How to Find Royalty Free Music That Doesn’t Suck

    If you’ve ever been a film school student or a no-budget independent filmmaker, then you know the pain. Finding high quality music to fit your movie for free is darn near impossible.

    God bless Kevin MacCleod, but if I hear “Sneaky Snitch” in one more short film I’m going to throw something.

    Before you get started on the journey of including royalty free music, be sure you understand the laws surrounding creative commons and licensed music. Every artist may have different stipulations for the use of their music in your film; many of them refuse it for commercial use (you would make a monetary profit from the video) and almost all will require you to credit their work.

    “Royalty free music” does NOT always mean “free to use.”

    Please have a firm understanding of what is required of you in using the artist’s piece before including it in your film. When in doubt, contact the artist and ask them directly.

    Here’s a list of resources for your own short films and videos to help fill it out and bring it to life.

    1. Incompetech

    I literally warned you about “Sneaky Snitch” two seconds ago, however there’s no denying Kevin MacCleod’s music is iconic to the fledgling filmmaker. It can also be a great introduction into the world of royalty-free music for film. If you’ve never used any of his music, check it out!

    However, don’t be surprised when you hear it in every other student short film known to humankind.

    2. Free Music Archive

    With a wide variety of music, some with lyrics and some without, this is a great one stop shop for all your royalty free music needs. All the music is free to download and easy to use. It has a great search engine to better find the kind of music you’re looking for.

    Also, if you’re an up-and-coming composer, you can upload your works to this website for filmmakers (or whoever) to download.

    However, like every royalty free music site, you really need to invest some time in separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality.

    3. Bensound

    Another website similar in style to Free Music Archive, but with a more limited library, Bensound is filled with royalty free music by French composer Ben Tissot. There is some great work on this site, but much like Kevin MacCleod’s works don’t be surprised to hear it in several other short films and videos.

    4. YouTube Channels

    Currently, YouTube provides me with the best royalty-free music on the internet, particularly if I’m looking for anything remotely resembling trap/club music.

    You can find music one of two ways:

    • Look through the audio library and download the song you like directly from YouTube
    • Search YouTube the old fashioned way, find a channel with great royalty free music, and follow the channel’s instructions to download the track you like. Channels like RoyalTrax, AudioLibrary, and Argofox are great places to start.

    You’ll find some familiar faces hanging out on YouTube as well (Bensound & Kevin MacCleod). The only downsides to using YouTube as a source are:

    1. It can be a complicated process downloading the track you like.
    2. Finding the specific style of music you’re looking for can be a bit more complicated than some of the other sites.

    A FEW MORE OPTIONS….

    Now before you start a download frenzy with the above listed resources, here are a few more options to think about.

    5. Hire a Local, Up and Coming Composer For Free

    Of all of the roles in film production, I’ve never had a group of people literally throw themselves at me like film composers. 60% of the messages we get as a production company asking for an opportunity are composers. I’m not kidding or exaggerating (if anything I lowballed the percentage).

    There are people out there who are looking for a chance to score a film. Ask for their samples of previous works, and if you like what you hear, then you’re able to help them out as well as yourself.

    6. Ask Your Musically Talented Friends to Help You

    Other than downloading music from the interwebs, this is my go-to for finding music for my projects. Being a creative, I have no shortage of friends who are musical geniuses who have yet to make a break into the business.

    They often appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves in creating something, as much as I appreciate receiving some great music for my film.

    Be sure to ask a friend however who is open to constructive feedback and direction. You don’t want to ruin a great relationship over a short film.

    7. Audiojungle

    If I find myself in a pinch, I bite the bullet and purchase a song from this comprehensive music library.

    While there is plenty of mediocre music on the site, there is just as much of good quality. I’ve never been disappointed by a track I’ve downloaded, and to date I’ve never paid more than $20AUD for a track.

    There is some great music out there, free for you to use. Happy hunting everyone, and don’t be afraid to find creative solutions.

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    • Brenden Bell

      Screenwriter, Editor, Blogger, and Visual Content Manager

      Brenden Bell is a screenwriter, video producer, editor, teacher, and Visual Content Manager with The Initiative Production Company. He loves eating ice cream, everything nerdy/dorky, thinking too much, and dogs (mostly just the big ones, but he’s open-minded)

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