Everything works better with music. Literally everything. Think about it: would everyone’s favorite on-screen boxing hero Rocky look as awesome bounding up the stairs of Philly’s Museum of Art without that kick-ass theme tune? Would the cinematic impact of a Villeneuve or Nolan movie hit quite as hard without Hans Zimmer at the helm of the musical composition? Let us be honest: not quite.

Unless you are a talented music producer, you are likely going to experience some problems when it comes to adding original audio to your Instagram and/or TikTok videos. And even then, given the effort required to build a career through these platforms – you probably will not have the time to make a new tune for each short that you upload. 

The problem Instagram and TikTok creators have on their hands is that they are not making the next Rocky, and to be fair: it is quite unlikely that you have Zimmer on speed dial ready to provide an OST to your cooking tutorials, no matter how original and exciting your recipes are.

The catalog of music at our disposal – both beloved and undiscovered – is endless and continues to grow every day. But using it for your own commercial content as opposed to simply listening for enjoyment are two entirely different matters. That is because there is a distinction in law that applies to copyrighted material and its fair use. 

Keep reading to learn about this difference and how you can add music to your videos without paying fees or running the risk of your account being terminated.  

Add Music to Your Instagram and TikTok Videos Without Paying License and Royalty Fees

The Difference Between Using Copyrighted Content and Fair Use

Put simply; copyright law is what protects the ownership of intellectual property from being stolen, used, or repurposed in any way without the author’s consent. This applies to anything from music and books right down to poems and computer programs. It covers everything.

Look at it this way: how would you like it if someone was making money using something you have created, when you have neither expressed permission for it to be used or even seen a cent of the profits for what it is used for? Those daring enough to do so could be sued by the owner of such content. 

The terms of service that both TikTok and Instagram users must adhere to and what they legally commit to by using these platforms are designed to ensure that copyright laws are upheld. 

Now, there is a fine line here. After all, both Instagram and TikTok were originally created for personal interaction with peers as well as like-minded people the world over. But through what is known as ‘fair use,’ those with strictly social accounts on these platforms can use the music from their favorite artists to bolster their uploads, so long as what it is they are uploading meets these requirements:

  • Credit to the creator(s) is featured within all content that it is published with
  • The music is attached to visual content
  • The duration of a song being used must be brief. This, of course, works well for Instagram stories and posts, as well as TikTok uploads 

However, Instagram and TikTok, as at least most of us know, can be used for commercial opportunities. And they routinely are, by those, ambiguously known, as ‘influencers.’ 

Perhaps an Instagrammer or TikToker with a large following has been sponsored by a big-name company to make posts promoting their brand. Maybe some amateur fashion commentator has been recruited by a well-known designer to peddle their products, for example. Or, a mad-about-meat BBQ guy is pushing grills for Home Depot. Plus, let us be honest, all of these ‘influencers’ are promoting their own merch in the process. Welcome to the future of advertising, ladies, and gentlemen.

But without first seeking permission, which is to say that the creator of the music you have used in your video shares the same ideals? Can you really say that an artist supports the brands you are sponsored by when you have not asked them? Is liking their music so much that you use it really enough? To be blunt: no, it is not. 

Avoiding Fees: Add Funk To Your Content Without The Risk

Now, if you have turned your socials into a cash cow – or at least you plan to – there are ways around paying licensing and royalty fees for music. And, of course, some methods are more complicated than others. If you are making some of that sweet, sweet moolah from either of these platforms, though, then pay attention. Otherwise, all your efforts spent pursuing virality will be for nothing. 

Use Royalty-Free Music

This is hardly the most unique approach since you may end up sharing the same music with other creators – even those with a much lesser following than you.

But seriously, there is a ton of copyright-free music out there that is up for grabs, and with a bit of digging, you can easily find productions that work with your content and will not be recognizable. Plus, you are supporting other creators in the process, and that is what this should be all about, right? 

Since Instagram is a product of Facebook, its users have access to what is called the ‘Facebook Sound Collection.’ There are literally thousands of productions to choose from, and with a bit of research on your part, you can easily separate yourself from the rest of the herd.  

TikTok users can choose from over 150,000 royalty-free tracks – that leaves plenty of room for originality in your content, don’t you think?

Ask For Permission

Really, this depends on who you are trying to get permission from. Like, if you are trying to reach Kendrick Lamar’s agent for permission to use a tune from his Pulitzer-prize-winning album, DAMN., then good luck to you. Really, more power to you. But do not get your hopes up here. 

How high you aim really depends on how well known you are online. Even then, though, what are the chances that your popularity within the Instagram or TikTok community means you are well known by your favorite artists? 

The most important thing to be aware of is that a lot of artists do not need you for exposure. So, try to work with producers that will benefit from what you can bring them. And before even reaching out, have a good think about what it is you can actually do to help promote their careers. 

This brings us to our next point.

Work With Someone That’s Talented Yet Unknown 

As someone that is trying to build an audience through TikTok or Instagram, much like any budding musician wants to grow in their field, is there not an opportunity for collaboration here? Sure, you might get lucky and bag the rights to use a track you buzz, or that is a real hit with everyone right now. But at what cost? And how long do you expect to use it in your content before it gets old or before it is no longer cost-effective? 

You should always ask for permission from anyone when you use their content, especially top-shelf artists with a track that you insist on using in your videos. The more exclusive they are, the more severe the ramifications could be if you misuse their material.  

But consider this: what could you achieve by working with an unknown producer with great skills? Someone who wants to make a name in their industry that can deliver the music you need – minus the hefty price tag. 

You have the opportunity here to use your platform in a way that showcases someone’s talents while giving your content the exact impact it needs. You might catch a break and be able to work with well-known artists – it is certainly not impossible or something that has not been done before. But do not rely on it or think it is something you need. 

The Bottom Line

Anyone that runs a social channel with substantial traffic knows – or at least should know – that it is a business. And business is volatile. Say something controversial? You risk being canceled. Stop uploading as frequently or without the same quality? You might lose your relevance. 

One constant to great content, however, is quality audio. And there is plenty of it out there. Collaboration with a major artist might do wonders for your exposure, sure, but it is not essential to your growth. You have made it this far through your own merit, right?

The right audio is just as important to commercial TikTok or Instagram posts as editing abilities, camera skills, and the timing of uploads are. 

You could gamble using popular, copyrighted music without approval if you fancy, but you should expect admins to catch you out pretty fast. Or, if you’re super unlucky, to be sued by representatives of the artists themselves. So why bother? Why risk ruining your growth?

As a content creator or an ‘influencer,’ if that is your preferred title, you have plenty of options for audio out there. It is your job to find them.

See also: What are some TikTok Trends 2021?

Adi Domocos is the Founder of Hot in Social Media. After working for several years in different international companies from Marketing Manager to Country Manager, he decided to launch a site in a field he really loves: Social Media Marketing. He’s a social guy who tries to help and cheer up those around him.