When creating a commercial project, such as a video advertisement or other types of promotional content, you might consider incorporating music. Adding music to your project can help engage your audience by evoking emotions, enhancing your message, and creating certain associations with your brand. For content creators, marketers, and business owners, or anyone else looking to license music for commercial use, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about music licensing for your project in this quick and easy guide.

What is Licensing Music for Commercial Use?

Licensing music for commercial use is the process of gaining the legal right to use copyrighted music in for-profit commercial projects. A music license serves as a permission granted by the copyright holder, allowing you to use their music tracks in your commercial project within the terms of the license.

To use any piece of music, you need to work with a music licensing service or locate the copyright holders to develop a contract or agreement to obtain permission and use it. In some cases, you may have to seek out the composer, independent artists, production company, record company, music publisher, or Performance Rights Organizations (PROs).

What Type of Music License is Required for Commercial Use?

When it comes to choosing the right type of music license for your commercial project, it depends on the context in which the music will be used. For commercial use, you’ll usually be required to obtain one of the following licenses:

  • Sync License: A synchronization (sync) license is necessary when you want to synchronize music with visual media. For example, if you want to use music in your video ad, you’ll need a sync license.
  • Master License: A master license, or master use license, grants you the right to use the "master recording" of a particular version of a song in a new media-based project. Typically, they are custom negotiated directly with the copyright holder upfront to create a formal agreement. 
  • Public Performance License: A public performance license is required for live performances or when you play copyrighted music in public places. This applies to various scenarios such as live concerts, radio broadcasts, and even playing background music in public spaces like retail stores or cafés.
  • Mechanical License: Mechanical licenses are used if you want to reproduce and distribute a copyrighted song in an audio-only format. Keep in mind, since mechanical licenses are audio-only, if you want to include your recording of a cover song in your commercial project, you will also need to obtain a sync license.

Depending on your commercial project, the types of licenses you’ll need may vary. It’s best to understand the nature of your project, where it will be shown, and how the music will be used. Licensing terms can also differ depending on what the rights holder has determined, and some specific licenses may only allow non-commercial use. So make sure you have a clear idea of what you are permitted to use the music for.

Check out our full guide on the 6 different types of music licenses here.

Why License Music for Commercial Use?

Legal and Financial Protection

If you put music in your commercial project that you haven’t licensed, you’ll be at a huge risk of falling into legal trouble. Almost all music is copyrighted, so if you don’t have a license, you’ll be infringing on copyright which could result in costly lawsuits, fines, and reputational damage. 

Ensuring Appropriate Track Usage

By obtaining the proper licensing for a song, you’re making sure that you’re using the appropriate, high-quality files. Simply pulling tracks from the internet doesn’t guarantee the quality that is needed for your project. With music licensing, you get access to high-quality formats that ensure that your audio retains its clarity and fidelity.

Cultivating a Professional Image

As a business or a professional, your brand perception is crucial when it comes to generating leads, customer retention, and building a strong relationship with your audience. Properly licensing the music that you use in your projects tells your audience that you respect artists and the law, and you’re committed to producing high-quality content. Showing this kind of professionalism can go a long way in establishing a trustworthy brand.

Improved Creative Potential

Licensing music allows for more creative potential. There are all types of music out there available for licensing, from dark cinematic tracks to light, upbeat pop songs. With the vast availability of licensable music, you can experiment with different genres to see what complements your commercial project. Having control over the audio of your project allows you to carefully craft the narrative and emotions you want your audience to feel.

Access to Unique Tracks

Choosing to license music also gives you access to unique and exclusive tracks. While options like Public Domain and Creative Commons music may be appealing as free music options, there isn’t as much variety as music licensing options. Using unique music gives your project a chance to stand out.

Where to Find Music for Commercial Use

Now that we’ve covered the basics of music licensing, what licenses you need, and why you should license music, let’s get into where you can find music for commercial use.

  • Original Compositions: Creating original music is a good idea to create a unique soundtrack that is tailored to the narrative you want to build around your project. By recording an original piece of music, you are the copyright holder, so you can use it however you wish to. 
  • Direct Licensing: You can also license any song you’d like, even popular music. If you have a specific song in mind that you want to use in your film, you can directly obtain a music license for it. You’ll need to identify the copyright owner of the tracks you wish to use and directly negotiate licensing agreements with them. 
  • Track Club: For an efficient, quality, and personalized licensing experience, Track Club is the best option for commercial purposes.

Track Club’s music library contains a meticulously curated collection of high-quality, authentically-crafted music, and uses Smart Filters that allow you to search through the catalog by mood, genres, instruments, and more, ensuring that you find the perfect song that fits your film.

You even get the benefit of customization, just as you would if you were creating your own track. With Track Club’s MixLab, you can change the volume of individual stems, adjust BPM, and more.

See how you can create a custom soundtrack with MixLab, here

How to License Music for Commercial Use Step-By-Step

So, how do you license music for commercial use? The process differs depending on where you decide to source your music.

