TikTok Commercial Sounds: Everything You Need to Know (2023)
If you’re reading this, you probably already know how TikTok works. The short videos platform revolves around reusing sounds created by other users to create your own original videos. Using popular sounds is key to your videos performing well on TikTok, since both the app’s recommendations algorithm and its user base value Trending Sounds a lot.
If you’re a brand, however, things aren’t as simple as slapping the new #1 hit song over a video and calling it a day. You might have heard about the recent scandal involving music critic Anthony Fantano and the gaming publisher Activision. The former demanded a six-figure sum from Activision, alleging that they used one of his trending TikTok sounds (an audio recording of him saying “too many slices!”) to promote one of their upcoming releases without his permission. Activision retorted by taking the music critic to court, claiming they didn’t need his explicit permission to use his voice in their promotional video because they found it in TikTok’s Commercial Sounds Library.
So, what is the Commercial Sounds Library, and how can you, as a business, take advantage of it to avoid opening yourself up to copyright strikes and lawsuits? Read on to find out!
What are Commercial Sounds on TikTok?
The TikTok Commercial Sounds, or Commercial Music Library (CML for short), is a library of over half a million sounds and songs which TikTok has, in their own words, “pre-cleared for commercial use on the platform”. That means businesses and brands are free to use them for promotional videos on TikTok without going through the (lengthy and expensive) process of securing their own license.
TL;DR: If you’re a brand (or an influencer working with one) and you need audio for your TikTok, your options are either using the Commercial Music Library or creating your own sound. Unless you don’t mind the risk of being sued.
Who can access the TikTok Commercial Sounds library?
Like most social media platforms, TikTok allows users to register Creator accounts and Business accounts. The TikTok Commercial Sounds library is only available to Business accounts. If you can’t access the library, head to Settings > Privacy > Manage Account and follow the instructions to switch to a Business account.
Doing any kind of commercial activity, such as promoting your brand or products on a Creator account, is against the Terms of Service anyway, so it’s a good idea to make the switch anyway unless you’re willing to risk being banned.
Can TikTok Business Accounts use non-commercial sounds?
If you’re using a TikTok Business Account, you’ve probably encountered an error message saying that certain songs are “not licensed for commercial use”. That’s because TikTok doesn’t allow business accounts to use mainstream music in their videos anymore unless the music is part of their Commercial Sounds Library.
Luckily for you, Business accounts can still access user-created sounds (such as Anthony Fantano’s “too many slices” voice clip we mentioned earlier. But should business accounts use the regular sounds library? Well, it depends.
Influencers can use the regular TikTok sounds library for non-commercial content. That means that as long as the video isn’t a brand collaboration and you’re just trying to be creative and entertain your followers, you don’t have to worry about using sounds from the regular TikTok library.
However, you should stick to the Commercial Sounds Library when doing brand collaborations, since those videos have a commercial purpose. Not doing so can leave you and the brand you’re collaborating with open to legal problems later down the line.
If you’re a brand account, you should always stick to the TikTok Commercial Sounds library. Since all of your content revolves around promoting your own brand, products or services, it can be argued that all of your videos have a commercial purpose, so you should stick with Commercial Sounds just to be safe.
You should also know that TikTok Business Accounts are not able to duet, react to or stitch with user videos that use copyrighted songs from the regular music library. You can, however, do all of that with videos using Commercial Sounds.
How to use Commercial Sounds on TikTok:
If you want to use TikTok Commercial Sounds on your phone, you need to take the following steps:
1. Make sure you’re using a Business Account
Before you can access the Commercial Sounds Library on TikTok, make sure you’ve switched to a business account. You can do that by opening the right side menu, going to Settings and Privacy > Account > Manage Account and clicking on Switch to Business Account.
2. Create a TikTok by clicking on the big plus button at the bottom of the screen
Click the Plus button in the middle port of the lower screen. Choose a video from your camera roll or record one using the TikTok camera app.
3. Click the Sound button
After you’ve got your footage, click the Sound button in the lower left corner of the screen. Now that you’ve got a business account, it should take you straight to the Commercial Sounds library.
