Royalty Free Music: The 2018 Ultimate Guide
The ultimate guide to finding royalty free music for YouTube in 2018 and beyond. Simple ways to add background music and clear examples to help you improve your YouTube videos today!
Hi there! I’m Cosmic Brown and I’m a music producer that’s been involved in music in one capacity or another for the last 20 years. First off, thanks for coming to my blog. I really appreciate it.  Secondly, the purpose of this blog is to help content creators find resources that will help them create awesome content quickly, more easily and more efficiently.
In time, I intend for this to be a one-stop shop for the audio side of being a content creator. With that in mind, I decided to post this guide to help creators find royalty free music for YouTube.
Over the years, I’ve helped several YouTubers, podcasters, business owners, etc. with their  music needs for vlogs, adverts, podcast episodes, basically anything that uses music. To make it easier for my customers to access, I built this website.
The main thing I wanted content creators to have the ability to do is get access to the music they need regardless of when they decide to create (inspiration hit at 3am? Why wait on someone to email you a file to render your video?). I also wanted to make sure I could deliver quality information to content creators in a consolidated fashion.

This specific article is intended to help YouTubers navigate the process of finding music for their channel. YouTube has recently begun the process of demonetizing channels en-masse for a myriad of reasons and content creators are scrambling to find ways to stay under the radar, do everything right and not anger the YouTube gods. One key way of having your channel banished to the YouTube “pit of misery” (dilly, dilly…sorry, I couldn’t help it) is by having copywritten music on your channel.

There are many misconceptions of how to “get away” with inserting copywritten music into your YouTube videos and somehow grow your channel to epic proportions. Let me just say…that’s unrealistic and the YouTube content ID system is constantly evolving. Maybe, you could get away with it on a small channel with moderate views 2 years ago, but now…not so much. Actually, it’s not likely at all.

This specific article is intended to help YouTubers navigate the process of finding music for their channel.

So here’s my advice (biased as it may be) to those of you that may be thinking of using copywritten music for intro music, soft background music while you’re talking or you just want some cool background music to go along with your newest travel or beauty vlog…ready? Here goes: Don’t. Ever. Never. I won’t go into the cosmic, universal, or moral implications of trying to create something, but being unwilling to invest in yourself and YOUR dream in this article (maybe I’ll torture you with that sometime in the future), but as I discuss in this article, YouTube has many ways of dealing with copyright infringement and the days of flying under the radar are long gone.
Over the years of working with podcasters, youtubers and filmmakers I’ve seen the same basic question asked over and over and over…”How do I get more people to watch/listen/like/view?”. Engagement is one of those tricky things that no one has a panacea for, but I will say one thing that can help: creating great, interesting content consistently. Over time, I will go into each and every way I know of to get that done, but for now we’ll talk about one major way that will do wonders: Music, specifically, royalty free music.

In the creator community, and especially when we’re talking about video creators, the conversation skews towards video quality and puts audio (excluding microphones) on the back burner. That’s a mistake. Try this: Go and watch any TV show, movie preview, commercial and pay close attention to one fact…almost ALL have music. The reason is because music is a universal language that’s REALLY effective at making an idea more cohesive. Since YouTube is quickly becoming the new TV, it would seem logical to borrow some television industry standards into your own videos. Royalty free music is almost like a cheat code to get that polish your finished creation may be missing.

Okay, enough of my ramblings. Hopefully, by now you get the importance of making engaging videos that appeal to 360 degrees of your viewers and potential subscribers by paying close attention to your video AND audio content.
On to the guide…

What is royalty free music?

Before we talk about how this resource can be extremely helpful to you as a YouTube creator, let’s get some definitions out of the way. According to Wikipedia “Royalty-free, or RF, refers to the right to use copyright material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use, per each copy or volume sold or some time period of use or sales.”
So, in a nutshell, it allows the you to pay for the music license only once and to use the music for as long as the license you purchased describes. For example, let’s say you purchase a royalty free music license for your YouTube video intro music (which, in that scenario, non copyrighted music is a great option). You’d have the security of knowing you’ll only pay one single price whether you have 100 subscribers/views or 100,000 subscribers/views, and regardless if you decide to use the music for 1 episode, 3 segments or for your branding for the next 10 years. Now, of course, the license you choose will vary greatly depending on where you purchase and what that license allows, so be careful and actually READ the license to make sure it fits not only your current use, but also your future use.
One important note: Please don’t confuse royalty free music and free of charge music. Royalty free simply means you don’t have to pay additional royalties for using the music in your video. You do, however, still have to pay for the license that allows you to use this copyrighted material in your videos. (And yes, there are plenty of resources that have “free of charge” music that’s simultaneously not “royalty free”). Confusing, I know, but by the end of this guide, you’ll have the hang of it.

