Part of your job requires content creation if you are a podcaster, influencer, or marketing head of any kind. You develop a stellar idea with creativity by doing all of the storytelling and outlining necessary to launch. Creating content doesn't stop there. The music industry also plays a vital role in your business.

You also need some excellent background music or more featured songs to help drive your storyline. But can you legally use the music? As a content creator, you need to understand the ins and outs of the music licensing process and copyright laws.

You can't just use a popular song you choose within your video, on your social media platforms, radio stations, or in any other part of your branding without licensing it first. For any creatives seeking to use music for streaming - this is the guide for you.

If you aren't well versed in requirements when it comes to streaming, you could end up with a copyright violation and lawsuit on your hands. While we’re always here to answer any questions, you should also do your own research to understand the fundamentals regarding music licensing for streaming.

A copyright is a law that protects property. The copyright holder is the person or people who created the work. Any music published on a tangible medium is copyrighted, and the person(s) who releases it is the copyright owner.

The law protects an independent artist's musical work so no one can harm or use it without permission. It also ensures that the creative who developed the idea retains its original form and receives proper compensation.

When content creators repurpose music, use sound effects in a video, distribute a song for profit or perform the work, they must pay a licensing fee. Using music to stream in any capacity requires understanding your rights to obtain a license and the original music’s copyright. Depending on the agreement for licensing, creators can't make changes or deviate from the original work set forth.

If you don't obtain a license for streaming music, you are subject to copyright infringement. You could face penalties and fees or be required in court.

How Does Music Licensing for Streaming Work?

To use any piece of music, you need to work with a music licensing service or locate the manager of the license and develop a contract or agreement to obtain permission and use it. You may have to seek out the original composer, independent artist, record label, music publisher, or Performance Rights Organizations (PROs).

If you choose to attempt to license a song on your own, it is wise to start with the PRO and see if the song is within their own audio library. They can negotiate the contract with you and allow you access to the song. The PRO is how music artist's register their songs and ensure that they are granted music royalties.

The PRO may provide you with contact information for the music publisher or just set up the contract with you directly. They act as the intermediary between songwriters and creatives who want to use music to help protect your copyright property.

Nearly every performing artist is registered with a PRO, and you may need to check across multiple organizations to locate your music. ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) are the two most popular PROs in the United States.

What Type of License Do You Need for Streaming?

There are six types of music licenses that you can purchase the rights to use. To license music for streaming, you will typically need a synchronization license, commonly referred to as a sync license. A sync license is probably the most widely used by content creators.

It covers the use of music or a song with an audio-visual project. Many content creators who create  YouTube videos, use intro or outro music in a podcast, or create video content and live streams on social media would obtain this type of license. You may also sometimes hear it referred to as an online music license.

If you are unsure about negotiations or which type of license is the right one to obtain, reach out to us for assistance.

How Much Does It Cost to License a Song for Streaming?

There is no set cost to a song. It depends on the musician or music publisher and how much they collect for royalties. For example, if the artist is less well-known, the cost is probably much cheaper than if it is a more famous piece of music or musician.

The average range of what you pay for a license could be between $50 and $150. You may locate some royalty-free music or sound effects with little to no cost for use, which can be helpful if you are new to content creation or on a tight budget.

You should also know that when you license a piece of music or a song, there is a timeframe for how long you can use it. Most contracts or agreements for licensing last around three to six months. But, for example, if you are creating content for a podcast that is ongoing, you may need to negotiate a longer term.

Track Club makes music licensing for streaming very affordable for content creators. Plans start at just $18 per month, and you can take us for a free test drive.

How to License A Song for Streaming

Stream licensing is crucial to ensure you can legally utilize music or a song within your project where you would use streaming services in any way. To get the license, you need to research where the song is available for licensing. It could be through a music licensing company, music publisher, record label, or music artist.

Through the meticulously curated, small batch music catalog at Track Club by Marmoset, it is easy to license music for streaming. Simply sign up for a monthly subscription and use our smart search filters to find your perfect track.

Customize your song right in the app and add it to your project. Track Club’s TrackID features ensures that you’re cleared  to use the song and ensures that the composer or publisher receives their due royalties.

There are a few other things to consider when determining what licenses you might need. Video streams need a sync license, but a print license is also necessary if any song lyrics or music notes are displayed. Audio streams without any video require both mechanical and public performance licenses.

Online or radio broadcasts are typically deemed "non-interactive," meaning they fall under a statutory license. It covers pre-programmed shows where listeners can't sip or select their own music.

Non-interactive audio streams only need a public performance license. But they aren't licenses where you can display the music to an audience; they would only be used in forms like a playlist controlled by the listener.

When you purchase a music license, ensure that you understand your publishing rights, as well as the musicians. If you are confused by any legal terms within the agreement,  you should consult with a music lawyer or other qualified professionals for legal advice.

What Happens if You Stream Music Without a License?

There can be a lot of challenges when it comes to licensing music for commercial use. But you shouldn't just ignore the laws for the rights holders and obtain a streaming license properly. There are penalties for violating music licensing laws and regulations, which likely exceed the legal cost of getting the license.

Chapter 5 of the US Copyright Law specifies statutory damages that start at $750, the least amount you'd pay, on top of being responsible for licensing fees for the featured artist. Fees and penalties can be as high as $30,000 to $150,000 for extreme cases.

Wrapping Up

As a content creator, your goal is to be in compliance with copyright laws when you use music in your work. Searching for the perfect track can be challenging, but Track Club makes it easy with a fully customizable small batch music catalog and affordable monthly subscriptions for content creators.