You can use the search bar at the top to search for specific sounds, or use the Discover tab to see what’s popular:
The Recommended sounds are suggested by TikTok’s algorithm based on your video.
The Playlist section allows you to browse different playlists which are constantly updated with new songs. These are separated by genre, topic or even virality.
Use the TiktTok Viral playlists to find Commercial Songs that are currently popular or trending on the platform.
If you want to plan out your content, here’s what you need to do to browse the TikTok Commercial Music library on PC:
Log into your TikTok account and follow this link to get to TikTok’s Creative Center.
Here, you’ll be able to see all of the TikTok Commercial Songs available. You can browse through playlists or search for songs just like you would on your mobile device.
PRO TIP: Make sure to select your targeted region using the drop-down in the top-left part of the screen. This will ensure that the songs are cleared for distribution in that region and also adjust the song recommendations based on what’s popular there.
What you can and can’t do with the Commercial Sounds Library on TikTok
The Commercial Music Library may be free, but there are still some rules to remember. You can read the whole thing over on TikTok’s official help article, but we’ve done our best to sum up the most important parts for you:
- You can only share commercial videos using Commercial Sounds Library audio on TikTok itself. They aren’t licensed for distribution on any other platform, including TV, radio, or theaters.
- You aren’t allowed to distribute any of the TikTok Commercial Sounds separate from the video you used them in.
- Lastly, you aren’t allowed to use the sounds in connection with content that’s illegal or violates TikTok’s Terms and Conditions. We figured this last one was pretty self-explanatory.
How to make the most out of TikTok’s Commercial Music library
Now that you understand how the TikTok Commercial Music library works, we’ve put together a small list of best practices, as well as things you should try to avoid doing:
1. Use the TikTok Viral playlist to find songs that perform well
If you open the Music tab in TikTok’s Creative Center, you’ll be able to find playlists of commercial library songs. Make sure you check out the TikTok Viral playlist to see the best-performing songs. You can filter them by region if you’re targeting a specific audience.
2. Don’t give up on your brand identity for a couple of extra views
It can be tempting to just use the most popular sounds to try and maximize your reach, but remember that brand guidelines exist for a reason. Having one successful TikTok isn’t worth alienating your existing audience, especially if your brand has been around for a while and has established a strong identity.
3. Make sure any influencers you collaborate with know about the Commercial Sounds Library
Like we mentioned earlier, the rules for using copyrighted music and sounds on TikTok don’t just apply to big brands or businesses. They also apply to influencers doing sponsored videos or brand deals on TikTok.
If your brand collaborates with TikTok influencers, ensure they only use audio from the Commercial Sounds Library. Many people ignore these rules, and you don’t want your company to be caught in the crossfire if someone decides to sue!
Lastly, here are some things that you should NOT do if you’re a TikTok Business Account:
1. Don't try to revert back to a Creator account just to use copyrighted music
We know it’s tempting, but we’ll have to insist that you don’t. Using a Creator account for your brand or business is against TikTok’s Terms of Service, which means you will get banned for it as soon as you gain enough traction on the platform for someone to notice.
And that’s on top of the potential lawsuits, and copyright strikes you’re opening yourself up to.
2. Don’t bother re-uploading copyrighted music to pass it off as an Original Sound
Another way brands try to skirt the rules when it comes to copyrighted music on TikTok is uploading a copyrighted song and passing it off as their own Original Sound. Needless to say, this doesn’t work.
In the age of AI, detecting copyrighted songs is trivial. And once your video gets flagged for using copyrighted audio, it can get muted or removed, and your TikTok account will be banned.
Well, we hope we’ve shed some light on what the Commercial Sounds Library is on TikTok and what you should or shouldn’t do to promote your brand. We wish you good luck on your TikTok journey, and if you still have any questions, check out our FAQ section below!
Frequently asked questions
Why is TikTok saying I can only use commercial sounds?
What sounds are copyrighted on TikTok?
Is a TikTok Business Account worth it?