File Under: Making Videos

This article is part of the Get Seen series: improving your videos to increase viewership and engagement, create better and more video content, and grow your fanbase and audience.

With video being a critical in promoting your music and growing your audience, musicians need to know how best to create engaging videos, with as much care as you do your music. So to help, over the past five weeks we tackled the importance of creating high-quality audio, proper lighting for your videos, techniques to speed up and simplify your video production process, and eight prep steps you should use before completing and uploading your videos to YouTube. This week we're tackling the problem of finding footage and image assets to use in videos.

While many video makers simply grab imagery and video from sources all over the internet and pop them into their video without checking who owns those images and videos, they are putting themselves at risk of takedown notices and lawsuits, especially if the video goes viral. So, if you're still in your production process, you have an opportunity to use pre-cleared material to avoid this problem from the start.

One of the key concepts behind using pre-cleared material such as images and videos is the term, royalty-free. This means you don't need to pay anything to distribute the material. This doesn't mean it doesn't cost money to get the rights to use it, however. So, some royalty-free images and videos are free to use, while others may charge a fee. Use the following steps to find both types of royalty-free materials you can use for your videos:

1. Check out public domain sources.

Public domain video recordings and images are free to use and distribute, so they're the best place to start. You can search sites like (such as or Public Domain Movies (which has the original Night of The Living Dead movie).

2. Use Creative Commons search tools.

Creative Commons (CC) licenses allow creators a standard way to grant permission to use their work to others. Creative Commons licenses vary, but many are royalty-free, allow for commercial use, and allow for modification/adaptation. All Creative Commons licenses require you to attribute who created the work you're incorporating within your video. So, if you use a CC video or image, you'll need to credit the owner to let others know where the video or image you used came from. The Creative Commons Search Site aggregates sites across the internet to help you search for CC royalty-free material. You can also adjust the search tool so it only shows you videos or images that meet the license you want to use. To be on the safe side, we recommend you search for images or videos that allow use for commercial purposes (you're a music business after all!) and modification and adaptation (so you can change or edit them if needed before incorporating it within your video.) That said, when you find a video or image you like, read the CC license carefully since some of the licenses require you to put the finished work under the same license which you may not wish to do.

3. Use YouTube’s built-in licensing tools.

When videomakers upload videos to YouTube, one of the things it asks them to choose is the license. They then choose "all rights reserved", "some rights reserved" (releasing it under a Creative Commons license), or "no rights reserved" (putting the video or image directly into the public domain for anyone to use). For those licensed under a CC attribution-only licence, YouTube has made these automatically accessible for other YouTube users to use in their own videos. You can access these videos through their YouTube Video Editor tool. This allows you to use and remix a ton of videos, but also more than 10,000 royalty-free videos from sources like C-SPAN, US Government videos, Voice of America, Al Jazeera, and others via the CC tab within the tool. Plus, if you use the YouTube Video Editor tool, it automatically gives attribution by showing the source video's titles in the video description. Note however that while you retain your copyright in your video, others will get to reuse your work subject to the terms of the CC license

4. Use loop and sample services.

There are also commercial sites that provide royalty-free video footage and images. Sites like iStockPhoto (video --; images --, GettyImages (video; images --, and BBCMotionGallery (, which partnered with GettyImages) are just a few. These sites require a fee to purchase the right to initially use and incorporate the material, but are otherwise royalty-free for distribution.

As you download the images and footage, make sure that you read the terms and conditions carefully so you can be sure they're royalty-free and to understand the attribution or commercial use requirements. Once you do, you may wish to track where you get each image and clip, just in case it becomes a factor if you decide to make another video or related works.


#video #videoseries #production #royalty-free #creativecommons

Photo credit: badjonni