What Is Royalty-Free Music?

This term is often misunderstood, especially with the words ‘free-music’ in it, but it simply means that no further royalties are due once the license has been paid. Or in other words, it is free from royalty payments. It is not usually free music (more about that later).

I know, sounds confusing. Let’s simplify it…

We are not talking about mainstream music that you hear from the likes of Kylie, Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora, Adele or Taylor Swift; that music is not on a royalty-free license. We are talking about music that is written by independent composers and producers for the purpose of being sold in a music library as stock music. Royalty free music is the type that will be used as a background to video footage; it is very unlikely that you will hear it on the radio. Although it is not unusual for it to appear on Spotify and YouTube these days.

It is written for a purpose and is offered in music libraries so that people can pay to use it in their media projects. This is known as a license.

This type of music license is known by other names, but essentially it is all a similar thing.

  • Royalty-Free Music
  • Production Music
  • Library Music
  • Copyright Free Music
  • Direct License
  • Stock Music

I say similar as there is no standardisation in the industry. Prices and terms vary drastically from library to library. Basically, the content for stock libraries comes from many, many composers who spend their days writing and producing music for people to license it. In turn, they get a share of the revenue and earn their income from lots of small amounts of money coming in from the music they have written in their career.

Why is it so often called Royalty-free?

It is the most popular term. It is the one that most media producers know and it is the term that people have been searching for online since the 1990’s when the first online music libraries appeared. Anyone that wants a chance of being found in Google uses it.

In the days before the internet, music libraries existed on CD, and further back still, on tapes. In these times every use of music needed to be licensed. This meant every time the music was played a royalty was due.

As you can imagine, it was rather expensive and a lot of admin. For this reason, libraries started offering music free of royalties. It would be licensed for a specific purpose for a one-off fee, rather than charging for every play of the music. The term Royalty-Free Music stuck, so we are stuck with it and have to use it.

Simplified Yet Complified

The basic thread is that you pay once for the use you require. Some providers try to simplify this, by offering a 2 or 3 tiered pricing structure for predefined uses, however, although their prices are simple to understand, their terms can get complicated when you read the small print and find out what the restrictions are. There are many different uses these days and for this reason it is difficult to apply a one price fits all strategy so you will often find that music libraries will offer a variety of options (us included).

The principle of royalty-free still applies in these cases as there is no additional royalty due for the license (or usage) you have paid for. However, if you change what you want to use it for, a further payment may be needed.

Using our license as an example, if you license music for your YouTube channel on any of our Vlogger Licenses, you can use that music for as long as you like as many times you like without paying any further payments (or royalties) to use the music in your vlogs. However, if you decide to use the same piece of music in a radio advert, the license you purchased does not fit this usage as it was for vlogging only and did not include radio adverts. You would then need to license the music for the additional usage.

Basically, (on our website at least) it is royalty-free for the purpose you licensed it for. We offer a range of licenses for a variety of uses and we have tried to keep the terms as simple as possible for our music. See our license page for more details.

Free Music & 100% Royalty Free Music

To complicate things more, music sometimes can be free. It is the choice of the music owner if they wish to give their music for free. They may call it royalty-free to attract users and get links to it. They have their own motivation for doing this, it may be to do with getting their music out there, before trying to get into the paying aspect of the music industry. Everyone has their own reasons and choices and can do what they like with their own music.

In this library, I have created a lot of the music, and if I have not written it, I have paid composers to write it for me so that I can build my library and offer choice to users. For this reason, I can’t give most of my music away for free but have a smaller section of Free Edition tracks. Also, I have created some very preferential rates for Personal Creators and Vloggers.

Still Reading?

I could have gone on about the complexities of copyright and used terms like needle drop, sync fees, mechanical royalties, performance royalties etc. but I wanted to explain in the best way I could what Royalty-Free music is in 2019. I did not want to over-complicate it and if you’ve read this far, hopefully, I managed to teach you something new and interesting.

If you are considering using our library, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or feedback. I will be happy to hear from you.

If you want to read more content like this please visit the MediaMusicNow Blog

Written by Lee Pritchard