What makes music “legal” to use in your video? Simple. You have the artist’s permission to use it. And no, buying a CD doesn’t automatically confer the artist’s permission for you to rip your favorite track off it and stick it in your video. Sorry. But all isn’t lost!
“Royalty-free” is a phrase you are going to hear a lot when you start doing your own videos. What does it mean? Most commercial music artists make their money from concerts, album/CD sales/iTunes sales/ OR they get paid a fee each time their music is played on the radio. This fee is known as a royalty and it can be Big Bucks. If you use a track from a well-known artist in your video which you posted on YouTube, technically you owe the artist that fee every time someone plays your video on their home PC. This could be a lot of money! So we use royalty-free music instead and avoid paying those big bucks. This is music that you either download free or that you’ve paid a fee to use in your videos, on which the artist has waived that every-time-it-plays-fee.
Most of us in the Multimedia SIG are using one or the other of two basic types of royalty-free music sources, which we’ll list below:
- Free Sites: There are sites that give you permission to download their music at no cost and use it in your video without paying royalties. Not many, but there are a few sites that do this.
- Fee Sites: There are other sites (more are appearing all the time) that require you to pay for that music download and then you can use it without paying additional royalties.
Note that the music in either case is still protected by copyright. The owner or creator of the music (not always the same person) has just given their permission to you or licensed you to use it in your video. And always look for any licensing requirements! Even the completely free sites will still usually require some sort of attribution/credit for their music in your video’s credits. You should always comply with their requirements because the music is, after all, free.
The sites listed below are just a few of what is available out there. Do some research and you’ll be astonished at what you can find.
Free Music Sites
- Free Music Archive. Fairly cumbersome to use, but there is an incredible amount of free music here. Note! The Archive sent out a message in early November that they would be shutting down for lack of operating funds. This has not happened yet (as of 11/22/18), but it could at any time. Recommend you download any favorites asap!
- Incompetech. One of the oldest and best completely free sites out there. Kevin MacLeod’s music is all over YouTube. Note! Kevin may be going to a fee structure soon.
- Our Music Box. Another free source. Sample tunes sometimes are slow to load.
- Creative Commons. If you don’t know anything about Creative Commons, you owe it to yourself to check this out. Plus, there are links to even more free stuff.
- Internet Archive. A site full of free stuff, including music, videos, and much, much more. Prepare to get lost for hours in all sorts of very cool stuff!
- Did you know that YouTube has free music to use? The catch is that your video has to be posted on YouTube for it to be legal.
Fee Music Sites
These all have varying fee structures, from pay-per-piece to monthly or annual subscriptions. All will let you listen to their offerings before you lay down your money.
Other Thoughts on Music in Your Video
Sound is half of your video. For most of us, music makes up the majority of the sound in our videos, so music is — obviously — important. If you want a quality end result, you’ll quickly find that this is going to take effort on your part. No kidding, the more effort you put into it, the better the result. Once you’ve been doing this for awhile you will be able to tell very quickly who has made the effort… and who has not. Here’s some additional background on sound, music, and editing.
- The Fundamental Elements of Film Music (Another great presentation by John Hess of Filmmaker IQ)
- How Film Scores Play With Our Brains
- Film Editing: Should You Edit Scenes To Music?
[And finally, an Easter Egg for everyone who read this far — you’ll like it!]
Last Update: 12/7/2018