Finding Royalty Free Music

So we want to find music for our videos. Being apart of a University, we are a target for copyright lawsuits so we need to respect all copyrighted works and get the appropriate licenses. Let's explore what copyright is and what you should do to find music that you can use.

We are searching for two kinds of tracks

  • Public Domain music
  • Music protected by free licenses

What is Copyright?

Here's a great explanation of copyright. Please read through it to understand that every track has two copyrights.

A copyright owner is provided with five exclusive rights in their created work. The owner, as well as authorized third-parties, have the right to: (1) reproduce the work, (i.e., mechanical reproduction of the music for CDs, downloads, and vinyl); (2) distribute the work (i.e., stream or otherwise make the music publicly available); (3) prepare derivative works; (4) publicly perform the work (i.e., in a concert or on the radio); and, (5) publicly display the work. This means that the owner has the sole and exclusive right to publicly distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, or lease and to publicly perform or display the work, such as selling copies of a novel or publicly playing a musical recording at a restaurant.

So there is a copyright of the composition and a copyright on the specific recording itself. We are looking for either copyright free music, meaning the music is in the public domain and free to use by anyone. Just because a song is in the public domain doesn't mean all recordings of it are free to use. The actual recording of the some still retains a copyright on that work. While we can use public domain copyright free music it's not where we will primarily focus. Here are some sources of copyright free music:

Please feel free to add to this list of public domain music sources if you are on the media team! That brings us to the sources of music we really want to search for, royalty free music.

What is Royalty Free Music?

Royalty free music is still copyrighted music but it is music that we can use as long as we respect the demands of the copyright holder or the person that grants license to use their music. Please read this page to get a grasp of what royalty free music means.

The key take away is that royalty free doesn't mean you can just use it as you wish. You have to get explicit permission to use the track which often means you must pay to use the track. That may entail giving credit to the creator in the description of the video. 

What we are really searching for is music that is royalty free and the copyright owner is allowing us to use it for free under some stipulations. 

What to watch out for?

So some royalty free music sites will set explicit rules for what you can and cannot do with their music. For example has free to use royalty free music but doesn't allow their music to be used in podcasts. Take a look at their rules on this track:



Note that this track CANNOT be used in podcasts. However, we could use this song in a video under a free creative commons license as long as we give them this credit in the description and the video credits. We make a point of actually placing the music credit into the actual video so that we don't fail to credit them if we share that video to Facebook or some other platform. Here's what their credit would look like in the description. It's often even better to include a direct link to where you got the music from.

"Music:" or "Royalty Free Music from Bensound"

How to add Music to Our Library

Once you find a source of music we want to save it to the backup server with all the information needed to use that track.

  • Navigate to the Music Library folder
  • Create a containing folder for the website you're pulling music from ex. YYYYMMDD Audio Library - Music for Content Creators
  • Inside that folder you can download the actual audio files
  • Next to the audio file(s) create a text document to make a note of any license requirements 
    • If a song requires a specific credit then you must put that song in its own subfolder with the credit next to it
    • If there are a bunch of songs that are satisfied by the same credit you may just have one text file explaining that
  • Make sure you list the following for each song
    • What is the URL you got it from?
    • What kind of content can we use it on? 
    • What restrictions are there?
    • If a credit is required?
    • What the credit needs to be