What is Royalty Free Music?
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There are plenty of inaccuracies and misconceptions about royalty free music that need to be set straight and this post will help to put things in perspective. First off, it is important to get to understand the definition of music royalties. Basically, royalty payments for music are paid to the legal owner(s) of the copyrighted works. Royalties are generally instituted as a way of compensating music composers or music copyright holders for the use of their music. Royalties, therefore, are legally binding and to forfeit payment is considered an offense in the eyes of the law.
Now that the concept of royalties has been defined, it is important to move a step further and describe what royalty-free means. Many people think that the term royalty-free means that no license or fee should be paid to the music copyright owner. In actuality, it refers to a kind of music licensing which enables the music buyer to purchase a once-off license that allows the music to be used over a stipulated period. For instance, if you’re creating a video for YouTube and you need a song to accompany the visuals, you could approach a music composer or producer and access a suitable royalty free song. A once off payment will allow you to legally use the song(s) in your video. In essence you will have purchased a one-time license that will not require you to pay subsequent royalty payments.
Free or Not?
There is a misconception that music that is royalty free means that it is automatically free. This is not always the case. For instance, selling a tax-free product does not necessarily mean that it is free. In many cases a one-time fee allows the buyer to purchase a license that nullifies subsequent royalty payments. In cases when music is offered by an artist or copyright holder for free, the buyer is expected to credit the artist in return. This is a mutually benefiting situation because the buyer can get suitable music while the artist gets promotion through the credit attribution.
Is Royalty Free Music Copyrighted?
Any person who creates music is the automatic copyright owner which ultimately means that there is nothing like copyright-free music. In cases where the owner of the copyrighted music allows it to be used of any purpose, the final user is given the ‘right to copy’. So, in this case the music is free but it is not devoid of copyright.
What is the Quality of Royalty Free Music?
Basically, any kind of music can be licensed in the category of royalty-free music. The choice of music licensing does not necessarily have a bearing on the quality of the music. The quality of music is ultimately determined by the musician. It is, however, important to note that many music producers take the time to craft quality compositions even if they eventually license them as royalty-free. This kind of music does not necessarily have to be of a lower standard.
Royalty Free Music Pricing
Music that is royalty-free does not have a standard rate. The price structure is usually determined by the owner of the copyrighted material. In essence, a royalty-free song could range anywhere from tens of dollars to thousands of dollars. It is a market driven sector and the final price is settled on a willing-buyer-willing-seller basis.
The concept of royalty free music is quite diverse and it is often described in different ways. Here are a couple of terms that are use interchangeably.
- Pre-licensed Music Library
- Pre-licensed Stock Music
- Pre-licensed Music Library
- Single Fee Music
- Single Fee Production Music
- Single Fee Stock Music
- Single Fee Music Licensing
- Pre-Paid Production Music
Why is Royalty Free Music so Important?
In the past music with royalty free licensing was mostly used for TV productions because it allowed the producers to easily add soundtracks without having to bother with the intricacies of conventional licensing. Royalty collecting organizations usually have a complex process of charging royalties which makes it more convenient and affordable to use royalty free music. This concept has been adapted to the current digital era with many composers availing their royalty free music online. In addition to being convenient to music buyers, music composers also find it appropriate because their music is instantly accessible to a vast online audience. Music makers can now set up comprehensive websites with plenty of royalty free music from different genres, all on one platform.
Just like in the past when royalty free music was used mostly for TV, it is now being adapted to the new digital landscape. A lot of the royalty free music acquired online is also used online platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo as well as for podcasts and other productions.
Royalty free music encourages the use of legal music for video or sound-based productions. This means that all levels of producers have access to a range of musical content that can be acquired legally instead of using copyrighted music illegally. Using music illegally could lead to banning of content and even legal prosecution. A simple way of avoiding this is by easily accessing legal royalty free music.
Composers of royalty free music have the right to dictate the terms and conditions surrounding the acquisition of music. Some of the issues that are determined by the copyright owner beforehand include:
- The Licensee – Who exactly can access and use the music
- The duration of the license – meaning how long the music can be used
- The location – Where exactly the music can be used
- The cost – if a one-time fee will be charged, and if so, how much
- The usage – exactly how the music will be used