To be a successful content creator, you need to learn how to be creative. And part of being creative is knowing which background music to use while telling your story. But many filmmakers and vloggers have found themselves in hot water because of music copyright infringements.

So before venturing into the world of video content creation and live streaming, you need to familiarize yourself with how music copyright works. But there are different legal terms used in music licensing that can cause confusion. And that’s what we’re here for.

To help you avoid getting in trouble with the law, we’ll discuss the distinctions between copyrighted, non-copyrighted, and royalty-free music. We’ll also talk about where you can find the best free background music for your video streams.

What is Considered Free Background Music?

If you’ve heard a song on the radio or Spotify, chances are someone already owns rights to it. Fortunately, some musicians have made their musical creations available to the masses for free. So how do we know if a song is free or not? First, let’s take a look at the difference between copyrighted and non-copyrighted music.

Copyright covers all parts of a song, including the chords, lyrics, master recording, and other musical instruments. Unless you get permission or clearance from the song’s publisher or master recording holder, you can’t use or re-record copyrighted songs. You also can’t sample copyrighted music into your own composition.

You need to obtain the license of a song for a fee if you want to use its original recording for filmed content. Different countries have different copyright laws, but it typically lasts for as long as the songwriter’s life plus seventy years. After that, the song becomes free as it enters the public domain.

Non-copyrighted music means the exact opposite. Everyone can freely use it however they want and for whatever purpose. But it’s not as simple as that. There are different kinds of non-copyrighted songs. We have music under Creative Commons and the public domain. Some are even royalty-free. Let’s take a look at the differences between these three.

Public domain

Public domain music refers to all songs whose recording or publishing rights are now open to the public. Simply put, these songs have been around long enough that their copyrights have already expired, so they’re now free to use by everyone.

All works listed under the public domain are non-copyrighted and free. You can use, copy, reproduce, sample, interpret, and distribute them however you want without any permission or attribution required.

Creative Commons

Unlike the public domain, music under Creative Commons is protected by free licenses. Yes, it’s another type of free licensing, but the original author can set limitations on that free use. For example, they may require attribution, ensuring they get the credit they deserve for their work. Certain tracks may also not be available for commercial use.

Despite the restrictions, it’s an excellent source of free music to use in videos. Just make sure to read the limitations on the usage of Creative Commons music.

Royalty-free

People often think royalty-free music and non-copyright music are the same, but that cannot be farther from the truth. Royalty-free music isn’t non-copyright, and it’s often not free. It’s a type of licensing that lets you use a piece of music however and whenever you want (for as long as you wish) in exchange for a one-time fee. That means you don’t need to pay a royalty every time you use the song.

For example, video content creators can use royalty-free music as many times they want on as many videos or films they like. Corporations can also use royalty-free songs in their product commercials as often as they like, but only within clearly defined territories, such as the United States or Europe.

How to Find Non-Copyrighted Music

Music copyright infringement, whether intended or not, can land you in a whole lot of trouble. Fortunately, there are free songs available on the internet—and we’ve done all the looking for you. So here’s our list of the best sites where you can get free music to use on YouTube and other streaming platforms.

YouTube Audio Library

YouTube’s Audio Library is full of free music. From country and folk to dance and electronic, you’ll find all sorts of music genres here. The songs on the list are a mix of Creative Commons and public domain works. So don’t forget to check the “License Type” column if the song needs attribution. Make sure to read the terms and conditions before using any of the songs here to avoid getting in trouble.

To help you find what you’re looking for faster, you can sort by instrument, genre, attribution, duration, instrument, and mood using the site’s search functionality.

  • Licensing: Creative Commons and public domain
  • Pricing: Free

Free Music Archive

Free Music Archive (FMA) by WFMU is one of the best websites where you can get amazing, original songs from independent artists. They have a range of curated music and sounds for all kinds of content. You’ll even find a “spoken” genre here.

All the Creative Commons MP3s on FMA are free and legal to use, but they come with different types of licenses. Some only require attribution, while others can’t be used for commercial purposes. You can filter your search by license. But if you’re still confused, you can visit their FAQ section. If you have the budget, you can also try their royalty-free songs.

  • Licensing: Creative Commons and public domain
  • Pricing: Free

SoundCloud

You’ve probably already heard about SoundCloud. It’s where many amateur DJs and musicians upload and share their music. But did you know it also has an awesome collection of free background music you can use for your live videos? Many of the tracks here are licensed under Creative Commons, meaning you can use these songs for free as long as you follow the licensing guidelines set by the artist.

What we really like about SoundCloud is that the tracks here sound more like real music rather than just something made for marketing videos. Plus, it has a social element that lets you see how many likes each track has. This way, you’ll know right away if your viewers will enjoy your video if you use it.

  • Licensing: Creative Commons
  • Pricing: Free

Freeplay Music

The tracks on Freeplay Music fall under Creative Commons, but they’re not exactly free—unless you’re only using them on YouTube for personal use. That’s the only time you can use most of the songs here for free. If you’re going to use it elsewhere or for commercial purposes, the price starts at 0.99$ and can go as high as $1000. Choose your license type or how you’ll be using the tracks upon checkout, and you’ll see exactly how much you need to pay the site.

Although this site is one of the pricier options on our list, we still love it because many of its tracks are top-notch. It offers various options for businesses with different music needs, such as advertisements, movies, presentations, and video games.

  • Licensing: Creative Commons
  • Pricing: Free for personal use on YouTube / $0.99 and up for other uses

ccMixter

ccMixter is another Creative Commons site worth checking out. It hosts thousands of tracks from different artists who share their work for free. So there’s a high chance you’ll find lots of unique background music here. All they ask in return is proper attribution. Browse the “Editor’s Picks and Hot Tracks” section to discover amazing, free music. If you already have a specific artist in mind, you can go to the “People” section to see more from them.

Click on a track to see its complete information, including its Creative Commons license. The user interface is a bit tricky to navigate. But once you get past that, you’ll start appreciating how much of an excellent source of background music it is.

  • Licensing: Creative Commons
  • Pricing: Free with attribution

Incompetech

If you’re still looking for more options, we highly recommend Incompetech. It’s another website where musicians can upload and share their own music with the world. You’ll find lots of free tracks from every kind of genre you can think of, such as rock classic and disco and lounge. There are also tracks inspired by beats from different countries like Brazil and Africa.

The tracks here are royalty-free, meaning they’re not non-copyrighted music. But the musicians still offer most of their work for free as long as you properly credit them and the site. If you want to use their music without attribution, you can purchase an extended license for each track with a one-time fee of €20. Prices for premium tracks may vary depending on the artist.

  • Licensing: Royalty-free
  • Pricing: Free with attribution / starts at €20 per track without attribution

Wrapping Up

All the sites listed here are the best sources of free background music we could find on the internet. You won’t find a Beyoncé-level track here. But for free music, the tracks on these sites aren’t bad at all. Just make sure to check the license type of each song before you download any of them to avoid getting in trouble later on.