Getting to Grips with Music Rules in Influencer Marketing

by | 22 Nov 2023

Written by Hoozu CEO, Natalie Giddings.

Let’s talk music licensing in Influencer Marketing. *YAWN* – I know, but this is actually seriously important. 

So many of the trending tracks Creators use on their videos contain some kind of popular music. We also see many brands using the same popular music… or Creators using popular music in their Ad content, and this is where it becomes confusing. Are brands allowed to use music the same way Creators can? Are Creators allowed to use the same music for organic and paid content? The short answers are no, they can’t. But let me explain why, and how we can get around this…

The Jargon

So, getting back to basics, what’s the jargon here? A few simple definitions below to make this more palatable.

Copyright: If you own the ‘copyright’ to a piece of music, then you have the legal right to use, copy, sell or licence the music that has been copyrighted. Usually the owner/creator of the song is the copyright-holder.

Licence: In the context of copyright, a licence is something you can secure/purchase from the copyright-holder. This licence gives you permission to use the piece of music that has been copyrighted.

Royalties: The fee you must pay the copyright-holder/owner every time you use their music. 

Royalty-free: Therefore, a royalty-free piece of music does not require the fee each time you use it, but will likely require an upfront, one-off, licence-fee. This music is not in the public domain.

Copyright-free music: This music lives in the public domain. It can be used freely without needing to seek permission from an owner. Some copyright-free music may require attribution to the creator, or can be used for creative purposes but not commercial purposes.

Commercial usage: The use of a piece of music in advertising of any kind.

There’s some great info around this HERE.

The Rules

Whilst the Social Media Platforms have their various ‘Creator Libraries’ of music to be used, this is only applicable for organic usage. Content Creators have the right to use this library in their day-to-day content. This becomes an issue, however, when sponsored posts come in. If a brand posts content with music; or influencers use music in a commissioned ad post, or a UGC creator uses music when producing content for brand ads/use… these are all instances of Commercial Usage.

In Influencer Marketing, it has become commonplace to negotiate digi rights on Influencer content upfront. In other words, brands pay their talent an extra fee for the right to use their content commercially. It can be helpful to take this perspective when looking at music too. If we want to use a piece of music in a commercial setting (influencer sponsored post, brand social content, UGC ad content), then we must gain permission from/pay a fee to the song-owner for the right to do so.

The issue is that getting a commercial usage licence for popular, current music can be incredibly expensive, timely and difficult. Meanwhile, paying royalties on a piece of music is highly inefficient and complex. So, we recommend looking for copyright-free music (though this is likely outdated) OR utilising a service where a single upfront payment or ongoing subscription can allow you access to royalty-free music. We’ve listed a few examples below:

PLATFORMS’ OWN LIBRARIES

SUBSCRIPTION-BASED MUSIC LIBRARIES

EXTRA RESOURCES

  • CapCut also has its own sound library; though the library contains both copyright and royalty-free music. The app has an inbuilt copyright-checker to use.

If the above is all a bit TLDR, I’ll pop a few key takeaways below.

Common Misconceptions in Music Usage around Influencer Marketing

  • Just because a piece of music is in a platform’s Creator Library, it doesn’t mean it can be used in an ad or paid partnership post. Opt for the commercial libraries or other resources listed above. This goes for brands and creators.
  • It’s a complex grey-area and feels easier just to play the ignorant card. Everyone else is using copyright music in their ads, why shouldn’t I? But it’s definitely better to be ahead of the curve on this one, as authorities will start cracking down and your content/ads can be removed.
  • Even if you’re a creator and not a brand… if you’re producing content for a brand in any way, you must still use copyright-free/royalty-free music in the content.

Some Top Tips for Staying Legal with Music Usage in Influencer Marketing

  • We all know trending sounds can be pretty key for successful reach on your content. Look for trending sounds that are speech-focused rather than music; or just double check the trending sound is okay to use for commercial purposes.
  • Be sure – check the music in a copyright-checker like the one in CapCut. Better to know before going live so that your content doesn’t get removed or is turned silent by the platform.
  • Creators – Pay a subscription to one of the resources outlined above and see that as an investment in your business. You can use the music library for all brand ads/sponsored posts from then on.
  • Brands – if you’re running an influencer campaign, be on it with the music. Have this in your Creator contracts. Ensure you’re checking the tracks your Influencers use before they publish live. This means you can then repost/amplify/share their content with no legal copyright issues. And you’ll avoid the need to repurpose the content to different music that doesn’t really fit with the edit, down the line.

Ultimately this is an issue that’s only going to grow as the Influencer Marketing industry becomes more regulated with its inevitable growth. Music licensing is a legal issue and could be met with repercussions if the rules are broken. Be ahead of the curve and protect your ad content going forward. This is the responsibility of all parties: Creators, Agencies, Brands.

We aim to be as on it as possible with the music regulations in Australian Influencer Marketing. If the whole grey area of music regulations leaves you a bit baffled and worried when it comes to Influencer Marketing – let us take care of that uncertainty for you. Contact us today.