Legal Background Music for Apps on iOS & Android

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App developers need to work to keep their content fresh, relevant, and enticing, as there is a lot of competition in the market. Music can be one of the best tools to add value to your app.

Currently, there are more than 6 billion people using smartphones in the world, and that number is projected to climb to over 7.5 billion in the next five years. There are also millions of apps in circulation both for iOS and Android.

App users commonly search for ways to listen to their own music on their phone while playing on them, which tells app developers that the music in the apps is not compelling enough to hold users’ attention. Music can draw a user in and keep them coming back to use the app.

Music is one of the most important things to consider when building an app. It is important to use the right music and ensure that you are doing so legally.

How Music Is Used in Apps

No matter the type of app, music can enhance it. Music can be used in the background to set the tone, help tell a story, improve gameplay, and invoke an emotional response in a user. Sound effects (FX) also play an important role in apps, helping to create a more immersive experience. Sound effects can be used to indicate

when something specific is happening or when a user performs a task within an app.

The right soundtrack in an app can make it more memorable and increase engagement. Music can be used to help game players understand the mechanics of a game better and navigate through the app more efficiently.

Understanding Copyright in Music & Sound Effects

Most commercial music is protected under copyright laws. This means that in order to use this music legally, you will need to have the proper license.

Most music requires two different copyright licenses — both a master use license and a composition license. Both the actual sound recording of the music and the musical composition are copyright protected.

To use copyrighted music legally, you will need to contact the holders of each license directly for permission. It will typically cost a large fee to obtain the rights. Artists, composers, music producers, and record labels can all be holders of a copyright license.

Sound effects are also generally copyright protected, as someone put time and effort into creating and recording them. Therefore, they are considered intellectual property (IP) of the creator. To use a copyrighted sound, you will need to contact the holder of the copyright to get permission.

Royalty-Free Music and Sound FX Platforms for App Developers

There are a number of providers and platforms where app developers can download royalty-free music to use. This generally costs either a subscription fee or a one-time fee for use, and you do not have to go and get a copyright license. There are free options as well that usually require the user to give credit to the artist.

Providers of royalty-free music and sound FX platforms for apps include the following:

How to Choose the Best Background Music for Apps

When choosing background music for your app, consider what the purpose of the music is. Music can help to create atmosphere, set the tone, and elicit an emotional response.

The type of music you use will also depend on the kind of app it is. Essentially, music can be used differently based on the purpose of the app.

  • Game apps: Music is an important aspect of a game app, as music can set the scene and help to put the player in the scene. The soundtrack will need to match the type of game. Music can also be motivational during gameplay, encouraging users to keep playing.
  • Educational apps: Music and sound effects in apps for children should be age-appropriate. They should help to foster creativity and imagination while also enhancing the learning experience.
  • Travel apps: Consider something culturally appropriate that fits the area you are highlighting to make the app more immersive and engaging.
  • Exercise apps: music that fits the type of exercise is essential. For example, if the app involves yoga and breathing exercises, the music should be soothing and slower. If it is cardio or high-intensity exercise, the music should match.

Does iOS or Android Make a Difference in Music Choices?

When making an app, it is important to consider which platform you will be putting the app on — either iOS or Android. The music will need to be compatible with the platform you are using.

Some music cannot play on the iOS platform due to licensing and copyright agreements, and the reverse can also be true. This usually only applies to music that is copyright protected, however.

Typically, most providers of royalty-free music will allow you to input music into the app regardless of it playing on the iOS or Android platform. Checking the compatibility of any music or sound effects on the platform first can save time, money, and headaches in the long run. If you plan to have your app on both platforms, be sure the music will translate first.


Number of Smartphone Subscriptions Worldwide from 2016 to 2027. (February 2022). Statista.

Audio Jungle. (2022). Envato Pty, Ltd.

Royalty Free Music by Bensound. (2022). Bensound’s Royalty Free Music.

Get Unlimited All Access. (2022). Storyblocks.

Music for Every Project. (2022). Pond5, Inc.

Quality Music for Creators. (2022). Shutterstock Canada, ULC.

Sound Effects and Production Music Library. Soundrangers.

Stock Music and Sound Effects for Creative Projects. (2022). AudioMicro, Inc.

Purple Planet Music. (2022). Purple Planet Music.

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