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How to choose music for your digital content

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A disclaimer that I do not get paid for any of the links posted on this blog.

If you are a Youtuber or you create blogs, or you are an up and coming movie producer seeking to make awesome, quality content…Or, maybe you simply need some honest to goodness good music for content you are putting out there, you may have run into some snafus in trying to figure out which music is ‘safe’ to use without getting into trouble the music police, sirens blaring that you have just used someone’s music without permission.

Using music in your Youtube or digital content or story can go a long way for quality. Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

While platforms like Youtube offer royalty-free music, you may have other platforms where you want to create content before uploading to Youtube. Or you may be creating content anywhere else, for that matter. Therefore, you will need more options besides the music offered by Youtube to make your stuff complete with cool sounds.

If you are anything like me, you may probably begin a wild hunt through the internet at this point, searching for websites that offer ‘royalty free’ music. Indeed, there are very good sites out there that could provide some good music for your content.

Sadly, there are several posts and advice available as well that talk about how to ‘avoid copyright’ or ‘make copyright music into non-copyright music’ or ‘how to bypass being caught if you use someone’s music without permission‘…and so on. If you are still reading this blog at this point, read the next letters: AVOID ANY AND ALL ADVICE THAT IS RECOMMENDING THE VIOLATION OF SOMEONE ELSE’S COPYRIGHT OR CONTENT RIGHTS. It is going to cost you in the long run, so what is the point of going through the highway that only leads to you-know-where? It will be hell for your pocket, and potentially, your reputation as well. Keep your reputation clean because you will need it if you are planning to make it to the big leagues of content creating!

Copyright theft could be the death of a good content creation career. Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Therefore: How do you use music for your content and ensure that it is not infringing on anyone’s copyright? I always recommend 2 ways:

  1. Subscribe to a good stock music provider: There are various options of royalty-free music providers, like Epidemic Sound, Shutterstock, or Premium Beat. The benefit of a subscription service is that you know you have paid for the content you are using, and especially, it is usually understood that you are purchasing the music not just for private, home use, but in creating content for public, commercial consumption, like a video to advertise your business.
  2. Use public domain music: This is my personal favorite choice. Thanks to the Oxford dictionary, the definition that I find to be one of the simplest for public domain is: the state of belonging or being available to the public as a whole, and therefore not subject to copyright. In other words, if you stumble across a piece of music that is in the public domain, it means that the music does not,or no longer belongs to anyone.

In order for a piece of music to ‘no longer belong to anyone’ so that anybody can use it freely, one out of four things would have happened to that piece of music:

  • The copyright on the music expired
  • The owner of the copyright did not register it properly
  • The owner of the copyright dedicated the work to the public, and gave up their rights
  • The work could not be protected by copyright in the first place

In many cases, #1 is what happens to the music piece – The copyright expired. This usually occurs 70 years after the work’s creator dies. If it was corporate copyright, it expires 90 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation.

You are probably thinking: If it is public domain music that was made at least 70 years ago before it became ‘free for all to use’, does that not mean it is old music?

The answer: No.

Public domain music is not always old music. Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

Remember the 4 reasons I mentioned earlier about how music gets into the public domain? One of the reasons that a piece of music is in the public domain is that the owner of the music, who may very much still alive, has decided to ‘dedicate’ the song to the public for use. There are artists who decide to do this with their music. You can find some of these dedicated public domain music at Envato Elements. Another reason: The music could not be copyrighted. And yet another reason: the music was not properly copyrighted.

In any of these 4 scenarios, you could potentially have fairly recent music that is floating in the public domain.

Without bugging you down on these details about years or duration or expiration of copyrights (this can be a topic for another blog), the simple message here is that, when copyright expires, or there is no longer a copyright on a piece of work that was created, it has now ‘entered the public domain’ – and guess what? You can use it however you please.

Therefore, if you are looking for some good old blues music to accompany that new video ad you are creating, you may want to check out the public domain record for some beautiful vibes in that genre. To start you off on your search for public domain music, check out sites like, Free Music Archive (FMA) or Musopen.

Have fun creating vibrant content with the peace of mind that you are not infringing on anyone’s music copyright!

Do you have a good or bad story to tell about a music copyright experience? Drop a line, stories are awesome!

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