YouTube Music Copyright Rules: How to Use Music Without Trouble in 2023

Everything you need to know about YouTube’s music policy, copyright rules and how to avoid DMCA strikes on your channel. Plus our top recommendations on finding legal, royalty free music that your audience will love.

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Covering the intersection of copyright law, music, and social media. Full-time content marketer, and part-time journalist.
YouTube Music Copyright Rules: How to Use Music Without  Trouble in 2023

Everything you need to know about YouTube’s copyright policies and DMCA protocol. Plus our top tips for finding legal, royalty-free music that your fans will love!

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We use music for many things, and among them, music gives us an emotional connection to the world around us. Songs can transport us to a memory, or help us through a workout inciting exhilaration. This is why picking the right music for your video can make all the difference, The music you choose for your content can be the difference between success or failure. In the worst cases, it can also be the reason why your video gets removed, or worse, your channel gets suspended.

How do I choose the right music for my YouTube videos?

Music shouldn’t simply accompany your video content, but rather function as a way to guide your viewers to feel how you want them to feel. A perfect example of this is the five-second long “Dramatic Chipmunk” viral video, which initially appeared on YouTube in 2007.

Without the urgency of the music, this would have been a relatively mundane clip of a rodent (which is actually a prairie dog, not a chipmunk) turning around to face the camera with a zoom effect. Would it still have been viewed by hundreds of millions of people on various platforms with countless YouTube uploads? Unlikely. All that to say the pace of the music you choose is important. Action videos may require suspenseful, intense music, whereas uplifting videos may demand music that gradually builds to a crescendo. Pairing the wrong music with your content runs the risk of having your video fall flat—or, even worse, distracting the viewer

We know there are thousands of genres to choose from and it can be overwhelming to decide on which is just right for your content. So to make it easier we’ve listed some strong pairings between genres and different kinds of video content:

Educational & Product Reviews:

As a general rule of thumb, instrumental music tends to be less distracting, particularly when you want the viewer focused on a speaker or tutorial.

  • Triphop Beats
  • Upbeat Funk or Pop  (great for makeup tutorials)
  • Jazz

Gameplay Videos:

As your viewers watch you play, it helps to convey a casual coolness to the viewer so they can focus on the game too.

  • Hip hop Beats
  • Rap
  • Minimal House/Electronic

Advertising & Brand Content:

Choose music that invokes feelings of inspiration, hope, and drive.

  • Cinematic
  • Classical
  • Dance & Electronic

Building a YouTube channel takes time, talent, and energy—and having a calculated music strategy is imperative to that success. But, so is following the platform’s rules.

What are YouTube’s copyright policies?

YouTube has stringent copyright guidelines and they are vigilant about enforcing them. Copyrighted material includes any content that someone else owns the rights to, such as snippets of programs or videos made by other users, and, of course, music.

YouTube takes a two-pronged approach to combating copyright violations.

The first uses one of the most advanced algorithms to track copyrighted content—a system called Content ID which costs the tech company over a hundred million dollars to develop and maintain. This algorithm scans videos and streams for images, sounds, and songs that match those in its massive database. Copyright owners or a representative can upload content to this database, and then select a preferred outcome should their intellectual property (IP) be flagged on the platform.

If a match is found between a reference file and a new upload, a "claim" is made. This will often come up as “matched with third-party content.” Based on the preference selected by the Content ID owner, Youtube will apply a policy to track, monetize, or block, but will not issue a copyright strike.

Read here for more on How to deal with copyright claims and strikes 

Like copyright strikes, users can dispute claims that they believe have been made in error. Alternatively, there’s always the option to remove the music in a claimed video.

Copyright strikes are the second prong. This occurs when a copyright owner submits a valid DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint through YouTube’s website. If a copyright strike is issued, it means it is a valid, legal takedown for using their IP.

Strikes are penalties, and the more you get, the worse your standing with Youtube will get.  Everyone makes mistakes, so a single strike is made in good faith. They expire after 90 days and Youtube takes no further action against your account. Your access to live streaming and monetization can also be disabled for up to 90 days, but if it’s your first strike, these privileges are restored within a week. You’ll also have to complete YouTube’s Copyright School.

If you’re issued a copyright strike, there are three ways to resolve it:

  • Wait for it to expire: Only 90 days!
  • Get a retraction: Make a request from the copyright owner asking them to remove the copyright infringement claim.
  • File a dispute: If you think YouTube made a mistake or your content qualifies as fair use, you can dispute it

What is fair use?

Sometimes, creators can get away with using copyrighted content by claiming it qualifies as “fair use.” This is a legal term that allows adjacent content like commentary, criticism, parody, research, or news reporting to use agreed-upon fragments of the original piece of  IP. A fair use example is the Dissect Podcast, which is distributed on Youtube, Spotify, and TikTok and qualifies as music criticism.  But, unfortunately, very few cases are excused by a court as fair use. The problem with fair use is that it’s highly subjective and is treated on a case-by-case basis, especially in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the legal systems in many other countries. Even if you can successfully make a case of fair use, the resulting headache may be more trouble than it’s worth.

Continue reading:  The Essentials about Fair Use for Content Creators

How do I legally use music in my YouTube videos?

To further complicate matters, when it comes to copyright laws within music, both the sound recording (a.k.a. the master recordings) and the composition are considered two separate works of IP. And they are protected separately. Music composition rights protect the work of composers, lyricists, and songwriters, while sound recording copyrights protect performers, producers, and sound engineers.

Given the intricacies of copyright law, you may be wondering if there’s an easier way to find music for your YouTube videos without ending up on the wrong side of the law. In comes, royalty-free music. With a royalty-free license, once you buy a song, you also buy the license to permanently use it.

But where do you find royalty-free music? That’s where Slip.Stream can help. has the largest royalty-free music library with 65,000 tracks 100% free for creator personal use, with commercial plans available at a small subscription fee.

Slip. stream is also built to avoid strikes and paperwork frustrations. All of our tracks are unique to our platform, and none of our tracks are entered into Youtube’s Content ID database, preventing any and all DMCA issues. This leaves you more time to do what you do best: create engaging content.

Sign up for get started for free!