Background Music For Videos: Everything You Need To Know

Over a third of people who download music do so illegally. If you’re an independent video producer, this is not only bad for your reputation, but it can also result in costly fines.

From copyright fines to penalties on platforms such as YouTube, there are a few things you need to consider when you’re selecting music for public and commercial use.

Now is especially important to pay attention to copyrights with the introduction of Article 13 as social media platforms will double down their efforts to remove copyrighted materials.

The great news is that there are plenty of safe options for video background music. And, some of them are even free!

Keep on reading to find out how to safely download and use music legally for all of your video needs.

Know the Goal: What Kind of Video Background Music Do You Need?

Before you go browsing Google looking for “how to find background music,” you’ll want to take a step back and assess your needs first.

The most important part of this planning phase is understanding your video budget. This will give you a better idea of what you need to look for and where.

video budget

If you know you don’t have a large video production budget, then you’ll know that you need to look for free music somewhere online.

While this might seem a little picky, it’s a really important step that can cut down on wasted time and energy.

If your budget is small, you know you need to only search for free background music.

Or, you’ll know that you need to adjust your distribution plan to ensure you’re only distributing the video on certain platforms like YouTube or Facebook.

Some social media platforms come with their own built-in sound libraries that are free to us. Facebook, for example, has its own Sound Collection where you can find a wide variety of music and sounds to use for videos that you upload specifically to Facebook.

However, that’s just one example of the many we’ll get into later. The point is that you need to develop a budget for your video. It’s even better if you can get more specific and break that down into a post-production budget.

Understanding the goal of your video will also give you a good idea of the tone. Depending on whether you need upbeat background music or background music for a more somber video, you might need to look in different places.

This is all great information to have before beginning to search for good video background music.

Is Royalty Free Music the Same as Non-Copyrighted Music?

Great question! You’ve probably heard the term royalty free music thrown around a lot. But, when it comes to the legality of your YouTube videos, it actually isn’t quite the same as non-copyrighted music.

To help understand these terms, it’s best to put them into context with other useful video background music vocabulary.

  • Royalty Free: If a song has a copyright but is also royalty-free, then it means that you don’t have to pay royalties (fees) to use that song.
  • Public Domain/Non-Copyrighted: If you find music in the public domain, it means that intellectual property rights have expired or don’t apply. Older pieces tend to fall into this category of music.
  • Copyright: This is a legal right that means the owner has registered the song or piece of music with the government. It grants the owner exclusive rights to use and distribute it.
  • Creative Commons: A popular public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted “work”. A CC license is used when authors wants to give other people the right to share, use, and build upon their work.
  • Fair Use: This is a legal exception to the exclusive rights granted by copyright law. We’ll get into this one a little bit later.
  • Commercial & Non-Commercial: Most music providers make it clear how they allow their music to be used. A Common limitation is whether or not the work may be used to make profit (commercial use).

Generally, when choosing music, you’ll want to pay attention to whether a song is in the public domain or royalty free.

Royalty free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free. That’s an important distinction to make. However, royalty free songs usually fall into the copyright category.

When a song is royalty free, you will probably still have to pay to use it commercially. What you won’t have to pay is the ongoing royalties to the artist for its continued use.

Does this seem a little confusing? Don’t worry! Each music library website will clearly lay out the terms and conditions for each song.

If you have questions, you can always contact a royalty free music professional with questions about the licensing of a specific song.

Be Wary of Fair Use Music

fair use

Fair use music is another term you might have heard of, and it’s different than royalty free and non-copyrighted.

Fair use is a copyright provision. It usually provides people the right to use 10, 15 or 30 seconds of a song without copyright obligation.

Sounds great, right? Not so fast. If you’re wondering how to make this work for your short YouTube promos or Instagram ads, then you’ll be a little disappointed by the following:

Copyright law is complex and fair use is pretty much a myth.

Okay, so it’s not a myth, but if you’re an independent filmmaker or video producer who wants to produce professional content, it’s better to avoid fair use music.

Ask yourself the following two questions:

  • Is this piece of music protected by copyright?
  • Was the music obtained by a legal source and purchased or licensed in a legal manner?

If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then you might be able to use it. But, it still gets tricky as there are copyrights for both the composition of a piece and the production of it.

To avoid this headache, it’s best to be wary of fair use music altogether. Instead, opt for royalty free music that comes with a specific licensing agreement.

Searching for Music for Commercial Use on YouTube

youtube music

It’s actually really easy to find out what music you can use on YouTube. Simply:

  • Log onto your account
  • Click on your profile in the top right-hand corner
  • Go to the YouTube studio
  • Look for the Other Features option
  • Select Audio Library

Now you can browse through a long list of available songs to use in YouTube videos. Each song will have its own copyright policy.

The available use typically falls into three categories: usable anywhere, usable only in specific countries, or not usable in your video.

Some might require you to provide credit to the creator of the song. Others might require that a banner plays over the video linking back to the creator’s channel.

There are many different types of licenses but YouTube makes it pretty clear what you can and cannot use in your videos.

It’s important to note that if you’re using a song directly from the YouTube studio library, it doesn’t mean you can use it anywhere else. You’ll need to check the licenses first.

You can also use other music libraries for music on YouTube videos. Natentine, for example, provides people with a free music library because we know how tough it is to make ends meet as an independent filmmaker or video producer.

For these types of music libraries, you’re usually downloading personally-scored songs that you can use on YouTube as long as you provide credit to the producer.

That’s a pretty small price to pay in exchange for using high-quality background music for free.


So by now you should be well armed with the knowledge to know what type of music to use and the how to avoid being hit by unwanted copyright claims and other nasty headaches.

Here’s a little recap!


  • Figure out your post-production budget first. What can you spend on audio for your video?
  • What kind of background music do you need? Understanding your video’s objective will make this decision a lot easier.  Find music that fits the mood of your goal.
  • Take a look at the category that the music falls into. Is it copyrighted, royalty-free, or in the public domain?
  • Where can you post the song you want to use? Only on YouTube or other places too?
  • Look for high-quality music in a library that caters to your needs and your budget.

Once you have all of this taken care of, you’ll be in good shape. You’ll be able to publish video content without having to worry about whether you’re infringing on any legal rights or not.

To get started browsing music for your next video, take a look at our most popular tracks below, or click the ‘view all tracks’ button to browse our entire library.

If you found this article helpful, please share with your friends and help them out too!