Licensing music is an essential part of creating content. Having background music in your video project increases the production quality by setting the ambiance and environment. Music licensing is the process of gaining permissions to legally use those songs in your videos as content creators while helping musicians distribute and monetize their music.

When you use copyrighted music in your YouTube videos, you must obtain the necessary legal permissions to prevent your videos from being flagged and removed. Using copyrighted music in your videos can result in a copyright claim or strike. In the case of a copyright strike, your YouTube channel may even be suspended or banned for repeat offenses.

Legally using copyrighted music is not as simple as crediting the original artist or copyright owners. Music copyright legally protects the producers, composers, recording artists, and others behind the creation of a musical composition or sound recording by granting them exclusive rights to the track. Copyright helps ensure that others aren’t stealing work and allows them to receive rightful compensation from royalties.

Here, we’ll give you a rundown on what music you can use, how copyright laws work on YouTube, and how to legally use music in your videos so you can continue creating quality content for your audience.

What Music Can I Use on YouTube?

You may now be wondering, “what music can I use”? Technically, you can use any music you would like to, but to legally include copyrighted music in your online videos, you need to obtain permissions from everyone who is a copyright holder on those tracks, and even if only one says no, you won’t be able to use it.

Creating your own original music is definitely an option. If you compose and record an original piece of music and own the rights to it, you can use it however you wish to. But if you want to use music created by someone else, you’ll need to license the song.

For popular songs, gaining the rights can be quite pricey, up toseveral thousands of dollars. The music licensing process can also take many months. Luckily, there are quite a few cheaper and faster options to find and use music, legally, for your YouTube videos.

Music that is shared via the Creative Commons, in the public domain (music not protected by copyright), in the YouTube Audio Library, and other copyright-free music released by artists and labels is  available to use as you wish. However, for a broader and better song selection, music is also available through music licensing companies that partner with independent artists and labels to streamline the music licensing process for creators like you.

Track Club, a music licensing subscription service, offers a meticulously curated small-batch catalog of unique, high-quality music for brands and creators. Our app features 100% customizable songs, many of which are produced in-house and go through multiple revisions to ensure the highest quality.

How Can I Legally Use Copyrighted Music on YouTube?

The majority of music created is copyrighted to protect the original creatives behind the track. One method to legally use copyrighted music in your online video is to contact the song’s owner and obtain permissions from whoever owns the copyrights to the songs.

The first step is finding the right contact. You can try searching for licensing contact information on a label’s website or looking through the databases of performing rights societies, the major ones being ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.

Once you have the contact information of the copyright holder, you need to ask for permission and negotiate the terms of the license. Specifically, make sure you obtain a sync license from the music publisher. You may need additional licenses, depending on your video project. However, going through these steps can take some time and quite a bit of effort on the creator’s side for popular music.

Another option to legally use copyrighted music on YouTube is through licensing companies. Music licensing companies help streamline the process by acting as a middleman between labels and content creators. Music producers, artists, and labels work with music licensing companies to license their music for TV, film, and other creative works, like YouTube videos.

Music licensing companies take care of all the logistics to obtain legal permissions for songs, so all you need to do is browse their catalog for the perfect music tracks for your online video.

A Track Club subscription provides you with unlimited sync music licenses for songs in the Track Club catalog, without needing to negotiate with the rights holders. Track Club’s filters allow you to refine the catalog and easily find the perfect song for every project, and you also have the freedom to customize your song to make sure you get just what you’re looking for using Track Club’s music editing tool, MixLab.

What is Copyright Infringement and How Does YouTube Detect It?

If you don’t want to go through the long and potentially expensive process of obtaining a license, you may think, why can’t I just use the song? There are so many videos being uploaded to YouTube every day, how would they know?

Well, if you include copyrighted music in your video illegally, you may be at risk of copyright infringement. According to, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.

YouTube enforces copyright protection with Content ID, which identifies copyrighted content in YouTube videos and notifies the copyright holders, to make sure they are correctly compensated for their content.

How does the Content ID system work exactly? Copyright owners submit their visual and audio content to YouTube, and videos uploaded by content creators are then scanned through the database to see if they include copyrighted content. If matching content is identified, the video is tagged with a Content ID claim. Then, the copyright owner can determine what to do with the video:

  • Block a video from being viewed
  • Monetize the video by running ads against it and sometimes sharing revenue with the uploader
  • Track the video’s viewership statistics

Even if the music you use is royalty-free, or if you have a license to use it, you can still receive a Content ID claim on your video if the songs are registered in the Content ID database.

