Licensing Music for Different Social Media Platforms: Dos & Don’ts

Licensing Music for Different Social Media Platforms: Dos & Don'ts

Using social media platforms in your marketing efforts to promote products and services is an excellent way to engage prospective customers. You can create content for campaigns, and often, your content will feature videos or images that coincide with the music. 

Using music in this fashion is susceptible to copyright claims if licenses aren’t in place. Many people believe that using popular and available music on social media channels doesn’t have any consequences. 

Many popular social media sites have licensing agreements with major record labels and music publishers. The sites permit these platforms to use copyrighted music because they are collecting their royalties. 

But, these licenses don’t extend to commercial users. So, how do you know when to license for music and when not to? Here are some helpful Dos and Don’ts for licensing music on three popular but different social media platforms.


Instagram is a popular social network and has even paved the way for famous influencers. Many people use it to upload content daily with images and videos accompanied by music, so it’s very restrictive when it comes to copyright allowance.

Do – Use Music In Your Stories

The stories won’t provide users with any copyright problems. The stories part of Instagram doesn’t work the same way as in a live feed or post. You utilize just a fragment of the song and can add it within an image or video as music that comes from Spotify. 

Don’t – Use Live Videos Without a Music License

The algorithm utilized by Instagram detects music playing and identifies copyright-protected songs or tracks that become flagged. If you do not own or obtain a public performance license or creative commons license, you risk a lawsuit. Even if you credit the songwriters and publishers of the song, which is nice, it doesn’t give you the right to use their music without the proper permissions.


YouTube channels are popular, and even though it’s technically a search engine, it is often utilized as a social media platform for businesses and brands. If you didn’t compose the song yourself, you must check YouTube’s copyright policies.

Do – Obtain Authorization and Licenses for Music

If you are employing music for your content, you must check to find out how to get your license. You may need to write a letter to the musician for permission, contact their manager if protected under a label, or look toward a licensing company to access music for commercial use. 

Do – Use Music in the Public Domain

Music within the public domain is free for use – in the United States, some songs were produced before 1922. These tracks are copyright-free, so that you can utilize them without the worry of a license. But – it’s important to note that many other people may use these same tracks and music within their videos, so it can end up being redundant. 

Don’t – Play a Fragment or Alter the Track

You may believe that playing just a portion of a song won’t need the use of a license, like in Instagram stories. But this social network doesn’t work that way – YouTube algorithms can detect music use.

If you use an altered version of the song, change the pitch, or adjust the speed, the algorithm will still pick it up. Distorting the quality of the music also affects your audio quality and can ruin your viewer’s experience. 


TikTok is increasing in popularity, and  using copyrighted music on TikTok  comes with restrictions. You must have written consent for any music downloaded, distributed, and reproduced. 

Do – Check with PROs for Licensing and Copyrights

Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) are representatives of musicians and independent artists. They work to ensure that music publishers and composers get their royalties. You can check with two of the more popular PROs in the United States, ASCAP, and BMI. Here’s a five-step procedure to help ensure you obtain permission to use any music when on TikTok:

  • Check with the PRO to see if there are necessary authorization(s) needed;
  • Determine the music publishers/composers that you need to reach out to;
  • Figure out what licenses you need (sync, public performance, creative commons, etc.);
  • Contact the copyright holder to work out an agreement and payment;
  • Obtain your written authorization.

Do – Reuse Music With a Creative Commons License

Users can add creative commons licenses, and in places like TikTok and Youtube, when you create video content with this license, the title of the original publisher’s video is automatically credited. This way, you can skip checking to see if you need to acknowledge the creator of the music, particularly when monetizing your videos as an influencer or brand.

Don’t – Claim Zero Ownership of the Music

It was mentioned before but worth noting again – there have been countless times in TikTok videos where the person who makes the video claims, “I do not own the rights to the music/audio” used in the content. Does it truly protect you against a copyright claim? It genuinely doesn’t, and it’s not a good practice. It’s the same as stealing, and you need the proper licenses to use the music properly.

Takeaways When Licensing Music on Social Media

You may believe it’s easy to determine if a song has copyright protection, but you must do the proper research to put it in your content. To avoid hefty fines and copyright lawsuits, you’re better off ensuring corrective actions are taken in obtaining music licenses and agreements, so you’re covered.

In cases where you’re not monetizing your videos, you may utilize copyrighted music without penalty. However, it would be best to seek the creator’s permission. If it’s your music, ensure you have copyrights to collect royalties if another creative wants to use it on social media.

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