Copyright-free and royalty-free music: The basics
Truly copyright-free music is virtually impossible to find.Every time someone creates something that leaves a tangible mark, that's copyright. It's automatic. The only works that are unequivocally free to use by anyone in any way are those in the public domain. These are generally works whose copyright has expired. (In the US, that means nothing after 1927!)
Copyright is actually two separate permissions.Unless you're looking to use any piece of music, you also need to be clear about which rights you're interested in. Publishing rights protect the words and music of a work – the "sheet music," you could say – whereas master rights protect an individual artist's recording of a piece of music. Unless you are looking to perform your own cover version of a track, you'll be using a recording, and therefore need to license/own the master right to that recording.
"No-copyright" music is usually still technically copyrighted.Companies who license recorded music to creators have usually made a legal agreement with the owners of the recording that the owners will not make a copyright claim when the recording is used by someone else. The owners still have copyright; they're just not enforcing it.
"Royalty-free" really means "let someone else deal with it."The creator of a work can decide exactly what rights over their music they would like to give up, and under what conditions. They might decide to allow other people and organizations to use it, in return for a payment each time they do so. These payments are known as royalties.
Keeping on top of royalty payments is an enormously complicated job, which is where royalty-free music comes in. Companies who agree a fixed payment or subscription – in return for the right to use one or more tracks – can take the hassle out of paying royalties to copyright owners. With this setup, as far as creators are concerned, the music they're using is royalty-free and copyright-free. There are still royalties to pay, but the creator isn't the one doing it.
A one-off payment to fully buy out a track is one of the most concrete solutions there is – and Soundvase has you covered.