the US and Canada, it can be BMI or ASCAP. These organizations arrange a fee for the business owner, based on the size of their business / location. This can be costly and time consuming just to get the radio to their customers on their premises, but it allows the company to get the radio to their customers without legal hassle.

This is not a suitable solution for video production and movie making as the use and purpose of music are not the same. Since many video production companies produce content for clients, they need background music for their video / movie that is licensed for its intended purpose. When licensing commercial music, organizing such a license for public online, in-store, and mass distribution quickly becomes expensive and complicated.

Royalty-free music licenses offer a simple and cost-effective solution to acquire well-produced music with all the necessary rights for the customer, within a transparent and affordable license.

Who needs to license music?

Anyone who creates digital content with the intention of publishing it online or publicly. It really is that simple. You cannot legally use music that you have not written yourself or that you have not obtained a license from a music library.

What about “home movies” and “personal projects”?

The same rules apply to home movies and personal projects, but because these are produced non-profit or professionally on behalf of a client, commercial music can be used in this type of content. However, when this content is posted on social platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, your video may be blocked in certain countries or removed entirely. This is because commercial artists and record labels have an agreement in place that monitors the use of their content on these platforms and can enforce accordingly. However, there are many commercial artists and record labels that allow the use of their music in exchange for publicity. An ad will be attached to your content as a pre-roll, overlay, or halftime break during the video in exchange for permission to use your music track. If you are producing something personal, “for fun”, then this should not be a problem.

The risks of using commercial music in professional videos

A customer may want the latest chart hit in their video because it resonates with their target audience, or feels like it represents their brand. However, as described above, this could end up being blocked or removed immediately with other implications such as account suspension. If the video is not blocked or removed, it will be served with ads.

This is the last thing you want for your client. You have produced a video promoting your new product, and before the video begins, viewers are shown advertisements for competing brands and products. It degrades the potential of video and branding.

Why get a RIGHTS FREE MUSIC license?

There are THREE key reasons why properly licensing music is of the utmost importance.

1. You are using music that will NOT be subject to copyright claims, blocking or removal when posted online. This means that you can deliver your final product to your customer without fear of music-related problems.

2. You can MONETIZE the content you produce. If you are producing the content for your own online channel on YouTube, you will certainly enter the partner program to earn money from the ads displayed on your videos. You cannot make money from these ads if the music is not licensed as it will go directly to the artist / producer of the music. Pay for the music license, make money on that music license. Simple.

3. Create an identity for your video. Whether you are producing something on behalf of a client or yourself. If you use a popular and well-known commercial music track, the song is likely to resonate more with the viewer than with its content. However, if you create some really good video content AND license the perfect music track that no one has heard before, you are offering a completely unique audio / visual package that is new and fresh.

What about free music?

If you search for it, you will find music that is available to use for free. But ask yourself, why is it free?

Free in exchange for ads and income.

The creator might give you permission to use their music in exchange for online ad revenue through YouTube and Facebook, and you won’t know until you post and report it, the ads will show alongside your video, with all proceeds going to the artist.

A poor quality sample

The free music track you are using could be a low-quality sample of something an artist is trying to sell. This might be a low 128 kbs MP3 that seems adequate, but when played with high-quality content, it will sound quiet, muted, and generally not that great. When music is licensed from a library, it should be available in broadcast-quality WAV or 320kbps MP3 as standard.

Who else is using it?

You won’t be the only one looking for free music. People who create content exclusively for personal projects don’t have a music licensing budget, so they need something for free. If you’re producing a project for a paying client, would they be happy if you use the same free music track as everyone else? If it’s free, a lot of people are likely to use it.

Settlement and guarantee

Anyone can upload a music track online. There is no background check, quality control, or legal guarantee. Any blog or digital content platform can host a music track for others to share. So when you are downloading a ‘free music track’, how do you know that the provider actually has the rights to provide it to you? When you license a music track from a professionally curated library, you have the assurance that each music track has been legally reviewed, contracted, and released for your license and use.

Why pay for music?

There are thousands of music tracks online. What is the difference between ‘Track A’ and ‘Track B’? As a video producer / filmmaker, ask yourself this question: “There are thousands of video cameras available. IPhones can record 4K video and you can plug in a microphone. Why should a company hire me to record their videos?”

When you license the music from a reputable library, you are paying for the experience in writing and composing the music track. From the beginning, the middle and the end. The quality of the instruments used. Dynamic audio production, builds and crescendos. Post-production mastering and editing so that a 3-minute piece can be condensed into a short 30-second edit without losing any of the magic of the music track.

The difference you get when someone records a corporate video on their iPhone compared to someone who records the same video with a professional camera, lighting and staging is painfully obvious. It is no different when it comes to music or photography. There is the technology, the knowledge, the skill and the ability to combine them to achieve the highest quality result.

What can I do with licensed music?

Whatever you want. Music may be licensed for limited use or global distribution, mass production, and broadcast. You can license music for a specific purpose and adapt it to suit any additional requirements at any time.

Licensing of royalty-free music is intended to be the most cost-effective and practical solution for using music in your professional projects. General online distribution is commonly a one-time license fee per track for lifetime use.

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