Instagram Reels, Instagram’s answer to TikTok, hit our feeds about two years ago now, and it’s taken marketers about that long to realise they’re going to be a pretty important part of the social media mix moving forward.
The Reels feature allows content creators to shoot, edit and post short-form video (now max 90 seconds) to the Reels-specific feed and general feed on the app. It also allows users to use native audio or add music – essentially any old track in the seemingly endless music library.
Attaching a trending song to your Reel is similar to using hashtags for discoverability purposes. You have the opportunity to reach a wider audience and popular tunes can increase the viralability (this is a word in the Urban Dictionary, fight me) potential of your video – something businesses don’t want to miss out on.
But navigating what Business accounts can and can’t use on Instagram is far from straightforward. And the rules for doing so are even more convoluted.
I’ve been looking into this topic for a month now as I try to put together a best practice guide for my clients. My biggest realisation so far is that the policies are constantly changing.
According to Instagram’s Help Centre: “We want to encourage musical expression on our platforms while also ensuring that we uphold our agreements with rights holders. Based on these agreements, which are designed to protect artists, songwriters and their works, many accounts have access to our licensed music library, but certain business accounts or types of posts do not. This is because our agreements with rights holders are intended to enable personal, non-commercial uses of music. For those accounts that do not have access to our licensed music library, we have provided them with access to Facebook’s Sound Collection.”
BUT to make things just that little bit more complicated, according to Meta’s Business Help Centre, “Sound Collection is only accessible from your computer.” Not great when organic, on-the-go content is what Instagram users crave.
But not all hope is lost. Your business accounts still have plenty of opportunities to gain their five seconds of Reels fame – we just have to play inside the rules.
Use royalty-free music
Possibly the most obvious solution is to just bypass the copyrighted tracks and go straight for the royalty-free kind. I know what you’re going to say – royalty-free tracks are boring, uninspiring and bland, but you’re wrong. Well, sometimes. While it may take a bit of digging, there are definitely musical gems to find, and who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt?
There are a range of platforms where you can access royalty free music, including Facebook Sound Collection, YouTube Royalty Free Music, SoundCloud and Pixabay. Just make sure you check the terms and conditions of each platform and song before you set your heart on anything or waste hours editing only to realise it’s a no go.
Use someone else’s original audio
When you’re scrolling through Instagram Reels, you never know when inspiration might strike. Luckily, other users’ original audio is fair game, and could be the golden nugget you’re looking for. All you have to do is click on the video in question’s audio and you’ll be on your merry way ready to #contentcreate.
Note: Be aware that just because it’s someone’s “original audio” doesn’t mean that they haven’t just ripped a top 40 song off the internet and uploaded it natively. The onus is on you, the publisher, to ensure you’re not benefiting from copyrighted music.
Use your own original audio
Using your own voice as audio (maybe with the help of some royalty-free backing music), or remixing/making your own song can do the trick. Yes, you’re a DJ now. *cough* I still wouldn’t give up my day job if I were you. *cough* Using your own original audio is totally copyright free and will save you from numblessly scrolling through hours of music libraries and original audio lists. #win
Note: If any original audio includes copyrighted music, it does not change the copyright laws.
Now this one is totally going to depend on your budget, but licensing the track you want is possible. Obviously huge recording artists might be too big of a fish to catch, but if you look a little more locally or on a smaller stage, you never know your luck in finding something totally usable.
There are certain work arounds to gain access to Instagram’s full audio library, which you could call grey areas, but I won’t aid and abet you in your endeavours there. I’d like to keep my hands clean, please and thank you.
While it can feel like you need a trending song to make your video pop and increase your chances of going viral, it’s not impossible to do so without one. Get the right catchy tune or voiceover, and both your audio and video could be going viral and rolling in the engagement.
BTW, if you’re looking to get the low-down on Reels in general, I’ll take the opportunity to plug my article on The Slice covering this topic here. You can thank me later.
IMPORTANT: THE CONTENT OF THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE, AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS SUCH. PLEASE REFER TO INSTAGRAM’S, META’S AND FACEBOOK’S TERMS & CONDITIONS OR CONSULT A LAWYER.