While TikTok users can play their own music in a video they upload (for example, if a user composes piano songs, they can put these on TikTok), adding music that has copyright attached becomes more complicated.
TikTok encourages users to create a wide range of videos, so the platform offers some music and sound effects in their own library, which the platform has received permission to use. However, adding a song you like — that you did not create — to your own TikTok video might violate copyright law.
TikTok’s Audiovisual Platform Has Boomed
TikTok is a relatively new, popular social media platform that allows users to create 15-second videos, usually on a phone. The platform offers many options for editing videos, including cuts, music, and video effects that enhance the content, adding quirky or funny spins.
Since the Chinese-owned company opened to the United States and international markets, viral video challenges have included copying dance videos, creating new visual commentary on the same song or sound clip, and creating large collaborative songs with musicians editing their contribution into the overall composition.
The Best Options to Add Music to TikTok Videos
TikTok considers itself a “sound on” platform, encouraging users to both watch and listen to short online videos — a trend that is becoming more popular after keeping the sound off or turned down on videos became the default in prior years. While many videos on TikTok involve just talking, others might involve dancing or lip syncing, which means that uploading the right song is important to the content creator.
Since TikTok encourages the full range of audiovisual short pieces, the company offers a music and sound effects library to both individual and commercial users. For monetized content creators, businesses, and larger companies using TikTok, the platform recently stated that they have partnered with six certified Sound Partners to make sure all licenses are correct, and fees are paid.
Currently, there are about 150,000 pre-cleared royalty free tracks available.
The platform notes that 65 percent of TikTokers prefer brands to have original sounds and music, so the royalty-free library works well for discovering new musical content. The survey also found that 68 percent remember brands better when the company features a song the user likes, knows, or remembers. Adding music is very important for TikTok’s content creators, regardless of size.
When you have a brand that uses TikTok for commercial purposes, you can set up accounts with their partners, including:
- Custom Sounds. KARM, MassiveMusic, and The Elements Music all partner with TikTok to create bespoke music and sound effects for brands.
- Subscription Sounds. Epidemic Sound, SongTradr, and UnitedMasters are all independent music platforms that cater to helping content creators find new and unique music for their creations. TikTok’s partnership with these companies means content creators can easily integrate with their libraries.
TikTok’s partnerships and large commercial music library are for users who use the platform for marketing, advertising, sponsorships, endorsements, or publicity. This library is available globally.
The music cannot be used to create videos for other platforms, however, so you cannot repost a popular TikTok video to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or other service without getting rights permissions for the song on those platforms or muting the sound. Other users can repost your content to other platforms without penalty, though, so this can be a good way to spread your brand’s vision and message.
As a business, you can use any original music you compose on TikTok without worrying about licensing. You can also find other songs you want using other libraries, as long as you pay for the correct license and send this information to TikTok.
Who Owns Music & Content on TikTok?
When you upload your own music to TikTok, use music that is paid for (royalty-free, Creative Commons, or licensed through a performing rights organization), or stitch together your video on top of another creator’s video, these are all considered legal uses of sound on TikTok, and you will not be penalized. The platform allows a much wider use of sounds and music than some other content platforms, especially Instagram and YouTube.
However, you cannot use a song in your video that is not in the TikTok library and you have not paid for. You can certainly make this video content, but putting it online, especially if you are making money from it, breaks copyright law.
TikTok will likely remove the video, and you may receive a cease-and-desist letter from the PRO that manages licensing for the song. You could also end up being sued, depending on how much money you made using the song.
You are considered the owner of your content, even after it is published on TikTok, so you are legally responsible for that content, including any harm it causes.
How to Add Your Own Music to TikTok
Once you set up a TikTok account, you can begin creating videos and showing them off to the world. Here are the steps to take to put music in your TikTok video using the platform:
- Once you open TikTok, tap the Plus icon to start recording.
- Tap “next” once you are done. Then, click the Sounds icon to add music or sound effects.
- Use the search feature to find songs by artist, title, genre, or other features.
- Tap the sound or song you want to insert into your video.
- Trim the music as necessary since TikTok offers only short videos.
You can also make your own videos with music and sound effects edited in using professional video editing software and then upload the video later. However, if you do not have the correct permissions to use the song, you may run into a notice saying: “This sound isn’t licensed for commercial use.” This might occur if you try to use music for “mainstream” TikTok users, or it could be that the algorithm detected the song is not in TikTok’s library.
Currently, TikTok only lets businesses use music in their royalty-free library, other royalty-free sounds, or user-created sounds and songs. However, some third-party platforms may let you better integrate commercially published, popular songs to your videos.
What Is TikTok? (July 2021). Investopedia.
How Does Tik Tok Use Music Legally? (July 2020). Social.TechJunkie.
Helping Brands Unlock the Power of Music and Sound on TikTok. (October 2021). Newsroom at TikTok.
How to Elevate Your Videos with TikTok’s Commercial Music Library. TikTok for Business.
How to Add Music to TikTok Video (or Only Add to a Specific Part). (September 2021). VideoProc.
How to Fix “This sound isn’t licensed for commercial use” on TikTok. (March 2021). FollowChain.