How to Buy Music for Homemade Videos & Editing Projects

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What kind of music works best for homemade videos? Ultimately, any kind of music you want!

However, there are restrictions on how you share the video, which can change what music you are allowed to use in your homemade videos and editing projects.

How Music Can Add to Your Homemade Video or Editing Project

Everyone has a high-quality video camera in their pocket, thanks to smartphones. This means taking video of fun experiences like family gatherings, concerts, and friend hangs is more common than ever before in human history.

We have filmed records of our experiences in the moment. Sometimes, we want to turn those records into video compilations or other homemade videos that we can share with our loved ones. Music can elevate these videos.

Posting Your Homemade Video Online Means You Hit Copyright Laws

Since the camcorder became popular, families and friends have recorded holidays, vacations, birthdays, anniversaries, and many other important events in their lives. For those savvy with other types of editing technology, compilations of these events might be produced and set to music.

This was a descendant of the photo slideshow, which often had music accompanying it — whatever music was playing at the time, songs that are beloved by friends and family, or music that was deeply personal to the person who made the slideshow.

Just like professional videos, homemade videos should consider the musical preferences of the audience. However, with no income being made from these editing projects, creators could use any song they wanted without worrying about licensing the song.

This is because of the legal difference between public and private performance of music.

When you make a playlist and play it during a party, that is considered personal use of the music and does not violate any copyright laws. However, if you make a playlist and play it during a party that is ticketed, and you intend to make money from this event, you need to get a license for a public performance. This usually requires contacting the performing rights organization (PRO) that is responsible for managing the licenses of the music you want to use and negotiating a contract with them.

Similarly, adding music to homemade videos that would not be broadcast beyond friends and family does not require a special license, as this is legal, personal use of music. However, if you make a video and post it to social media, this is considered a public performance of the song. Even if only your friends and family see the video, using a large social media platform like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, or TikTok means you are putting the work to a public audience.

You may not make any money, but these platforms are becoming more sensitive to violating copyright laws and are likely to mute the music in your video or refuse to post it. You might get a notice that your content has been taken down, so you cannot share your fun memory with your loved ones.

Rather than worry about whether a song is copyrighted and how you can legally use it, find music that has different types of licensing. We’ve outlined some options for your next homemade video or editing project.

Understanding Music Licensing for Videos

A musical work (like a recorded song) can have two types of copyrights. One covers the person who composed the song, and the other protects the recording of the work.

The person who owns the recorded piece has the right to make copies of it, distribute it, and make derivative works (like remixes) of it. Anyone else who does not own the copyright must get a license for it.

Sometimes, you can purchase licenses that cover both the sound recording and the musical work. In other cases, you have to ask for permission from both parties—and they can be very different.

If you use music without a license, it’s considered a copyright infringement. Criminal penalties can include imprisonment for up to 5 years and fines up to $250,000 per offense.

Copyright holders can also ask for damages in civil courtrooms. Fines there can range from $750 to $30,000 per piece. If the court finds that you were willful in breaking the copyright, fines can grow up to $150,000.

Is Your Music Safe to Use?

Purchasing music videos with appropriate licenses starts with research. Before you assume that a song or recording is safe for your video, you must do your homework. Follow these three steps to ensure that the songs you want aren’t protected by copyright:

1. Search the Public Domain

Use the Public Domain Information Project’s search function. If your song appears within the public domain, it’s not protected by a copyright and is safe to use.

Know that this site only contains music from 1928 and earlier, and recordings are different than written songs. A very old song recorded by a newer artist is likely protected by a new copyright. The details matter.

2. Search YouTube

YouTube has a strict copyright protection policy, and violations are clearly recorded. Use the site’s search function to spot videos that contain your music, and read the description box for information about who holds the copyright. If you see videos that were removed due to content violations, that’s a clear sign to steer clear of that particular song.

