PD Info Public Domain Information Project

What Is Royalty Free Music?

There are millions of musical works in the public domain. However, only very early sound recordings created in 1923 or earlier are in the public domain in the USA. This means that essentially all sound recordings in the USA are under copyright protection.  If you need to use a recording of a musical work, you must either make your own recording or license one

Most music recordings are for entertainment only and obtaining a license to use popular music for a commercial use can be difficult and expensive.  Some music publishers record and copyright music tracks specifically to license for use in personal or commercial projects.  When you purchase a music license, you agree to use the music only as allowed under the terms of license.

Since music recordings are under copyright protection, each music publisher or copyright holder determines how you are allowed to use their sound recordings.  There is NO such thing as a "Standard Music License".

When the price of the music license includes all costs incurred to use the music, the license is usually called a "Royalty Free Music License"or "Buyout Music License".

Before you purchase a music license, be certain that you understand if there are additional fees based on how many times, where, or the length of time you use the music.  More information about Royalty Free Music can be found on the PD Info web site about Sound Recordings

What Can I Do With Royalty Free Music?

Royalty Free Music Licenses vary substantially among music publishers.  Be sure that you thoroughly understand all license terms before you purchase a music license.

LicenseeWho Can Use the Music
DurationHow Long Can the Music Be Used
LocationWhere Can the Music Be Used
CostIs There a Fee Each Time the Music is Used
UseageSpecifically How You Can Use the Music

Some music publishers grant a license for only a year, charge each time you use the music, or allow the music only for a specific purpose like a Film Festival.   Make absolutely certain that you thoroughly understand the terms of the music license before you license any Royalty Free Music.

Most Royalty Free Music Licenses are "Synchronization Licenses" that allow use only as background music, either with video or voiceover.

There is a relatively small body of Buyout Music for singing, rap, live performance, or inclusion in a product.  PD Info offers a few tracks on our web site that are licensed for performance, but if you need music for other than background for video or voiceover, you may have to negotiate a music license directly with a  music copyright holder.

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