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Royalty Free Music Explained

Music Licensing
Music Licensing
Fast Company

When it comes to the media world, there seems to be an ever growing expansion of sites that offer music. From live streaming sites such as Jango or Pandora to the music videos that adorn YouTube, the musical industry has definitively made its mark upon the internet. Because of the availability of music, many have seen the professional benefits of using stock music and downloaded tracks. Yet, many times the person which acquires such tracks finds that he or she is in violation of copyright laws. A prime example of this would be the massive amount of Kazza users which found themselves indicted a few years back. Another example would be the infamous Napster ordeal. How then can one ensure that the songs which are being downloaded are being used properly? An understanding of Royalty Free music would be a great starting point.

What is Royalty Free Music?

Royalty Free music is music that is provided to where the user does not have to pay the artist a fee every time it is used. Royalties are a big part of the media and arts industry. Those action figures that kids get in kid’s meals make the film industry fortunes from royalties. Music in commercials pay the artist’s a fee to have them played. Radio stations pay a fee to be able to play the music. In short, royalties are what really drive the music industry. Where you could get a great deal of money for a signed contract, most companies will not say “Hey here is two-hundred thousand dollars for the record that we hope will sell”. Instead the label will say “I will give you 30% royalties on the sales of this record”.
If royalties are such a big deal in the music industry how does Royalty Free music make sense? The answer is that royalty free music is not free music. This is a major misconception. It is true that you are not paying a fee for every use of the music. There is a licensing that requires such (typically referred to as the drop needle license) With Royalty free music you do have to purchase a usage license for musical track. This generally varies depending on the duration in which you wish to use the music, the genre in which the music will be used, and the exposure to the public for the particular track. Where some stock music may offer royalty free music for a low cost, most tracks will cost anywhere between $10 and up for the license. Again, this is dependent upon the use of the track.

The two main types of Royalty Free music

Typically, Royalty free music will fall into two categories. The first category will allow you and anyone else who has the money to purchase the royalty free music and use it. For the most part these selections will have limitations as to what you can and cannot do with the music. For example: You may be able to use the music in a corporate presentation but not be able to stream the audio in a public outdoor setting. Music that has this “open door” policy to the Royalty Free music is usually a one shot deal. This means that you are buying the track to use it one time for a specific purpose and that is it. Where the free artistry license allows you to use the music for personal listening (in some cases), the moment that the license expires and it is off of your computer, you are in violation of licensing and usage.
The second type is an exclusive form of the Royalty free music. This type of licensing allows you to buy the musical track for a time. No other person can use the music during the time in which you have purchased the license. This is ideal for individuals that do not want competitors using the same track. You are encouraged to read the fine print regarding the duration and the use of such contracts as they vary from site to site.

What Royalty Free Music is Not

Royalty Free music allows you to avoid some costs. However, many have taken royalty free music to mean free music. This is not the case. When you obtain royalty free music please note that :

• You do not own the music but have more or less leased the music
• You cannot sell the track to a third party
• The artist still owns the copyright to the song
• There will be limitations to the usage of the song
• You may or may not be able to edit and crop the song to suit your purposes

Why pay for Royalty Free music when I can download it for free?

As a professional, you should immediately see the flaw in this. Artists need to be paid. It has become a growing trend for people just to download whatever they want and not pay for it. My parents always told me that to take something without paying for it was stealing. The government calls it piracy. Hefty fines and imprisonment can even occur if you are caught. Sites that offer free music downloads should be evaluated with a critical eye to see how the music is paid for. If you cannot find an answer it would be best to avoid such sites as you may not like the result when you publish your work.
Music is a great way to enhance any project. Whether you are making a video, a presentation, or just wanting to entertain the masses, music is the way to go. Ensure that you do it properly by obtaining the proper licensing when you get your royalty free music.

For more information on Royalty Free music, stock music, and the audio and video industry visit .

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