If you’re licensing through a music library, the licensing process might look something like this:

  1. Select a Licensing Option: Music licensing libraries usually offer a variety of licensing options depending on factors such as your project scope, budget, and the size of your organization. Track Club offers plans for anyone from individuals, to small business owners, and enterprises. 
  2. Review Terms and Conditions: Thoroughly review the terms and conditions of the license you choose. In some cases, some rights holders may not permit their music to be used for commercial use. Some licenses might restrict use of the music in specific contexts, such as on radio or TV broadcasts as well.
  3. Complete the Purchase: Once you've chosen your music, licensing plan, and reviewed the terms, all you need to do is pay the licensing fee and fill out any paperwork. Now, you have legal permission to use the music in your commercial project.

If you decide to directly negotiate a license with the rights holder, the process can be a little more complex and it’s hard to guarantee that the rights holders will give you a license. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find the Rights Holders: Usually, you can find contact information on the rights holders through performing rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAPBMI, and SESAC, or online music publishing directories. 
  2. Submit an Inquiry: Ask the copyright holders about obtaining a license. Explain your film's purpose, why you want to use the music, the specific use of music, and where the film will be distributed.
  3. Negotiate the Terms and Price: Negotiating the terms of use and licensing fees with the rights holders will depend on factors such as how long you will need the license for, geographic locations where the project will be shown, and the nature of your project. 
  4. Sign the Agreement and Complete the Purchase: Once you and the copyright holders reach an agreement on the terms and the license fee, a synchronization license agreement will be drafted and signed by both parties. All that’s left to do is pay the agreed on licensing fee and you’re good to go.

With Track Club, you won’t need to worry about needing to negotiate with the rights holders since Track Club does it all for you. Track Club offers an affordable and efficient option that provides unlimited sync music licenses for songs in the Track Club catalog. All you need to do is select the plan that’s right for you and focus on curating the perfect soundtrack for your project.

How Much Does It Cost to License a Song for Commercial Use?

Licensing fees depend on various factors, including how the music will be used, the duration and number of times the music will be used, and where the project will be distributed. Different publishers and record labels charge different amounts, and the cost of the license is usually negotiated between you and the copyright owners.

For example, licensing a popular song for an advertisement that will be shown on television networks across the nation will likely cost much more compared to licensing a lesser-known song from an independent artist for a promotional video uploaded as a YouTube video. To give you a general idea, the cost of a license can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars or more.

Track Club offers unlimited sync licenses and access to our entire library of high-quality tracks starting at just $12 a month.

Key Legal Aspects of Licensing Music for Commercial Use

Understanding Copyright Laws and Infringement

Copyright laws are the legal backbone protecting the intellectual property of creators. In the music industry, music copyright legally protects the producers, composers, recording artists, and others behind the creation of a musical work or sound recording by granting them exclusive rights to the track. Copyright helps ensure that others aren’t stealing intellectual property and allows the creators to receive rightful compensation for their work.

Music copyright infringement occurs when someone distributes or broadcasts music that is copyrighted without the owner's legal authorization. This can include reproducing, distributing, performing, or displaying a song or sound recording without legal permission.

Fair Use and Its Limitations

According to U.S. copyright law, Fair use is a legal principle that allows for the use of copyrighted material without the owner's permission under certain circumstances. These situations include using the work for research, news reporting, criticism, education, and other purposes to promote the progress of science as well as useful arts. The scope of fair use provisions is limited, it depends on each case to determine whether usage is allowed or not.

Fair use comes with quite a few limitations and when it comes to using music or other copyrighted content for commercial purposes, fair use typically does not apply.

Royalty-Free vs. Rights Managed

When searching for music for your commercial project, you might come across the terms “royalty-free” and “rights managed.” This is what they mean:

  • Royalty-Free Music: Royalty-free music requires the user to purchase a one-off license for unlimited downloads and use of the track without paying additional royalties. A royalty is the payment made to the copyright holder whenever the material gets played. Royalty-free doesn’t mean free music, but rather refers to the absence of any ongoing payments for the purchaser. With royalty-free music, the same music can also be licensed by multiple people.
  • Rights Managed Music: On the other hand, rights managed music refers to music that has its rights and licensing terms managed for specific agreements. Rights managed music provides a license for a specific use and a defined period of time. The license can also be purchased for exclusive use if you wish.

Risks of Using Unlicensed Music

Using unlicensed music in your commercial project can result in severe consequences. Performing Rights Organizations and platforms like YouTube are constantly monitoring content for unlicensed music being used. Here are some of the risks you face by not licensing music:

  • Legal Action: If you violate copyright law, the copyright holders could take legal action and sue you.
  • Fines: Courts and performing rights organizations may fine you for using music without the proper license. These fines could range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Reputational Damage: If you are caught using unlicensed music, your reputation and credibility could drop. Impressions of your brand might turn sour, resulting in even more consequences for your business.


Knowing how to license music for commercial use is essential for content creators, advertisers, and businesses. Licensing music for your commercial project is a legal solution that allows you to engage your audience on a deeper level while making sure artists are getting compensated for their original work.

Need commercial music? Track Club’s customizable small-batch music catalog has you covered with the perfect soundtrack to captivate your audience.