21 July 2021

Let’s Hear It for the Music – Top Tips on Adding Music to Your Videos

By Debbie McDonnell, Senior Consultant

Video is becoming an ever more important medium for communicating with audiences. People love watching videos online to find out more about a subject or for pure entertainment. A good soundtrack enhances the visual content of a video by creating an emotional connection with your viewers or even strengthening the message you are conveying.

However, things can get complicated if you add music to your video without paying attention to copyright. Here are some top tips to help you.

  1. Platform specific audio libraries. Check the video platform you are using to see if they offer licensed music to add to your videos. For example, YouTube has an audio swapping tool which allows you to add music from a library of licensed songs. Many of these songs are from their free audio library.  However, some are ad-supported which means the copyright owner’s adverts may appear on your video. 
  2. Use a reputable music licensing site. Music can be licensed from various authorised sources, usually for a one-off usage fee. Check the licence terms to ensure you are paying the correct fee as your video may not fall into the commercial use category (videos being monetised for an income). Royalty free does not mean free, it means that there is no need to pay an additional royalty or fee each time you use the music. Examples of reputable music licensing sites are Audio Network, Jamendo, PremiumBeat and Getty Images Music.
  3. Use Creative Commons licensed music. Many musicians have released their songs for re-use at no cost on a Creative Commons licence. Always ensure you select a track without a “No Derivative Work” licence (for example do not select CC-BY-ND or CC-BY-NC-ND) as synching music to video is considered transforming the music or creating a derivative work. One of the easiest sites to navigate is the Free Music Archive. Do not forget to provide the correct music credit if this a condition of the licence. For more information about the various Creative Commons licenses visit their website here.
  4. Understand Content ID automated systems. Many video platforms operate sophisticated protection systems called Content ID which automatically identifies music registered by copyright owners. YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram and Facebook all run Content ID systems. Content ID allows a copyright owner to decide whether a video including their music is monetised, blocked or tracked. Increasingly, copyright owners are opting to monetise by running advertisements against the offending video with income going to the copyright owner. If you have a legitimate music licence, you need to protect your video from Content ID claims by registering it through an allowlist in YouTube or whitelist in Instagram or Facebook.
  5. Avoid well-known tracks. These will be the most complex and expensive to licence and may require you to contact numerous parties to ensure that you have obtained permissions for all the applicable rights. It is also highly likely that the tracks will be identified using the Content ID system. If you need to use commercially well known tracks, PRS for music offer a music online production licence for over a million songs.


YouTube audio library information – https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/3376882

YouTube Content ID information – https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2797370

Creative Commons licensed music – https://creativecommons.org/about/program-areas/arts-culture/arts-culture-resources/legalmusicforvideos

PRS for Music online music licences – https://www.prsformusic.com/licences

Boost your copyright confidence when working with film and audio visual content through our interactive training sessions led by industry experts. Get in touch with us today to chat about the training we can offer via our contact form here.

© Naomi Korn Associates, 2021. Some Rights Reserved. The text is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Licence (CC BY SA)

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post are based on the assessment of Naomi Korn Associates Ltd at the time in which the resource was created (July 2021). The contents should not be considered legal advice. If such legal advice is required, the opinion of a suitably qualified legal professional should be sought.

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