Unfortunately, YouTubers are often hit hard by music copyright strikes. Therefore, in order to keep their content and channels safe from takedowns, I always recommend my clients look for fair use music for their YouTube videos.
Believe it or not, YouTube’s guidelines on fair use music are a bit unclear. While the platform claims that users can include copyrighted music in their videos for a “short period of time”, no one really knows just how long is too long ⌛.
While I recommend that my clients use no more than a couple seconds of a copyrighted song in their videos, I highly advise them against using copyrighted music altogether.
That being said, I know that many YouTubers feel strongly about using popular radio hits in their videos, because that’s what subscribers want to hear!
Therefore, whether you’re willing to pay for top songs or just looking for some ambient music, here is a complete list of resources for fair use music for YouTube:
✳️ Find royalty free music
Any piece of music that has been written down on paper or digitally recorded is automatically copyrighted. Therefore, in order to use any copyrighted music, you need to obtain a license.
Luckily, many artists have shared their music on websites such as Artlist and Audiojungle. The songs on these sites are royalty free, meaning the original artists have licensed you to use them for a set price 💲.
Pricing ranges on different websites, so be sure to check out several of them before determining which one you’ll use. While some require a monthly subscription fee for access to their songs, others will charge you individually for each piece of content you download.
Obviously, you’re not going to find Kanye West’s music on one of these sites. However, if you’re looking for background music for ambient sound, royalty free music is the way to go. Plus, many of these websites also have sound effects 🔊 for purchase!
➡️ YouTube’s Audio Library
Similarly, YouTube’s Audio Library is a great option for royalty free music and sound effects – and it’s free!
Any piece of content from YouTube’s Audio Library can be legally used in any of your YouTube videos. However, you must contact the original artist if you’re looking to use the music on any other site.
YouTube’s additional rules for their audio library include the following:
“- You MUST include the full credits in your video description
– You can NOT claim the music as your own
– You can NOT sell the music anywhere
– You can NOT remix the music without the author’s consent
– You can NOT use the music without giving any credits in the video description
– You can NOT remove or add parts from/to the credits
– You can NOT use third-party software to download the video/track, always use our download links”
➡️ Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a nonprofit website on which artists post their work for others to use. Furthermore, these artists will grant you rights to either an entire song or a part of a song. As a result, snippets of music from Creative Commons are often used for remixes.
Whenever you use content from Creative Commons, it’s important that you do your own research as some users falsely claim to own Creative Commons rights. In these cases, using one of these songs in your YouTube video would be copyright infringement 👎.
Therefore, whenever you find a song from Creative Commons, be sure to Google the creator’s name and the name of the song to ensure the content is actually fair use.
While royalty free music resources including YouTube’s Audio Library and Creative Commons are great options for many creators out there, if you’re trying to use songs your subscribers will recognize, you may want to consider another option.
✳️ Get permission
While this won’t work for major artists, you can always reach out to the original artist of a song you like and simply ask for permission to use their work in your YouTube video!
For example, if you know any local bands 🤘 in your area, they’d most likely be happy to give you permission to use their music in exchange for the free exposure.
Just remember to always obtain permission in writing ✍️ and attribute the artist in your description section.
➡️ Licensing websites
If you’re looking for hit music by artists like Ariana Grande or Imagine Dragons, there are websites out there that provide you with resources to legally obtain license to top songs!
FyrFly-SongFreedom is one of my personal favorite websites for music licensing. Subscription to the site costs $199 per year, and licenses for any of those really popular songs you want will incur an extra cost. Other commonly used websites include Triple Scoop, Epidemic, and AudioHero.
While these subscriptions are on the pricier side, getting a music license from a site like this is much cheaper than the alternative of buying a synchronization license for thousands of dollars 🤑.
Plus, these sites provide you the opportunity to browse available songs and download the track and license certificate right away.
Keep in mind to ALWAYS save the license certificate; if YouTube were to flag 🚩 your video for copyright infringement, you would have to use this certificate to prove you had a right to use the song.
✳️ Exercise your rights under the doctrine of fair use
One final way to use music in your YouTube videos without risking a copyright flag is to exercise your rights under the doctrine of fair use.
Put simply, in accordance with Title 17 U.S. Code § 107, fair use allows us to use copyrighted music in YouTube videos without permission from the original artist as long as we transform 🌀 the music in some way. In other words, you must make the song your own.
How do we do this?
Some common examples of fair use of music on YouTube include remixes, mashups, critique, and commentary. That being said, the “qualifications” for fair use are incredibly subjective, so use caution when transforming material as you may still obtain a copyright flag.
Regardless of which option you choose, always remember to protect your videos and yourself when using music in your YouTube videos. Nothing is worth a copyright takedown – especially if it means losing your channel 🙅♂️.