Music Licensing For UGC – Everything You Need To Know

Ioana Cozma
May 21, 2024
March 19, 2024

Picture this: you’re collaborating with a UGC (User Generated Content) creator for product promotion on TikTok, and the background track fits just perfectly with the content, only to discover later that you’re facing potential legal ramifications. And the reason? The perfect background song used in the video without considering copyright implications.

What a buzzkill. What a cost-raising nightmare.

But it could be prevented. Avoiding such hurdles is easy with the right knowledge of music licensing for UGC.

Considering the risks associated with copyright infringement and the importance of maintaining a professional and legally compliant brand image, you must ensure the music used in UGC videos has been verified for cleared license.

In this article, we explain the nuances of music licensing for UGC, delving into the importance of proper licensing, in-app music options, and alternative avenues to secure commercial usage rights for your chosen soundtrack. After all, music can make or break any content performance on social media, and a smart choice of music could create wonders for UGC.

In addition to music choice, if you wish to learn more about the best way to create a high-performing UGC, here are the top 10 tips to film a UGC video.


  • Understanding Music Licensing for UGC: Essential for brands collaborating with creators on platforms like TikTok and Instagram to avoid legal issues and ensure copyright compliance.
  • Types of Music Licenses Explained: Sync, performance, mechanical, print, master recording, and blanket licenses – with sync licenses being most relevant for UGC collaborations.
  • Importance of Proper Licensing: Ensures legal compliance, protects brand reputation, and avoids potential copyright claims or takedowns.
  • In-App Music Options: Platforms like TikTok and Instagram offer licensed music libraries for non-commercial use, with options for commercial use available through specific libraries or partnerships.
  • Alternative Music Sourcing: Direct licensing from artists, using music licensing platforms, royalty-free music, Creative Commons, custom compositions, and sync licensing agencies for more control and legal assurance.
  • Public Domain and License Agreements: Utilizing public domain music and understanding the specifics of sync licensing agreements, including media type, territorial restrictions, and license duration.
  • Case Studies Highlight: Effective UGC campaigns leveraging music strategically, emphasizing the importance of music choice in engaging specific audiences.

Final Advice: Prioritize music licensing in UGC campaigns for legal safety and campaign success, explore both in-app and external music options, and plan meticulously for comprehensive coverage.

What Is Music Licensing?

Music licensing is the process of obtaining permission to use copyrighted music for specific purposes, often commercial. Copyrighted music is legally protected, and licensing ensures that rights owners are compensated for its use.

Securing the licenses to use music for commercial purposes avoids legal pitfalls and ensures an uninterrupted collaboration process between a brand and a UGC creator.

There are different types of music licenses for commercial use, such as sync licenses, performance licenses, mechanical licenses, print licenses, master recording licenses and blanket licenses.

Insider tip: For a brand collaborating with a UGC creator to promote their product or service, sync licenses are the most relevant type of music licensing.

Here’s a quick rundown of each of these music licenses:

Synchronization License: Necessary for pairing specific songs with visual media like films or online videos, ensuring legal use in projects.

Public Performance License: Required for playing copyrighted music publicly, covering live events, streaming, or background music in public spaces, ensuring proper royalties.

Mechanical License: Needed for reproducing and distributing copyrighted songs in audio formats, essential for cover versions or remixes, granting permission to replicate and distribute musical compositions.

Master Recording License: Grants the right to use the master recording of a song in new media projects, obtained through negotiation with the copyright holder, often requiring additional sync or mechanical licenses.

Print License: Required for reproducing and distributing sheet music or printed lyrics of copyrighted songs used by publishers, sheet music companies, or music teachers for duplicating compositions.

Blanket License: Allows businesses like radio stations or restaurants to use a wide range of music from multiple copyright holders under a single legal agreement for specific purposes or venues.

Why Is Music Licensing Important For UGC?

Securing proper music licensing for UGC is necessary for plenty of reasons. Not only does it ensure legal compliance with copyright laws, safeguarding a brand from legal issues, but it also elevates the overall professionalism of your content, preventing your brand’s name from negative associations.

The rule for music in UGC is straightforward: if the content is crafted for commercial purposes, it is categorized as commercial content. Consequently, utilizing copyrighted music in UGC without obtaining the necessary rights poses significant risks for both the brand and the creator.

Therefore, proper music licensing mitigates the risk of takedowns or copyright claims, preserving the integrity of both the brand and the UGC creator and avoiding potential disruptions to a campaign.

Commercial content is distinct from the personal content users share on their social media channels. Thus, any brand and a UGC creator collaborating should discuss their strategy for music licensing before finalizing a contract.

Pro Tip: Cutting, editing, modifying, slowing down, or speeding up a song does not mean it becomes copyright-free.

Music Licensing For UGC

Remember the rule: the moment a financial transaction occurs between a brand and a content creator for UGC, that piece of content is now ‘commercial’ and must be treated accordingly.

Popular social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok feature an array of music directly accessible within the app thanks to their licensing agreements negotiated between the platforms, music publishers, and other rights holders.

