June 29, 2022


Art and Entertainment

Music Licenses

What, How, and Why Music Licenses are Important for Your Business

Music licenses usually refer to ‘royalty-free music’ or ‘production music’. This is music that has been written and produced with the sole purpose of being used in other projects. Anyone can then license this music for a fee, to use in their projects.

What about commercial music?

Commercial music, written and performed by artists such as Adele, M83 and U2 for example, may not be used for any purpose other than private/private performances. When you buy a CD or download an MP3, it is specifically stated that you can do nothing with the song or music track except listen to it yourself. Any business use is prohibited, even playing it on the radio to customers in hair salons.

In order to play commercial music to the public, a licensed public performance is required by the appropriate performance rights organization in the country. In the UK it might be PRS or PPL. In the US/Canada, it may be BMI or ASCAP. These organizations set fees to business owners, based on the size of their business/location.

It can be expensive, and time consuming just to get the radio to your customers at your premises, but it allows a business to play the radio to its customers without any legal issues.

This is not a suitable solution for video production and filmmaking, as the use and purpose of music are not the same. Since many video production companies produce content for clients, they need the background music for their videos/films cleaned up for their intended purpose. When licensing commercial music, organizing such licenses for online, public performance, in-store, and mass distribution quickly becomes expensive and convoluted.

Royalty-free music licenses offer a simple and cost-effective solution to obtaining well-produced music with all the necessary rights for a client, in an affordable and transparent license.

Who needs to license the music?

Anyone who creates digital content with the intention of publishing it online or publicly. It’s very simple. You can’t legally use music that you didn’t write yourself, or licensed 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 not for profit, or professionally on behalf of clients, commercial music can be used in this type of content. However, when this content is published to social platforms like Facebook and YouTube, you may find your video blocked in certain countries, or removed entirely.

This is because commercial artists and record labels have agreements that monitor the use of their content on these platforms, and can enforce them. However, many commercial artists and record labels allow the use of their music in exchange for advertising.

Ads will be attached to your content as pre-rolls, overlays, or part-time breaks during videos in exchange for permission to use their music tracks. If you’re producing something personal, ‘for fun’ then this shouldn’t be a problem.

Risks of using commercial music in professional videos

A client may want a chart of the latest hits in their video because it fits their target audience, or they feel it represents their brand. However, as previously explained, these can be immediately blocked or removed with further implications such as account suspension. If the video is not blocked or removed, it will serve with ads.

This is the last thing you want for your clients. You’ve created a video promoting their new product, and before the video even starts, viewers are shown ads for competing brands and products. This lowers the potential of the video and the brand.


There are THREE main reasons why properly licensing music is so important.

1. You use music that will NOT be subject to copyright claims, blocking, or removal when published online. This means you can ship your final product to your clients without fear of music-related issues.

2. You can MONETIZE the content you produce. If you produce content for your own online channel on YouTube, you will definitely be put in a partner program, to earn money from the ads shown on your videos. You can’t earn money from this ad if the music is not licensed, because it will go directly to the artist/producer of the music. Pay for music license, earn money from that music license. Simple.

3. Create an identity for your video. Are you producing something on behalf of a client, or yourself. If you’re using a commercial music track that’s very popular and well-known, it’s more likely to resonate with viewers more than your content. However, if you create excellent video content AND license perfect music tracks that have never been heard before, you offer a completely unique audio/visual package that is new and fresh.

How about free music?

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

Free in exchange for advertising and revenue.

The creators can give you permission to use their music in exchange for online advertising revenue via YouTube and Facebook, and you won’t know that until you publish it and are informed that ads will appear alongside your videos, with all revenue going to the artist.

Poor quality sample

The free music tracks you use could be a low quality example of something the artist is trying to sell. It can be a low 128kbs MP3 that seems appropriate, but when played back with high-quality content, it will sound muted, muted and generally not that good. When music is licensed from a library, it must be available in 320kbps WAV or MP3 broadcast quality as standard.

Who else uses it?

You won’t be the only one looking for free music. People who create content purely for personal projects don’t have the budget for music licenses so they need something free. If you’re creating a project for a client that pays you, would they be happy if you used the same free music tracks as everyone else? If it’s free, chances are lots of people will take advantage of it.

Permissions and Guarantees

Anyone can upload music tracks online. No inspection, no quality control or legal guarantees. Any Blog or digital content platform can host music tracks for others to share. So when you download ‘free music tracks’, how do you know that the provider actually has the rights to provide them 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 published for you to 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 shoot 4K video and you can plug a microphone into them. Why should companies hire me to shoot their videos”?

When you license music from a reputable library, you pay for expertise in writing and composing music tracks. From the beginning, middle and end. The quality of the tools used. Dynamic audio production, builds and crescendos. Mastery and post-production editing so 3-minute chunks can be condensed into short 30-second edits without losing the magic of the music track.

The difference you get when someone shoots a corporate video on their iPhone compared to someone shoots the same video with a professional camera, lighting and staging is obvious. It’s no different from music or photography. There is technology, knowledge, skills and the ability to combine them to achieve the highest quality results.

What can I do with licensed music?

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

Royalty-free music licenses are meant to be the most cost-effective and practical solution for using music in your professional projects. General online distribution typically costs a one-time license per track for lifetime use.