What is Royalty Free Music and Why Use It? A Top 10 Countdown

Are you scratching your head wondering what royalty free music is all about? Let us clear it up for you with this top 10 list of reasons why royalty free music should make it into your next media project. Please note that certain items on this top 10 list do not apply to all royalty free music found on the web. However, they do apply to music being sold by several major royalty free music publishers of which Audiojungle is one.

1. One Time Payment

Royalty free music is exactly what it advertises itself to be–it’s royalty free. After purchasing a license to use the music in the appropriate manner allowed by the license, there are no additional costs, fees or royalties to be paid out. For example, one day as you peruse an online royalty free music library, you come upon a happy and upbeat music track that’s perfect for your commercial which advertises dog food. How do you now obtain a license to use this music in your project? You click the purchase button and pay the licensing fee using either a credit card or PayPal. Download the track and you’re done! Best of all, you are free of any obligation to make further payments even if your project is aired 5, 10 or 20 times per day, seven days a week for the next two years. Simple as that.

BEWARE: There are licensing companies that may require royalty fees for certain types of applications (e.g. broadcast, film) despite their music being sold as “royalty free.” My opinion on this is that these licenses are not truly royalty free by definition. For each company, make sure you understand their individualized license terms to avoid any unwanted surprises down the line.

2. It’s Fast

royalty free music is fastPurchasing a royalty free music license is, for the most part, fast and easy. It’s straight-forward and as complicated as buying a bar of soap on Amazon. The main difference is that with royalty free music, you usually won’t need to wait two days for it to arrive on your doorstep. It is immediate gratification, sort of like fast food (though the long term effects of fast food may not be so gratifying). Once you’ve clicked purchase and you’ve downloaded the music and license, you are free to use the music under the terms of the license agreement without any waiting period. This means your project is out of the door (or being viewed by a million people on YouTube) in a blitz.

3. Multiple Flavors of Licensing

One great feature, that is often overlooked, is the range of royalty free music licensing options that are available. Although the details of the various licensing options and the number of license “tiers” will vary depending on the licensing company, typically, the options will consist of a limited use license at the lowest cost, a virtually unlimited use license at the highest cost and possibly one or more intermediate licenses between the two extremes. Audiojungle has perhaps one of the best examples of these licensing tiers. Among the five licensing options that Audiojungle offers, the standard, lowest tier license allows web use but it limits reproduction to 10,000 copies or downloads of the product containing the licensed music, broadcast use is prohibited and the music may not be used in theatrically released film productions (though Indie films are okay). The next level tier allows broadcast use up to an audience size of 1 million. In this manner, each level up increases the types of usage and scales of distribution that are allowable. At the very top sits the mighty Broadcast License, which allows usage in a broadcast with an unlimited audience size, unlimited copies or downloads of the product containing the licensed music and incorporation into a theatrically released film. The availability of licensing options ensures that the licensee pays a licensing fee that is appropriate for the requirements of the project’s usage or distribution and nothing more.

4. No Usage Reporting

Conventional music licenses (non-royalty free) usually require submissions of cue sheets to the performing rights organization (PRO) that represents the composer or music publisher in order for royalties to be paid out accordingly. These cue sheets need to be accurately filled out by the producer or production company and it usually includes information about what the music is being used for, when it is being aired, who the composer is, which PRO the composer belongs to, etc. If a single production uses multiple licenses, multiple cue sheets are also in order. This could easily turn into a full time job! With royalty free music, cue sheets are nowhere in sight. No royalties to pay means no cue sheets and no additional hassle.

5. Expanding Royalty Free Music Libraries

Search Google for “royalty free music” and you are presented with a wealth of royalty free music libraries. Some of these online libraries carry over 100,000 tracks so there is a lot music to sift through. For you as a producer, this is great news because for one, due to the sheer number of tracks, chances are a perfect match is somewhere out there to be discovered by you. Another reason is the track you choose may only have been used by you, in which case, to the outside world, the music is completely original and that could be something to feel good about, especially when you remind yourself what you paid to use the track. Lastly, royalty free music libraries are constantly expanding with the latest sounds in modern music so the cheesy sounds of the previous decade won’t necessarily haunt your productions. And that’s certainly something to feel good about.

