How do I find music that won’t get flagged for copyright violations?

Someone wrote in to ask about how to find music that won’t get flagged for copyright violations by sites like YouTube or Facebook.  As more people are producing videos for online use, they are running into the challenge of finding music to use without having their accounts taken down.

YouTube has been flagging copyrighted content for a while, but different content gets flagged in different ways.  Some companies will allow a song to be used if the video is non-commercial while others won’t allow any use of their music. In recent years the music industry has put greater pressure in more places for proper royalties – including HUGE lawsuits against photographers and individuals who are guilty of copyright infringement. If you’re producing videos – and especially as someone who is doing commercial work, you’ll need to be careful to use “Royalty Free” music. This is music that -for a fee- is licensed for commercial use.  You’ll need to keep this in mind even if you just want background music for your web site.

Generally how it Royalty Free music works is that you’ll need to pay for a license to use the music then you’re good to go for the term of that license (some places do a number of years, others are unlimited on length but limit the number of projects that the track can be used on).

A Google search for “Royalty Free music” should get you started. You can also look for Creative-Commons music that is ok for commercial use. Finding good stuff is still challenging – especially if you’re looking for something urban.

I’m currently using music that is licensed through:

I’ll be updating this post with additional resources as I find them.  Also, feel free to leave sites you’ve used in the comments section and let us know what you like about them.
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  • I think it’s some kind of autobot that does most of the searches for copyright content. I know someone who had a lot of different music as background for his Vlog and had obtained written permission to use the music.  But, Youtube flagged it.  Even though he had properly filled out the forms and checked the right boxes when he uploaded the video, it still got flagged and he had to prove that he had permission to use the content. 

    Frankly, if I were an artist, I’d be thrilled that people used my content to accompany their work, provided they included the proper credits. It’s great exposure, particularly if it’s used by some of the more popular Vloggers who get hundreds or  thousands of hits a day.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched someone’s Vlog and I was more interested in finding out the name of the song/artist than the actual Vlog. I’ve bought a few things on iTunes that I heard on someone’s video.

    I realize that some people do steal music. I get that.  But I just think that sites like Youtube and Facebook can be too strict and need to relax some of their settings, or at least hire a human staff to do more of the page reviews rather than have the automated system do it. 

    • Hey Will! Always glad to see comments from you!

      You’re correct in that an automated process searches and finds a digital ‘fingerprint’ in copyrighted recordings – which is how the flag is produced. I do think the process of un-flagging a video should be escalated and have more tools than it does currently.

      Your comment also reminds me of how much isn’t understood by the general public about copyright – which is why such automated restrictions are put in place. I’ve become increasingly aware of the difference it makes when someone pays me $1.99 for a download of a photo for Facebook vs. when someone skips that by doing a screen capture and posting that to their page.

      One might argue – “it’s still exposure” but for me as the artist – 1) I’ve made a reasonable way to get rights to my work, 2) posting a screen capture often means a blurry, watermarked image of low-quality is what’s been seen as ‘my work’ – thus degrading my image in the process, and 3) I can’t pay ANY of my bills with “exposure” but I can with an actual payment for the use of my work. (There have been artists who used my images to promote themselves – watermark and all… at the end of the day, they aren’t the ones who turn around and want to share a cut of the money from a paid gig they got because they sent my photograph as their headshot).

      So, if I give away my work – that’s my right, but if I put measures in place to restrict its use, I’d like that to be honored. Does the copyright filter get in the way sometimes? YES. Does the media industry with it’s HUGE profits and political influence abuse it’s position in how all this works? ABSOLUTELY. But at the end of the day, I think we have to raise the value of doing things in a way that’s fair and sustainable to the artists who create this stuff that we love so much. Licensed music is a big step in that direction.

      P.S. – I was reading an article that said Facebook and other large social media sites outsource reviewing flagged content (photos, posts, etc…) to 3rd parties in developing countries. So for some content it is viewed by humans but that process is GORY and quite disturbing. It’s sad that someone has to review the crap that gets posted because someone didn’t have the decency NOT to post it.

  • The Music Bed

    Great post, legal licensing is definitely the way to go! You can also browse relevant royalty free music on