Back when I was in college, the guys and me had a great Wham! Cover band called Blam!. Unfortunately, we had to put our “Faith” in getting locals bars and pubs to give us gigs and we’d often play in the quad with our hats held out, only making about 35 cents for a whole day of jamming. Luckily for upcoming bands in this day and age, they can use the magic of YouTube to get their message out to the masses. It’s not all about recording a song in your garage and waking up the next day to an invite from American Bandstand though as bands have to respect the copyright and intellectual property of original bands on YouTube.
Whether your band is playing music owned by another artist or you simply put “Red Red Wine” in the background of a YouTube video of your mother passed out, you must respect copyright rules. YouTube uses an algorithm that determines if a song is being used illegally and reports from users also contribute to YouTube penalties. Luckily, you’ll probably never be monetarily fined for using a song illegally but you could have your YouTube account blocked for repeated offenses. Most likely, YouTube will simply remove the song from the background of your video and depending on the use, the video might not make sense and will get negative comments.
To legally use copyrighted songs on YouTube, you can take advantage of a YouTube sponsored program called AudioSwap, which is a library of popular songs that are available for free usage on your YouTube videos. To use AudioSwap, first log into your YouTube account and click on your profile. Go to “My Videos” then “Replace Audio” and then select a song from the AudioSwap public library. You’ll need to make sure the timing of both videos sync up and remember that your existing background sounds will be eliminated completely.
Some people might not like the songs available in the AudioSwap public library and for them there are a few alternate routes to legally use copyrighted songs on YouTube. The first thing you can try is file a dispute to YouTube that you’re in fact using the song within your rights. If you’re using the song for educational purposes and not in marketing then you might have a chance to win the dispute.
Another option is to change the music just enough to express a personal representation of the song. You might have seen songs sped up like a chipmunk or slowed down like Will Ferrell after getting shot with a tranquilizer gun and this is people using copyrighted songs legally.
As long as you use the copyrighted song in a positive light and don’t intend to make money or fame off the video, you shouldn’t have a problem using any particular music. The last step you can take is to attempt to get use approved by the original artist and you can do this through a lawyer or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Good Luck!