3. Look at the Source

The copyright symbol © appears on protected works you purchase or download. Before you assume your song is perfectly legal for you to use, examine where you bought it. If anything about the product has that symbol, you will need permission to use it.

What if the Song Is Copyrighted?

If the song is protected, you’ll need permission from the PROs that hold the copyright. While every company is a little different, most offer a search function online. Look in the details about the song you want to use, and the company will tell you if it holds the copyright and how much you’ll need to pay for a license.

Pros active in the industry that might hold your copyright include the following:

Royalty-Free Music for Your Editing Project

One option to avoid negotiating with PROs is to get royalty-free music. These songs often still cost money, but you pay upfront for the song rather than paying royalties every time the song is shown to the public, which can be hard to keep up with on social media.

Here are some options for royalty-free music:

  •, which offers subscriptions to a huge royalty-free music library starting at $9.99 per month
  •, which specializes in free and inexpensive stock and royalty-free songs
  • Jamendo Music, which focuses on low-cost music for commercial use, which would cover posting a homemade video to social media

Public Domain Music for Your Homemade Videos

If you do not want to pay for songs for a personal, homemade editing project or video, public domain music might be a better option.

Songs published in 1928 or before are in the public domain. This means they can be used for any purpose without paying licensing fees, royalties, or other payments, as the copyright has expired.

Songs enter the public domain when the copyright protections they once had expired. At that point, no one can claim ownership of them, and you’re not required to pay anyone to use them.

Note that modern reinterpretations of very old songs are not in the public domain. For example, if Adele decided to record an aria from a Mozart opera, the song might be in the public domain, but the new recording is not.

The Public Domain Information Project contains a searchable database of songs in the public domain. Other good options include FreePD and Musopen.

Creative Commons Music Can Be Used for Many Projects

The third option for music that might suit your homemade videos or editing projects is to find songs licensed under the Creative Commons. Although songs published with this type of license are often free for multiple types of uses, they are still protected by intellectual property laws. The artists have been allowed to specify how they want their published work used by businesses and the public.

Creative Commons songs can be found on:

  • SoundCloud
  • BandCamp
  • Free Music Archive
  • Freesound

Finding Legal Background Music for Your Videos

Getting great background music for your homemade videos and editing projects can take some work, but there are thousands of wonderful compositions available, depending on which resource you use.

If you love taking video and making compilations for your loved ones, finding a resource for royalty-free, Creative Commons, or public domain music that suits your overall needs can be life-changing. You can post your videos to any social media platform without worrying about violating copyright law, and your friends and family can enjoy your hard work.

However, there may be some cases when a licensed song is the only way to go. You can keep your homemade video private, without posting it anywhere online or just emailing it to your loved ones, or you can find out how to get the right type of license.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the questions we hear most often about purchasing music videos:

Can I use any song I want since my video won’t make money?

No. An uploaded video is considered a public performance per copyright law, so you must have permission to use that song. If you don’t get the right license, you could face fines, jail time, or both.

If I upload my video on YouTube, aren’t they responsible for getting the right permissions for me?

No. YouTube has powerful tools that can spot videos with copyright infringements. When they’re detected, the sound is removed, the video is removed, or both. The site won’t get permissions, but it will take things down.

What kinds of songs are in the public domain?

Songs written prior to 1928 are in the public domain. Songs like Jelly Roll Blues by Jelly Roll Morton and Beale Street Blues by W.C. Handy are included.


How to Choose the Best Music for Your Video Projects? (October 2021). Legis Music.

Common Licensing Terms Defined.

If I Make a Home Video with Music That Has Copyright Just to Share With Friends and Family, Is It Breaching Copyright? (May 2021). Quora.

Can I Use Copyrighted Music in YouTube Videos? (October 2021). Safe Music List.

Musical Works, Sound Recordings, and Copyright. (February 2020). United States Copyright Office.

Copyright Infringement (Summary/Potential Consequences). (November 2018). University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Copyright. YouTube.

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