Written by Tyler Connaghan
Navigating the world of music licensing for video content and streaming can be an overwhelming endeavor. Amidst the vast sea of armchair experts, it's easy to come across convoluted information that doesn’t always align with your unique circumstances.
However, if you're on the hunt for clear-cut answers, your search ends here.
This guide will dissect the intricate landscape of music licensing rights. We will equip you with all the insights you need to confidently soundtrack your video content without being concerned about negative consequences. Let's dig in!
Introduction to Copyright Law and Music Licensing
If you are navigating the world of music and video, there are two concepts you’ll need to be familiar with: copyright law and music licensing.
What Is Copyright Law?
Copyright law safeguards artists’ original works. The very moment someone pens down a melody, writes lyrics, or hits the record button, a unique piece of intellectual property is born.
This property, much like tangible property, has rights attached to it. Only the copyright owner (or those they permit) can reproduce, distribute, perform, or adapt the music. This is where music licensing comes into play.
What Is Music Licensing?
Music licensing is a gateway for creators and businesses to access and utilize music legally and ethically. A music license is a formal, documented authorization that grants the right to commercial use of a particular track. Think of it as obtaining a permission slip to use someone else's creation in your project.
If you're planning on enhancing your videos or live streams with copyrighted music, licensing ensures you're doing so without trampling on the rights of those who created that music.
Just as you generate revenue from your subscriptions, it stands to reason that the creators of musical works should also receive their rightful compensation.
Even if you offer your videos free of charge on a nonprofit platform, you need a music license to incorporate other people’s music into your content.
Why Are Music Licenses Necessary?
Music adds depth, emotion, and professionalism to content, making it more engaging for viewers. However, using music without the proper licenses can lead to content removal, legal actions, and fines.
By correctly licensing music, you're respecting the hard work of artists and composers while ensuring your videos and live streams remain uninterrupted and professional. So, if music is the magic touch for your content, understanding and adhering to copyright law and music licensing is non-negotiable.
What If You Don’t Acquire a Music License?
If you neglect to secure a proper music license for your video streaming and the copyright owner discovers it, a few things could happen.
In the best-case scenario, either you or the Video on Demand (VOD) platform where your videos are hosted could receive a request to remove the infringing material. This would prompt corrective action from you.
Then there’s the worst-case scenario. Alongside the demand for content removal, the copyright holder might opt for legal recourse.
The U.S. copyright law, outlined within the Copyright Act, permits copyright holders to seek damages ranging from $750 to $30,000 for each instance of infringement. This could also come with the potential for awards of up to $150,000 in cases involving willful and deliberate infringements.
What Type of Music License Do You Need for Videos and Live Streams?
Here is a breakdown of the music licenses you may need for videos and live streams:
If you want to integrate a song into your video or live video stream, you must obtain a sync license. This license allows you to "synchronize" the music with your visual content. Whether it's a background track for your YouTube vlog or an intro tune for your Twitch stream, a sync license ensures you're legally covered.
Public Performance License
For live video streams, you must obtain a public performance license in addition to a sync license. This license grants you the right to play or "perform" a song to your listeners or viewers. For audio-only broadcasts, you only need a public performance license.
You need a master license if you want to use a specific recording of a song. A sync license for the musical composition would also be required.
A print license is required if you want to display musical notes or song lyrics in your video.
If you want to record yourself playing or singing a song, you need a mechanical license.
Finding the Copyright Holder to Acquire a License
Now, how do you get music licenses? Do you need to approach record labels, streaming services, or some other platform entirely?
Acquiring a music license involves a few simple steps. All you have to do is find the song’s copyright owner, contact them to request the license you need, and negotiate the price.
Public performance licenses work a little differently, as they are managed by performing rights organizations (PROs). PROs function to advocate for music creators and protect their creative works.
If you are based in the United States, you can obtain a public performance license from the following PROs:
If you are located outside of the United States, contact your local performing rights organization.
It's important to note that artists can only be affiliated with one of these performing rights societies, as they serve as exclusive representation for their members. So, the organization you acquire the license from depends on the music you want to use in your videos and streams.
How Much Does a Music License Cost?
The costs associated with licensing music for videos and live streams vary widely, ranging from free to a few hundred dollars to several thousand. For instance, while some emerging independent artists might grant permission for their music's usage at no charge, big record labels could demand substantial license fees.
Here are some of the primary factors that influence the cost:
- Type of music license
- Popularity of the song
- Nature of use
- Territory (global vs. regional)
Going the Royalty-Free Route
If you want to skip the music licensing process, you can turn to royalty-free music licensing companies to get high-quality music for your content. These music licensing companies come in all shapes and sizes, offering massive catalogs that are easily searchable by mood, genre, etc.
The best thing about these platforms is that they provide blanket licenses, so you can use their music without needing to do any extra work on your end.
You may also consider opting for an AI music generator over licensing copyrighted music or subscribing to a music licensing platform.
AI-generated music has come a long way over the past few years, allowing content creators to create original and unique soundtracks tailored specifically to your project's moods and themes.
Strofe is an excellent example of a company that opens up the door for creators to explore endless musical possibilities while eliminating concerns about copyright infringements, granting you full ownership and control of the sound.
Customizing Licensed Music
Once you have the proper licenses for your copyrighted music or a royalty-free track from a licensing platform or AI music generator, you can get creative with it.
Want to remove vocals or extract instrumentals to better fit your project? LALAL.AI is one of the few companies offering this innovative service.
This next-generation AI-driven tool opens a world of creative possibilities. From remixing tracks to precise stem extraction, LALAL.AI allows you to explore musical capabilities and hidden nuances within recordings without sacrificing quality.
Whether you're looking to create an acapella version of a song for your next stream or enhance the emotional impact of a scene in your video with more focused instrumentation, the power is in your hands.
As a content creator, understanding how to license music for videos and live streams is vital. The key is always ensuring you have the legal rights to use each song before integrating it into your content.
Remember, the power of music lies not only in its ability to captivate audiences and convey emotion but also in the responsibility to respect the rights of its creators.
Tyler Connaghan is an accomplished music producer, composer, and engineer based in Los Angeles, swimming in the shark tank of music licensing for film and television.