Also, one more thing before we go on. I want to make sure we cover some of the terms that cause confusion when we talk about royalty free music. This is not a all inclusive list, but rather, some of the more common ones I’ve seen.

Terms often used interchangeably:

  • stock music
  • no copyright music
  • no copyright songs
  • copyright free music
  • uncopyrighted music
  • license free music
  • stock audio
  • free to use music
  • background music tracks
  • royalty free audio
  • royalty free background music
  • production music

Who Uses Stock Music?

Basically, anyone who has a web presence in almost any capacity.  Royalty free music is simply a tool that can help you save time and money. Typically, the music files are used for posting content to platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo as well as for podcasts and other productions. Since YouTube is the industry leader when it comes to online video platforms, I’ll probably say “YouTube”, but the advice and information here applies for any video sharing platform out.  As a YouTuber, you are also considered a brand owner.

 This is an integral part of running a successful channel because your brand is what’s going to carry you through any algorithm changes, etc.  As a brand owner, it’s probably not a huge challenge to create original video content, but creating original music (or an original sound if you want to use a variety of songs) to make your brand memorable, is another story.  

Not including any music in your video production, can make your video easily forgettable, including the wrong music can alienate your core audience, or worse, annoy them. Proper use of music can turn an average video of someone talking about their trip to Idaho into an interesting and engaging piece of work.
Again, this article was written with YouTubers in mind, but in reality, anyone who uses a visual medium is at some point going to need a reliable music resource.  For some creators, copyright free music is a necessity. Without it, they run the risk of churning out uninteresting, bland material. To give a quick rundown of some of the areas I’m talking about take a look below:
Independent Film Producers
Sure, it’d be nice to have a top 40 artist whip up a custom soundtrack for you, but seriously, can you rely on that happening? Fact is: you need music early and often and you need it to be budget friendly. Royalty free music is a perfect solution here.
instrumental background music can be used in several different ways
background music for YouTube added while editing video
I think this guide is going to make it abundantly clear what the benefits are to YouTubers, but just in case you’re not convinced: Consider the fact that there are almost 5 billion videos watched every single day and 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! The volume is increasing and it’s predicted that by 2025, 50% of users under 32 will not subscribe to pay-TV services. YouTubers have an unprecedented opportunity to increase engagement and growth rates and build sustainable incomes, but that won’t happen without first putting a focus on producing quality content.

Production Companies

The last thing production companies want to deal with is licensing and copyrights to release a project. If you have several projects going, the best solution is to have a library like this that can provide the music, license and can do it fast to meet your production schedule.
royalty free music can be used regardless of budget
purchase production music here. online library, instant downloads
Marketing Professionals

I’m not sure if you can run a great marketing campaign if it sounds terrible. 2018 is the year of video marketing. The internet is becoming more and more noisy and the challenge is to grab your audience’s attention in the first few seconds. Considering social media is one of the most effective way to reach an audience, you need to be really creative to stop someone scrolling through their timeline and pay attention to your ad. An effective way of doing that is by reaching them with music that make them stop listen and (hopefully) continue watching. Apple does a great job of that in their ads. Check out an example here:

Also, so does Samsung (Just to show I’m not picking sides). Check theirs out here:
Of course, those budgets are going to different than most reading here, but you get the point, right? Music plays an important point in carrying their message and it’s done pretty effectively.
Audiobooks and podcasts- Give your audio recording an extra dimension by adding royalty free music. One of the most popular podcasts is “Serial”. Take a listen how simple intro music can brand a podcast to the point once the song plays, you know exactly what’s coming on:
Corporate videos: Inspire and motivate your team with the perfect track. Here’s an example for Tony Robbins. I think this is a good example of how an inspirational message can be enhanced with music that fits the message. Imagine this video without music…totally different feel, right? Check it out here:
Personal and professional websites: Let me be clear. Many websites SHOULD NOT have music playing. It slows down your site and if it’s not a part of your main purpose, it could make it tough sledding to get visitors to stay. That being said, there are some exceptions that can benefit from having music on their site. If you are a dance club, bar, promoting an event or if it’s your personal website or blog, your website could benefit tremendously from having well placed and well chosen music. I couldn’t find a shining example and thought it wouldn’t be smart to keep looking for dance clubs and bars and simultaneously trying to stay focused on this guide, so…
Now you should have some idea of how music can benefit you and your production, but you still may be asking :

“Why use copyright free production music? There are a million ways I can get music for free, why not just do that?”

