You may or may not be aware of the fact that there are several “Creative Commons” music sites where you can download free and legal music for your radio stations.
The “Creative Commons” license which are provided by the non-profit organization “Creative Commons” grants a form of copyright permissions to any creators own creative work. The license then allows the works creators to retain this copyright whilst at the same time allowing others to copy, distribute and make some uses of their work under their own conditions. This could be as for “non-commercial” uses for example. There are several different types of “Creative Commons” licenses in place and a more detailed explanation of how they work can be found here.
Below are some of the various “Creative Commons” music sites that are available.
Free Music Archive
iPluggers also offer a free plugging service for radio stations in which you can obtain new and free music for airplay:
Not only can these websites provide you with new, unheard and original content for your stations, but this also provides a good alternative for broadcasters who want to broadcast without having to acquire a broadcasters license.
We recently set up two radio stations created purely with content downloaded at the Free Music Archive. If you would like to have a listen and get an idea of the quality of some of the music that is available at just their website alone, you can tune into both of the stations here and hear for yourselves:
'Polymer Radio' (Electronic / Dance).
'Undertow Radio' (Rock / Indie).
Before creating the stations, we got in contact with the Free Music Archive to enquire about the possibility of using content from their website in such a manner. They offered a very nice and helpful reply which advised us that as we formulated our playlist, they recommend that we used their search page to specify that we were looking for music for “commercial use” and music that can be used in a podcast, meaning basically that it could be used for online streaming without having to pay any royalties.
On the search page at the Free Music Archive, in the left columns you have the option to search for tracks that “Allows for commercial use”. At the time of writing this guide there is almost around 4000 such tracks that are available to choose from. To then see what license is then being used for any specific song, you can then just click on the track title. This will then take you to the song page for the track on which the right hand column then displays what license the artist has selected for their work.
We received some other useful advice from the Free Music Archive on the different type of creative commons licensing and some things to be aware of when searching for tracks to use.
Where as we have mostly outlined here how to find usable tracks from the Free Music Archive, with some of the other websites available you may need to do a some research into what you can actually use from these sites. In some instances, as advised to us by two other Creative Commons websites Opsound and NoiseTrade. You may need to actually contact the composer of a track so that different arrangements can be made based upon the artist's direct permissions. Such arrangements might possibly free a station from the need to attribute the artists as their Attribution / ShareAlike license requires. This would would however involve a station having to contact each artist individually for permission and therefore being granted a waiver.FMA artists give their permission through licenses. A license is an agreement that prescribes the terms under which a copyrighted work may be used. Many of the licenses that cover works on the Free Music Archive are so-called “Creative Commons” (or “CC”) licenses. The majority of our artists use CC licenses to explain the kind of permission they want to give.
To see what license is being used for a specific song, click on the track title. Then, on the song page, look at the right hand column. There you should see what license the artist has selected for their work.
Currently, there are six CC licenses, which allow varying degrees of use and impose varying requirements on users. To achieve this diversity of options while keeping things relatively simple, CC mixes and matches four key license terms: Attribution, NonCommercial (“NC”), NoDerivatives (“ND”), and ShareAlike (“SA”).
A brief rundown of the terms: NC allows you to use the licensed work non-commercially (which means you need additional permission from the rightsholder before using the work for commercial purposes); ND means you cannot build upon, remix the work, or use it in a video; SA allows you to remix a work so long as you share it under the same CC license that covers the original work; and Attribution, which is currently in every CC license, requires you to give credit to the rightsholder when you use the work.
For a more detailed explanation of CC’s license terms and a summary of each individual license, visit Creative Commons.
Here's a wiki many of our users find helpful, identifying a few things licensees should consider before using Creative Commons works:
Frequently Asked Questions - CC Wiki
The Australian Creative Commons team have produced a very useful guide on attributing works in different formats. In this guide a section on podcasting can be found, so you may wish to use this information and apply it to attributing any artists work that you may use in your own live / pre recorded shows and playlists. The Creative Commons website also offers information on the “Best Practices for Marking Content with CC Licenses” here.
*Please note that we are not legal experts and this guide is merely an overview of using “Creative Commons” music and the licensing involved. We strongly suggest doing your own research into the topic with the information and links provided and also always be fully aware of the licensing requirements of any content that you may wish to use for your own station. If you are ever unsure of using any content found on some the websites we have mentioned here or others, it is always worth contacting them directly for advise, as they will be in a better position than us to advise you on the legality’s and licensing permissions of their own websites content.