Short answer: Copyright-free music is for everyone who makes a video that’s not for personal use.
Long answer: Most pieces of music have a copyright attached to them. Who owns the copyright? That depends. Originally, it’s the property of the song’s author, but it could be a label or any other organization that purchases those rights.
Copyright is Serious Business
Take Happy Birthday to You, the most recognized song in the English language. It was written somewhere in the late 19th century but wasn’t copyrighted until 1935. Warner/Chappell Music obtained the rights for the song in 1988 by purchasing the company that held them.
Identifying the money-making potential and acting like true copyright trolls, Warner/Chappell charged up to $10,000 per use while also pouncing on unsuspecting filmmakers with infringement lawsuits. Thankfully, in 2013 one brave independent director filed a lawsuit against the company. Three years later, the US court ruled in her favor, making the song public domain and forcing Warner/Chappell to pay back $14 million. A year later, the song was declared public domain in the European Union as well.
What’s the moral of this charming little anecdote, other than that sometimes justice is done and trolls get their due? Copyright is a complex and highly litigious issue that involves a lot of money. Buyer beware! There are dozens, if not hundreds of copyright trolls scouring the internet looking for opportunities to make money off of alleged copyright infringements.
Got Copyright Free Music for Your Video?
If you want to purchase the license of a popular song today, prices start at around $15k per song! If you have a low budget, you can always opt for stock music, but you’ll likely get what you pay for. With a growing number of filmmakers who don’t want to settle for a cheap track and can’t afford mainstream songs, the need for quality copyright-free music emerged. I mean real indie musicians that make original high-quality music and offer sync licenses through companies like Artlist to creators at a reasonable price.
The music licensing business also started as a pay-per-song model, but that didn't solve the price problem. Finally, companies like Artlist shifted the industry to a subscription-based model. Music for video was finally affordable.
Whether you’re a full-time YouTuber, a wedding videographer, a marketer or someone who just wants to make a video with background music, you need to make sure you have a license to use that music. You could use public domain songs or stock music, but you will sound either too anachronistic or too cheap. You can read more about the different types of music for videos out there check out our post about royalty-free vs. non-copyrighted music.