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Having the correct music is a major aspect of creating a captivating emotionally charged video. Typically in a feature length film, the music alone can carry the entire story. A properly selected song will be the backbone of how you sequence your edit. However, just selecting a song does not give you permission to use it. You MUST obtain permission to use the song. Otherwise, you could be liable for copyright infringement which some parties do not take lightly. Licensing music is a very profitable and complicated industry. Having a solid understanding of how it works will help you navigate safely in this realm.


So how do I get permission to use a song while also protecting myself? You need 2 things: a “master use license” and a “synchronization license”. You MUST obtain BOTH licenses to have full legal protection to use a song in a video.

Synchronization License: This gives you permission from the original artist to take their “work” and synchronize it to video elements. By synchronizing these elements you are changing the emotion and mood of how the song is comprehended by the listener. Therefore it is legally imperative that you get permission to change how the song is interpreted by asking for a synchronization license.

Master License: A master is the final mix of a song, the physical Wave or MP3 file you will be using in your editing program. Typically, an artist has no control over the licensing of the “Master”, their publisher owns the rights. Sometimes the artist has control of both the master and the sync, in this case you need a “combined synchronization and master use license”. You can google the previous quote and find templates to use.


There is an entire industry dedicated to music licensing. Type in “Music Licensing” into google and you will find a plethora of options. The best ones seem to be Premium Beat, Audio Jungle, Music Bed and Song Freedom. What these sites do is sell a one-time use license anywhere from $10-$200 even for commercial uses. These songs have master/sync license cleared and ready for use. These services are a fast and convenient way to get started editing quickly. An audible watermark is overlayed onto the song. This gives you the option to test the song before you commit to purchasing the license.


These licensing houses are great, but what if you just really want to use Elton John in your edit how would you do that? We mentioned earlier you need a Master License from the publisher.  How do I find who the publisher is for a particular song? Typically, if they have a label they are associated with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) on their site you can search who controls the rights to any song by using the handy search.

This site will break down what percentage the artist owns and the contact information of the publisher. As you can see the song 1965 by Elton John was also written by Bernie Taupin. Therefore, you need to get a synchronization license from both of them. All the licensing business will be negotiated by the publisher which is why they display the contact information for you. This is assuming that the artist will even agree in the first place. The beastie Boys, for instance, require that their songs never be used in commercials.


Creative Commons is an attempt at fixing the complexities of copyright and licensing with an emphasis on creation and sharing. Creative Commons at its core gives full reproducibility of any “work”. However, there are some extra terms to the Creative Commons licensing scheme to understand and be aware of. The basic Creative Commons has two parts. First, you can adapt a remix and share the “work”. Second, you must give attribution to the artist as well as provide a link to the license. You must read the specifics of each license to know the limitations. Creative Commons International License 4.0:

Creative Commons



Share Alike

Sometimes you will see the symbol share alike. This means that you must release whatever “work” is adapted or created from it must also share the same license or similar license. Our YouTube channel mostly has Creative Commons. Below we have compiled a list of all of our favorite creative commons songs that we use. You are welcome to use these songs to help get you started. Now get out there and start shooting and editing! Follow Endless Film Production on SoundCloud for more playlists we will curate in the future. Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and tune into our adventures on our YouTube channel.