As stated earlier in this article, royalty free was primarily used for major television productions. TV producers wanted the flexibility of having music for their episodes without having to bother with the intricacies of conventional licensing. Royalty collections are complex and can be very expensive depending on how many times and for how long you use a particular piece of music. With royalty free music, the process was simplified and streamlined to save both time and money. This concept has been adapted to the current digital era because: (in case if you didn’t catch it earlier) YOUTUBE IS THE NEW TV (along with Netflix, Hulu, etc.). Many successful YouTubers are opting to use royalty free music to both brand and engage their audience by choosing music that fits their personality but is also exclusive enough to their channel that it serves as subliminal branding.
Although, there are free music resources that are not illegal, there’s truly no way of knowing or having proof that the copyright owner approved their piece for use in your video.  Using music illegally could lead to banning of content, deletion of your channel altogether and, in some cases, legal prosecution. A simple way of avoiding all of  this is by accessing legal royalty free music. The majority of commercial music is protected under copyright and over the years YouTube has become more advanced at identifying and flagging users that use copyrighted tracks in their projects. Now, YouTube can easily reference the music used in your project against their database of copyright protected songs.  Using this Content ID technology YouTube can track the viewership of your video and actually report that info back to the music copyright holder.
stock music for YouTube videos
In a situation where YouTube determines a video is violating music copyrights, YouTube usually will take the video down and demonetize the upload. The violating party would get an opportunity to prove they have permission (which is where your license would come in), but overall, it’s not a desirable process for any channel.  Furthermore, YouTube can remove your video altogether or just simply run ads over your video.  No successful channel is going to survive something like this happening after your 100th video is posted and you get an email that states your 4th video got your entire account flagged and deleted!
Again, this article was written with YouTubers in mind, but in reality, anyone who uses a visual medium is at some point going to need a reliable music resource.  For some creators, copyright free music is a necessity. Without it, they run the risk of churning out uninteresting, bland material. To give a quick rundown of some of the areas I’m talking about take a look below:

How do I incorporate non copyrighted songs in my YouTube videos?

Consider the role of the music in your video.    First thing to consider is where you want the music to be heard. Will it be merely to support your message like the Apple example above or drive the messaging, like the Tony Robbins example?  You can also opt to simply use it as what’s called “bookends”, which is basically using it at the beginning and end of an episode or segment. This is effective for branding or when you’re trying to lead you viewer through a video and give them cues something else is about to happen. You also want to make sure it’s not overbearing. If you music is too much of a distraction, it could be pulling away rather than adding to the overall impact.
For example, if you’re trying to explain something really technical that your viewer will need to focus on without distraction, I wouldn’t recommend using background music that competes with your technical details. Maybe only use it for transitions, time-lapse, etc., but never have your music compete with the point of your video. On the other hand, if you’re trying to convey a broad concept like “staying motivated” or how to “succeed in life”, then look for foreground music that evokes the appropriate emotion.   
intro music for YouTube videos is a great way to stand apart
Choose music that will speak to your audience.   In many cases, your target market may consist of people that listen to music based on a cultural tribe they’re a part of (hip hop, indie rock, or electronic dance music, for example). However, in many cases, you may be trying to reach as many demographics as you can. I would suggest, looking for music that is broadly appealing. The last thing you want to do is alienate your audience with anything too genre-specific.
Music As The Star.   You may be camera shy and may be a YouTuber that doesn’t want to talk on video (trust me, it happens). Well, there is a new trend has emerged in which videos feature words, instructions and/or images and feature only music.  It may sound weird at first, but when it’s done correctly, it can be really effective. I’ve seen countless videos on Facebook showing recipe ideas with nothing more than catchy music and hands and trust me, they work!  An added bonus is that they make great content for social networks as is, so that same video is ready for your Instagram and Twitter audiences.
intro music for YouTube and podcast
You’re almost fully equipped to find and incorporate royalty free music in your creative projects, but there are a few more considerations to take into account when picking where to find a reputable company that can provide you with quality background music consistently. 
You’re currently on one of those right now, and make no mistake about it: I would loooove to collaborate with you on your next project, but I fully realize you may want to shop around and find other options, which I fully encourage. Also, as stated in the beginning, this guide is intended as a resource to help YouTubers find music for their channel trailers, videos, etc., so whether you and I work together or not, I want the information to be out and easy to find to help the creative community in general.
To that end, and regardless of where you choose to purchase your royalty free music, take the following factors into account when selecting who you’ll collaborate with for your music production needs:
Find a Music library: (my music library). Many small (and some larger) scale content creators choose to use a music library with detailed search functions to find music for their videos. This makes it quicker than searching a non curated list and a much better option than settling for whatever you can find and forcing into your video. Let’s say you have a video you just finished and it features wall-to-wall voice-over where the mood is fairly consistent. This is a perfect opportunity to use a music library because the music will play a less featured role.
Conversely, if you decide you want the music to have a more featured role, this is also easily accomplished by some online music licensing libraries. Please keep in mind, most libraries have different licensing agreements and price points available, depending on what the music is being used for, so be sure you know what you’re buying and when in doubt, contact them and ask about your specific situation. 

