Audio Content BLOG: Music Watch Outs for Content Creators

As the UK entered lockdown in March, fitness vlogger Joe Wicks instantly saw his YouTube channel become the go-to for the nation’s schoolchildren and their parents looking for their daily workout. Audio content is a great marketing resource.

The national – and even international – popularity of The Body Coach was phenomenal, illustrating the potential power of influencers on our everyday lives. And yet, due to copyright issues, Wicks had to conduct his sessions without backing music, after George Ezra’s record label prevented him from playing the artists’ music during his workouts.

It was during Wicks’ Desert Island Discs interview in June that he revealed how unaware he was of the complexities around music copyright laws. As an influencer and YouTube star, Wicks was certainly not alone in his confusion.

Fortunately for both Wicks and the nation, pop stars including George Ezra, Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran eventually stepped in and lent him their music for free, with fans young and old sharing their joy across social media at the addition of the music.

What this highlights is how important it is that influencers and creators get their music choices right and how critical sound tracks are to creating powerful and engaging content that will elevate people’s experiences of it.

But it also underscores the challenges that influencers and creators face in creating audio content and when sourcing music for their social channels.

Understanding and navigating the complex landscape of audio content and music licensing can be difficult and costly – something that home exercise company Peloton found out last year. The business was hit by a $300m copyright lawsuit from US music publishers after they used songs by artists including Taylor Swift and Rihanna across their workouts but without the correct licenses to do so. In addition to the lawsuit itself, the company subsequently faced backlash from users of the $2,000 fitness bikes who complained about the terrible ‘80s music choices that followed as a result.

As both Joe Wicks and Peloton found out, music is a key ingredient for the creation of their content. Without great music behind them, both The Body Coach and the Peloton workouts were bland and proved more difficult for audiences to engage with.

The truth is, music and sound both enhance the world around us and grab the attention of their audience, bringing us together; connecting and inspiring us. They are a universal language that transcend people, cultures and geographies – something fundamental within the world of content creation.

Music shouldn’t just be a nice-to-have, but a must-have. Yet it is vital that influencers and creators understand the complexities around copyright laws, ensuring that any music they choose to use within their content is not just engaging but crucially that they have permission to use it.

Here are some handy tips that can help influencers to navigate the complex landscape of music licensing:

  • An influencer can’t use a piece of music without consent from the copyright holders unless the music is royalty free;
  • An influencer must seek the permission of the copyright holders which, for any commercial track, will be likely obtained from the music publisher(s) and the record label;
  • The music publisher and record labels will set out the fees which must be paid prior to the usage;
  • The specific usage terms must be agreed in writing between all parties;
  • Any usage that falls outside of these terms may result in a cease and desist on the influencers content which would have it removed – not a good look for an influencer.

It is worth seeking the advice of a professional music supervisor to handle any copyright clearance.