6. Vast Searchable Catalog

List every genre of music that exists in the world today, and the same list applies to royalty free music. An eclectic mix of artists and composers of all ages from practically every region of the world contribute to the pool of royalty free music and the result is a rich collection of sounds that are both traditional and modern. Because this pool is so large, royalty free music companies will usually organize the music by genres and even sub-genres. Oftentimes, the music database is fully searchable so you can narrow the list of songs down to a handful using keywords that describe moods, feelings, instruments and so on. Surely, this makes the search process much less daunting. So on with your search for that happy jazzy piano track to go along with your next YouTube cooking video!

7. Excellent Quality

Royalty free music has a bad rep in some circles and its quality is perceived to be sub-par. However, I do wonder if much of the negativity surrounding royalty free music really stems from a true lack of quality in music, or if it really has more to do with a simplistic (and cheap) licensing structure that psychologically scares people away. There are several facts to consider when discussing the quality of royalty free music. It is a fact that Grammy award-winning composers and producers contribute regularly to royalty free music libraries. It is a fact that many nationally televised commercials for big name companies feature royalty free music. It is an undisputed fact that theatrically released films and film trailers commonly utilize royalty free music. You add it all up and it speaks loudly. Royalty free music can be of the highest quality, right up there with the best sounds the music industry can offer. Sure, there are plenty of amateur-ish tracks littered all throughout the royalty free marketplace. But now there exists a crop of royalty free music companies that won’t settle for anything less than professional-grade, high-quality music when it comes to adding music to their catalog. As a producer, it may be beneficial to keep track of your favorite royalty free music companies and even individual composers by subscribing or following them (on Twitter, etc.) so you know who to find next time you’re hunting for an amazing track.

8. Try Before You Buy

Many royalty free music companies will allow you to download a watermarked, full-length preview of the track free of cost. This is intended for you, the producer, to have the ability to incorporate the music and evaluate its effectiveness within the context of the project that you’re working on. If it works and you’re set on using the track, you can simply go back to the webpage where the preview was downloaded and purchase the appropriate license to obtain the actual (non-watermarked) track, which should then replace the watermarked preview in your project.

BEWARE: Whether it was intentional or not, there have been reported instances of watermarked previews being heard in commercials, TV shows and other projects aired on TV. This could be flagged as unlawful usage of copyrighted media and subject to penalties. So please remember to replace the watermarked preview with the licensed version of the track before your project is completed and sent on its merry way.

9. Variations and Loops

Some music sites like Audiojungle provide multiple versions of a particular track with the purchase of a single license. These versions may include loops, different track lengths, different combinations of instrumentals and remixes. This really benefits the producer by allowing flexibility in the process of mixing the music into the project. For example, you may have a video that begins with a softer tone but ends with an upbeat feeling. Instead of using two separate tracks (and therefore two separate licenses) to complement the two contrasting sections, you can purchase one license that includes multiple versions–one version with a solo piano for the beginning of the video and a second version with multiple instruments and a full sound that is appropriate for the ending. In this way, the same musical theme is heard throughout the video, but the beginning is more subtle and the ending is huge and exciting.

10. Say No to Attribution

To some, publicity is nearly as (if not more) valuable than money. You will undoubtedly encounter royalty free music on the web that is free of monetary cost but it is usually with the stipulation that the author of the music must be credited or a link to the music source must be included in the project (our free music falls into this category). For YouTube videos and webpages, crediting an individual/organization or providing a link is usually acceptable and quite natural so this type of royalty free music blends in nicely with these forms of media. It may get a bit awkward when it comes to commercials and TV shows where attribution is harder to place and doing so may appear unprofessional. Paying a one-time fee to purchase a royalty free track frees you up from stressing over where and how to go about attribution.

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