While influencers and content creators can freely use a diverse range of audio for personal entertainment and non-commercial purposes, stepping into product or service promotion transforms the use of music in a UGC video into a complex matter with potential legal implications.

Luckily, there are many options for finding music for a UGC video in- or out of- the apps that would avoid legal issues.

Below, we explain in-app music options for TikTok and Instagram and list other options for legally using music in your collaboration with a UGC creator.

How To Find Music For UGC On TikTok [without the License Hassle]

If obtaining licenses is too much work, you can use TikTok music. Here are your best options.

TikTok General Music Library

The TikTok General Music Library, Sounds, comprises a diverse array of songs and audio options, and it caters to users putting out content primarily for non-commercial and personal entertainment purposes.

In practical terms, creators using sounds from this library are restricted from promoting a brand or business unless they secure the essential rights individually.

TikTok Commercial Music Library

Considering the commercial aspect, TikTok has introduced the TikTok Commercial Music Library, featuring Commercial Sounds with a range of songs approved for commercial use.

Any audio within this library is permissible for promoting brands, products, or services, and for various other commercial purposes.

Original Sounds Library

A third option available on TikTok involves putting your music to the Original Sounds library. Here, commercial content creators can externally upload their own audio.

Pro tip: Using an original sound in a video implies an automatic confirmation of owning all rights to the music or obtaining permission from all relevant rights holders for that specific song.

Failing to adhere to these conditions may lead to TikTok flagging your content, issuing copyright claims, and potentially escalating the matter to legal proceedings.

Case Study Break

American Dairy wanted to build awareness amongst the Generation Z demographic by creating relatable content on TikTok to promote its #Gotmilk challenge. Recognizing the skepticism of Gen Z towards traditional advertising, the challenge was to engage this audience effectively.

In response, inBeat strategically targeted Gen Z by collaborating with influential young opinion leaders. Over 20 athletes and artists with strong local followings participated in the #Gotmilk challenge, accumulating an impressive engagement of over 10, 000 likes and comments along with 250, 000 unique views.

The twist involved creating an original rap-style song instead of using conventional background sounds. This decision was driven by the popularity of rap music among Gen Z, presenting a smart approach to align the visual and auditory components for a universally ‘cool’ effect.


Not satisfied with TikTok’s free music library for commercial use? No need to leave the app just yet. TikTok also came through with its TikTok’s Sound Partners platform.

This platform is a valuable resource for users seeking music with pre-cleared licenses. TikTok meticulously selects these sound partners based on their expertise in music licensing and extensive music catalogs.

TikTok is a mediator on this platform rather than functioning only as a service provider. It presents users with a diverse array of music licensing companies, each carefully chosen to ensure proper licensing agreements. By offering this selection, TikTok aims to guarantee that users secure the necessary rights to use a particular song while the rights holders of the music receive fair compensation for its use.

Pro Tip: TikTok has a feature that checks your videos for copyrighted audio elements. Go to Creator Tools and find the video sound copyright check to ensure your audio is safe.

How To Use Music for UGC On Instagram [without Legal Backlash]

Instagram facilitates the integration of music into users’ Stories and Reels through blanket rights agreements with artists and production companies. The platform’s Licensed Music Library allows users to access a variety of songs for free. However, once again, the music within this library is designated for personal and non-commercial use.

Users can freely incorporate these licensed songs into their content on Instagram without fear of legal repercussions as long as the content does not involve promoting, selling, or endorsing a product or service.

Warning: The waters get murky when considering the use of music for commercial content.

To address this, Instagram, now under the Meta umbrella, provides access to Facebook’s Sound Collection. This collection boasts a repertoire of 9, 000 entirely royalty-free songs, offering a safe and legal solution for users seeking music for commercial purposes.

Certainly, there’s likely a fitting song for your UGC in this library; however, the suitability depends on factors such as the campaign brief, expectations, and budget constraints.

Already secured the rights to a song but not sure how to find the right UGC creators to collaborate with? Take a look at our ultimate guide on how to find the right influencers to find your brand’s perfect fit.

Get the most out of influencer marketing with our influencer-centric focus group agency

Other Options for Licensing UGC Music

If the free or paid audio offerings in your selected social media platform’s sound library do not meet your criteria, consider exploring these alternative options to obtain commercial usage rights for a specific song.

License from the Artist or Rights Holder

Imagine a scenario where you’ve found the ideal song for your UGC, but it isn’t covered by any copyright licenses on the app. In such cases, reaching out directly to the artist or rights holder may be a viable solution. This involves negotiating a licensing agreement, which may include discussing fees and terms for the commercial use of the music.

Side note: This option might not be feasible for major artists like Beyonce or Taylor Swift. However, it’s often more manageable to contact smaller-sized artists or their record labels.

Music Licensing Platforms

Consider using music licensing platforms that provide a catalog of songs for commercial use. Platforms like Epidemic Sound, Artlist, and Musicbed offer a range of tracks with clear licensing terms for commercial use.

These platforms provide access to a diverse catalog of tracks, each accompanied by transparent licensing terms designed for commercial purposes.

