Looking for some great music for your newest film but don’t have the budget for hiring a composer? You’re in luck because there’s actually a lot of great music out there that is royalty free or in the public domain that may work perfectly for your next film. Whether you’re a pro filmmaker or a novice YouTube video creator, having a quality soundtrack behind your visual masterpiece is going to make a huge difference.
There’s nothing more frustrating than selecting link after link of MPEG or WAV files in search of a good, moody piece of music, only to find some crappy, poorly recorded junk. The good news is, there are a few sites that offer superb songs with quality arrangements that were recorded in a professional studio. These sites have their music categorized by genre to help you weed through the stuff you’re not interested in, so you can get to the gems.
I’ve compiled a list of the key things to look for when choosing a royalty free music website. I believe these suggestions will help you find the music you’re looking for. Keep in mind, most of the time the hardest part of finding good music is sorting through the junk once you’ve found a site. You’ll be looking for sites that offer the best music and are easy to navigate. Also look for sites that are professionally built and equipped with real time players to sample the songs. You’ll want an instant download button to copy the songs directly to your computer. The most important things are finding a site that is safe and that offers their music for free.
Remember, if you are using the music for something other than personal, let’s say uploading a video to YouTube, you will still need to place an attribute on your finished work. In some commercial cases you will need to pay a one-time licensing fee of perhaps 25 or 50 bucks, but that’s it.
Here’s my list of the ten key things to look for in royalty free music websites:
1. Free downloads
Look for sites that offer free downloads of their music. If they’re asking for money up front, move on to the next site.
2. Real time player
A good site will have a built-in music player so you can easily sample a song with one click. You would think this is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised.
3. Easy to navigate pages
You want to look for a site that has their music categorized by genres or music styles.
4. Quality sound
What good are a thousand songs if they all sound like crap? Listen to a few selections and you’ll know right away if the music was recorded in a professional studio or someone’s bathroom.
5. Licensing options
The best sites offer their music to the public for free but for those who want to use the music for YouTube videos or Facebook postings, you’ll need a Creative Commons license. Also a quality site will offer a standard license for filmmakers and other commercial applications.
6. Vocal and non-vocal mixes of each song
Being able to mix up your soundtrack by introducing a recurring theme is a great option. Perhaps you want to start with the instrumental version of a song, then use the vocal version during your film’s closing credits. It’s a classy Hollywood trick used by the best filmmakers. Remember Titanic?
7. Visual Representation for each song
Some sites offer a photo or picture as a representation of how the song is going to ‘feel’. It’s a great tool for quickly perusing through song titles.
8. Limited Quantity
Bigger is not always better. Some sites offer an overwhelming selection of music. Sometimes less is more. Who wants to search through 10,000 songs?
9. Search Feature
Some sites offer a search feature to narrow your results. For instance, you can type in a particular mood or other key characteristic to find the songs that interests you.
10. Custom Music Services
Some sites have music producers for hire who can create a song or entire soundtrack for those movies or commercial projects that want unique and original music.
Talking about originality, how can you know if the song you want has been used many times before? Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how many thousands of people have used the same song you may want to use. Perhaps it’s better to take the road less traveled and pick from smaller, lesser known websites. There’s plenty of great royalty free music out there if you do a little digging.