Do you still have to pay royalties for free music?

The business model for music is changing; many artists are beginning to take music in their own hands and offering free digital tracks.  As a DJ this is wonderful news, you’re able to obtain great music without a super huge cost.  If DJing online, do you still need to pay royalties for free music? While most people would say the obvious answer is “yes”, it’s really a tossup. What makes it a bit confusing is the source from where your music comes from. There are several services that allow for their music to be used royalty free but have other requirements as some popular artists are attempting to leave the entire scheme behind but have not given up the use of their music.

The general rule of thumb is pay royalties, especially if a major band released their music for free.  While they are adapting to a new model for releasing music, their free music doesn’t entail that you have full free copyright to do what you wish, it just means you’re getting the content for free.  Some exceptions are when it is explicitly clear that the use of the music is royalty free (or PodSafe) or if you have a personal relationship with the artists.  Say you’re good friends with an artist and want to use their music, get written permission from them to use their material.  If you don’t know any bands, artists or musicians, there are also several alternatives to finding royalty free music, especially between searching for music under Creative Commons or sign up for IODA’s Promonet. Most if not all of the music featured through these ways are PodSafe and Royalty Free (there may be some other requirements to follow such as a link to the artists and the track).  In most cases not only is the music free but you generally do not have to pay any royalties on the tracks.

To be sure, check with the artists, their publicist, even their label if you have to.  If you are still unsure, seek legal advice (I’m not a lawyer!  If you want more accurate, legal advice concerning royalties please seek their council!)  In my opinion it’s always good to have a royalty service in place unless you are going to be very specific about your music choices; even then you may not always have the option to do so.

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