Royalty-Free Music

When searching for music for your UGC, royalty-free music is a cost-effective and secure choice. Platforms such as PremiumBeat, AudioJungle, and Pond5 provide an array of royalty-free music for diverse purposes, accessible through either a one-time purchase or a subscription fee.

Securing the rights to royalty-free music involves a single payment or a fixed fee within a subscription plan. This means you won’t face additional charges each time your UGC video featuring that specific song is played. (Because imagine the potential financial burden of paying per play, a CAC nightmare).

Creative Commons Licensed Music

Some new or up-and-coming artists choose to release their music under Creative Commons licenses, granting permissions for specific types of commercial use. This implies you can legally incorporate their song into a UGC video designed for commercial purposes without incurring extra fees. Such permissions enable artists to promote their songs through UGC freely, expanding their reach beyond their usual social media audience.

However, it is essential to thoroughly examine the specific terms outlined in the Creative Commons license associated with the music you intend to use. Any small detail going unnoticed may cause bigger problems.

Custom Compositions

Have a unique vision for the kind of music you want to use in UGC? Then, think about hiring a composer to create custom music for your collaboration with a UGC creator. Using custom music has two key advantages.

Firstly, you possess exclusive rights to the music forever and can use it repeatedly.

Secondly, personalized music perfectly aligns with your brand identity and campaign brief, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the UGC with the right audio elements.

Sync Licensing Agencies

A sync license is a music license that allows the use of a piece of music in a specific media format, such as a TV commercial or paid video, on a social platform. This is essentially the type of license you need for using a song in a UGC video designed for commercial purposes.

As we explained above, social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok deal with music licensing for their users and secure rights to certain songs on their platforms. But this is not always the case. For a certain song, you should be the one who engages in the sync licensing process.

Fortunately, some agencies help you with that.

These sync licensing agencies can negotiate licenses with artists and provide the necessary permissions for using their songs in UGC.

Important Things To Consider In A Sync Licensing Agreement:

  • Media Type: There may be different requirements for different types of content and social media platforms. List each content type the song will be used in, including Instagram story, Reels video, TikTok video, etc. Make sure you name every platform the content will be published on.
  • Territorial Restrictions: Ensure your chosen song is not restricted by your target demographic’s country or region.
  • License Duration: Consider the duration of your sync license since they are not indefinite. They provide a specific period during which you can use the song in your content. Once this time frame ends, your rights to use the song expire. Hence, it’s important to establish a timeframe based on the campaign’s duration and any potential future use of the song in subsequent campaigns.

Public Domain Music

Public domain music refers to compositions not protected by copyright. It spans various genres and historical periods, from classical masterpieces to traditional folk tunes. These compositions are freely available for public use because they have exceeded their copyright protection period.

As of 2024, a significant number of copyrighted songs from 1928 and sound recordings from 1923 have entered the public domain in the United States. This means any song published in 1928 or earlier is now free to use.

However, remember to be cautious when choosing public-domain music. Verify that your selected composition is genuinely in the public domain, as this status can vary based on factors such as publication date, copyright renewal, and international copyright laws.

Case Study Break

Bluehouse Salmon, a U.S.-based company specializing in land-grown salmon, sought a consistent flow of educational and recipe-focused content to support their content calendar and raise their social media following.

At inBeat, we delivered through our influencer sourcing and creative direction expertise, ensuring a continuous influx of influencer-generated content to elevate Bluehouse Salmon’s presence across social media platforms.

When it comes to music selection, we considered various video formats, including those with voiceovers, real-time spoken scripts, or none at all. The curated background music selection spanned from trending songs to serene instrumental tunes. This way, we ensured the alignment with the UGC creator’s overall vibe while appealing to a diverse audience within Bluehouse Salmon’s social media feed.


Parting Words – We Made Music Use In UGC Easy For You

Stating the obvious one last time. A strategic approach to music licensing for UGC is crucial to avoid legal issues and elevate campaign effectiveness. As a brand collaborating with a UGC creator, you should prioritize proper licensing for commercial purposes, clearly define commercial content, and explore in-app options or alternative avenues like reaching out to artists or using royalty-free music.

Before initiating the music licensing process, it is crucial to establish a comprehensive plan covering the creative brief, campaign timeline, UGC creator list, targeted social platforms, and content types since this information is needed for music licensing contracts.

Use this guide as a roadmap for making an informed decision and ensuring legal compliance for music use in UGC.

We know that as much as UGC does wonders in cutting costs and boosting brand engagement, it can sometimes be overwhelming, with too many aspects to consider. At Showcase, we aim to minimize stress by streamlining the UGC creation process, enabling collaboration with top-performing creators to create high-quality UGC ads for your brand.

Meta Description: We make music licensing for UGC easy for brands and creators with our comprehensive guide. Read more to learn about avoiding legal pitfalls, securing commercial usage rights for UGC music, and leveraging in-app options.

Want more examples of successful influencer marketing campaigns? Check out case studies of our influencer marketing agency in Toronto!

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