Blog : The Music Case

What is Royalty Free Music? A Helpful Article to Understand How it Works

What is Royalty Free Music?  A Complete Guide to Music Licensing

In order to analyze the term Royalty Free Music, we need to explain the term music licensing first.   And what is music licensing?   Whether it is a YouTube video, a photo album, a podcast,a film, an advertisement, a television show or a movie trailer, in order to be sure that you can use a music track in a legally accepted way, you need to have a license agreement from the composer of the specific track.  

Licensing then, is the action of purchasing the rights of a particular composition, as granted by the holder of the copyright, in order to be able to use it in some kind of visual media output in a legitimate way.   The traditional licensing model for music tracks

Traditionally, if someone wants to include a music track in  a visual project, s/he needs to get a special license from the respective record label, publisher or composer.   Then, the producer should clearly state:

  • Place – Where the production will be broadcast e.g. city, region, country
  • Media – How the production will be communicated, e.g. radio, television
  • Duration – How long the production will be broadcast, e.g. one month, one year, etc.

Royalty Free Music – Innovation and simplicity

Following the emergence of e-commerce during the 90’s, Royalty Free Music offered producers a new innovative way of purchasing music rights.

So what is Royalty Free Music & How does it work?

Each music track is licensed once for any kind of media usage. This way, producers can simply buy its rights and use it as long as they want, as many times as they want, and for any kind of visual production.

Please note that Royalty Free Music is NOT Free music. You still pay for it, but only once.

Request a custom composition directly from a composer  Today, producers using Royalty Free Music – sometime referred to as stock music– do not need to spend their time and energy to asking for special permissions from the copyright owners (composers, publishers or record companies).   Tracks are licensed once –> Producers buy music rights once –> Producers use the music tracks for life

Let’s look at an example:   An advertising company is creating a short advertisement for a car company.   The advert release plan is as follows: Month 1(Paris):The ad will be broadcast at local cinemas. Month 2-3-4 (France): Four National Channels. Month 5-6-7 (UK & The Netherlands):National Channels. Month 8: All TV broadcasts will end – The ad will be uploaded in Vimeo and YouTube.   Now suppose that the producers of the ad need to license 4 tracks for background music. Each track will be used for 10 seconds.   

In that case the producers have three options:

  1. License a track from a Traditional Music libraries
  2. License a track from a Royalty Free Music library

We will focus on option 2 and 3, as the first one (custom composition) is a totally different approach compared to already licensed music (available in libraries).

Traditional libraries VS Royalty Free Music libraries

Licensing from Traditional libraries (also referred to as “Needle Drop licensing”)

The producer needs to make a deal for every single usage of music and negotiate price based on place – media – duration:

  • Countries: Paris, France, UK, and the Netherlands
  • Time periods: one month, two quarters
  • On-line media: YouTube, Vimeo

Other issues to be considered by the producer:

  • Prices will be subject to the size of the region (local Paris cinemas < national France TV)
  • The license bought is only valid for this project – it can’t be used in another production (only under negotiation)


Licensing from Royalty Free Music libraries

The producer will pay once and will use the music anywhere, anytime, anyhow. The model is simple “You pay once, you use it forever”. No negotiations needed. No different deals.   To summarize, stock music libraries povide producers with a reliable, simple and cost effective option in comparison with the traditional music licensing model.

Music Quality in both models

The quality of music comes from the music producers and composers. In our free market each composer decides to distribute his creative works in different platforms and see what works better. When the royalty free licensing model came across, some compoers decided to test how they do by making their music available in stock music libraries. The simple and innovative way brought new customers. As the new model started bringing in customers and thus money, it started attracting more composers.

Boost your productions with premium royalty free tracks
and stop worrying about royalties

Yann Keerim
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