How to Legally Add Copyrighted Music to Your YouTube Video

2006 Pentaport Rock Festival
Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

If you use commercial music as the background for your YouTube video without permission, you may be violating US copyright law, and the music rights holder may issue a copyright claim on your video. 

Using YouTube's AudioSwap feature is an easy way to give your YouTube video a soundtrack. It's easy, legal, and free. This method works for both videos with no existing sound and videos with dialog or other sounds where you just want some music in the background.


  1. Go to your Channel
  2. Go to your video manager page. 
  3. You'll see a list of all the videos you've uploaded. 
  4. Next to the video you want to enhance, click on the Add Music button. 

Next, browse for the music you'd like to use. By default, YouTube lists only Featured Tracks, which are ad-free and don't prevent you from monetizing your video. The music may not be as exciting as the latest rock song, but it gives you the most options. Browse by genre to find anything from children's songs to dance tracks. 

You can also search through the 150,000 songs available in YouTube's library, and some of these may be commercial rock songs. However, using music in the library that isn't a Featured Track is going to prevent you from monetizing your video. This may or may not be a concern for you. 

You can preview the soundtrack along with your video on the right, and, if necessary, position the audio so that it begins or ends somewhere other than the default setting.

Adjust the slider below the video between "favor original audio" for videos with a lot of existing sound or dialog and "only music" for videos where you want to replace all existing audio with your new soundtrack. 

You can either save the video or save it as a new video (in case you wanted to keep the original intact.) 

That's it. You now have a legal soundtrack for your video.


If you want to make your own fan video for a song, you may want to experiment by uploading a blank tester video and setting your broadcast options to private. You can get the timing right and upload the actual video later.

Sometimes you may get a copyright claim on a video you've uploaded with music from a commercial source, but rather than blocking the video, YouTube gives you a message that "The claimant is allowing their content to be used in your YouTube video. However, ads might appear on it." 

In this case, you are allowed to keep the video as is, but you can't run ads of your own on it. Some copyright holders do this in order to advertise their own product (buy the soundtrack here).