Make sure you get a digital license. This is one of the most important pieces of evidence you can have when fighting a content ID strike. Even when you have gone through your video with a fine toothed comb and made sure you don’t have any illegal music in your videos, you can still get hit with a content ID warning! How, you might ask? Well, although, you did it the correct and legal way, there are many people who believe they can succeed from stealing content and using it in their video to “blow up”. Truth is: the music libraries aren’t immune to these people and, in some cases, they illegally download the music, make a video and monetize it. You come along with the exact same track (except you paid for the legal download) and get flagged. The good news is only one of you has proof and that’s where the license comes in.

Look for libraries that have exclusive tracks. Exclusivity is crucial to, so, if you hear something on this site, you won’t be able to find it anywhere else. It’s really just that simple. Keep in mind, there are millions of YouTube channels out now and more being made daily. Standing out in the crowd is more important than ever and it’s a huge challenge when your channel has the exact same tunes as 3,000 other channels views have already associated the music with. Do yourself a favor, find a sound that represents you and/or your brand. That cohesiveness will likely pay dividends in the long term.

Price! Let’s face it, the old saying is true: “you get what you pay for”. But just because you’re not a major production doesn’t mean the quality should suffer. Here, you’ll find many different license options that should fit almost any budget.

Customer service. Having the ability to contact someone (a real, breathing, human being) if something doesn’t go as planned is huge. What happens if the file is somehow destroyed during the transfer? What about if you made a mistake and downloaded the wrong track? Sometimes the only thing that can fix an unforeseen issue is human understanding, not auto-responders. Make sure the library you choose has a clear line of communication to the person who can fix your issue. In my case, my email and personal cell is on the site.

Ask: Can you (the library) help with custom options if I (the creator) can’t  find the right tune to fit my project? Many libraries have a gazillion songs, but if you want something that is unique to you, sometimes it’s impossible or too cost prohibitive (many libraries start at $600 or more to do a custom song) to employ a custom solution. In some cases, the song is perfect, but not long enough or slightly too fast or slow. Can/will they customize the length, speed or instrumentation to fit your needs? All of these things factor into whether a library is working to help you as a creator or in it to make big bucks by nickel and diming you along the way. Anytime you make a purchase from me, my primary goal is your satisfaction. Let me know if you have an idea and we can get to work on it by clicking this contact form.

Now you’re prepared to go out and get quality, royalty free music for your next YouTube video.  Obviously, I’d love it if you checked out my library at I’m constantly adding more music representing a wide variety of moods, genres and styles and all of instrumental background music is cleared for use on YouTube, Vimeo and social networks like Facebook, and can even be used when monetizing. Of course, this music is not specifically for YouTube content creators, I intend this to be a resource for ALL content creators. So whether you’re looking for background music for YouTube, background music for a presentation, intro music, or any other reason you think of to use royalty free background music, I got you covered!
I feel that it needs to be said, though, if you have a particular library you are comfortable with and have an established relationship with, my goal is not to pressure you away from there. My goal is to make sure no matter where you choose to get your music, you’re being safe, smart and legal…and can prove it when necessary. Using my library, you can feel certain you’ll avoid any legal issues and/or copyright violations when looking for music for your next YouTube video.

In this guide, I laid out some of the benefits of using non copyrighted music in your projects. I also gave a few examples of how to implement that music into your existing and future projects. Doing it this way makes it much easier to create more engaging, cost effective and totally legal content consistently. Many professional YouTubers already rely on royalty free music as a way to quickly enhance the quality of their projects. 

If you are (or plan on becoming) a full time YouTuber, you rely on the ad income that your channel(s) generate…why take unnecessary chances that may sabotage your channel? After all, you spend an incredible amount of time choosing a topic, preparing the equipment, shooting and editing a project. I’d imaging you’ll agree, the last thing you’d want is to be banned from sharing it due to a copyright violation. Agreed?

If there are any points I missed or something you’d like to see me elaborate on in a future post, please comment below and I’ll get on it. Also, feel free to use the share function right below this if you know anyone who could benefit from this information.

Related Posts