The copyright claim itself just lets you know that you are using copyrighted content. Of course, if you have the necessary rights to the song, you can dispute a Content ID claim and the copyright owner can release the copyright claim.

What Can Happen if I Use Copyrighted Music Without Permission?

Uploading a video that contains copyrighted music violates the copyright and takes away the original creator’s ability to monetize the video.

In the case that you use copyrighted music without permission and your video is caught by the Content ID system, you won’t actually know what will happen until your video is uploaded. Then, YouTube will notify you of the copyright owner’s policy on what to do with videos that their copyrighted content appears in. Here’s what could happen:

  • Your video is blocked worldwide or in certain countries, or muted entirely.
  • The copyright owner monetizes the music, so ads will play on your video, and benefits will go to the original creator or music publisher.
  • Your video is restricted on certain platforms, so your video may not be available on some apps or websites.
  • A copyright removal request is submitted against your video by the copyright owner. Also known as a takedown request, a copyright removal request is a legal request to remove content from YouTube due to alleged copyright infringement.

A copyright owner can also change their policy at any time, so even if one day, they only run ads, they could block your video or submit a takedown request the next.

If YouTube determines a copyright removal request against your video to be valid, you will receive a copyright strike. A copyright strike is put in place for 90 days and may affect your ability to monetize your videos. Your first copyright strike acts as a warning, and you will be required to go to Copyright School, to learn about copyright and how YouTube enforces copyright. However, once you receive 3 copyright strikes,

  • Your account, and other channels you own, may be terminated
  • All the videos uploaded to your account will be deleted.
  • You will be prevented from creating new channels.

Even if you delete the video, the copyright strike will still be attached to your account. To remove copyright strikes, you have a few options:

  • Wait out the 90-day validity period for copyright strikes.
  • Ask the copyright owner to retract their copyright removal request.
  • Dispute the claim by submitting a counter notification.

How to License Music for YouTube Videos

A music license is a contract that allows you to legally use a song in your content. The license may detail what you can use the music for, for how long, and where. Different licenses have different uses and specific permissions, so you’ll want to make sure the license you obtain fits the purpose of your project.

To include copyrighted music in your YouTube video, you will need a synchronization license, or sync license. Sync license agreements grant permission to use the song in video formats. Even if only a short snippet of a song appears in your video, a sync license is required. A sync license is obtained through contacting and negotiating with the copyright owners, but unfortunately can become quite complex with factors such like time and budget. The copyright owners may not even bewilling to provide a license agreement.

A Track Club subscription makes the music licensing process more efficient and cost-effective by granting unlimited sync music licenses for songs in the Track Club catalog, without needing to negotiate with the rights holders. You don’t have to pay any royalties or extra fees to license Track Club music - it’s all covered in your subscription.

Track Club provides Individual, Business, and Enterprise plans to cater to your needs, so simply choose your subscription and follow the prompts through the signup process. Once you’re signed up, use our smart filters to find the perfect song for your YouTube video. Then you can use MixLab to customize the song to best fit your video project.

When you’re ready to use the song, Track Club’s easy-to-use TrackID feature ensures that you have proper clearance to use the music track. And that’s all there is to it!

How Much Does it Cost to License a Song for YouTube?

The cost of licensing a song can vary, and in many cases, the copyright holder determines the price. Licensing from an independent artist could cost $100, while licensing from a large record label could cost several thousand dollars. Not to mention, the specific terms of the license can drive up the cost even more.

Track Club gives high-volume content creators access to quality podcast music at an affordable subscription price. Subscriptions start at just $12 a month.

Wrap Up

As we covered in this article, music can help elevate your content by guiding the story and creating the right atmosphere. But make sure you have all the necessary legal permissions first to avoid compromising your YouTube channel by obtaining a license.

Track Club's music library contains a meticulously curated selection of high-quality, authentically crafted music, and uses Smart Filters to simplify your search process, helping you find exactly what you need, quickly. To really make sure you find what you need, you have the freedom to customize your songs with Track Club’s MixLab.

We’ve got you covered on the legal side to prevent any copyright issues, so all that’s left for you to do is go out there at create.