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.

 

Written by Brenden Bell.

Jack Sparrow & Me

Written by Connor Campbell.

Every filmmaker has those films that inspired them to pursue their dream and make films of their own. I am no different.

But looking back on these films, I noticed a distinct pattern and discovered a connection between the films that inspired me and the stories I now create.

When I think about this, it makes quite a bit of sense, but yet it still came as a bit of a surprise to me. But what is the specific connection I found? And how does apply to you? Well, follow along.

  1. Chariots of Fire

1

This is the first film I remember being overly interested in. And by that, I mean I would watch it over and over again. But here’s the bizarre part: I was only four years old.

So how did a film such as this, which could be described as a slow-moving drama, captivate a four-year-old?

The simple answer is music and running.

As a kid I was fascinated by the running and racing in the film. According to my parents I would get quite into it and watch the film standing only a couple feet away from the TV.

The film’s epic soundtrack also assisted in capturing my attention. I absolutely loved the music in this film and still do today. It’s a great soundtrack.

Something deeper I noticed, however, is why these things caught my eye (or ear). At four years old, I didn’t understand story or character development. Theme would go well over my head. So what was it?

Entertainment. I was thoroughly entertained by this film. This was the beginning of my discovery on why I create the stories I do.

And I think this happens to people more often than not. Think about it. Look back and see if you can find that first film you really enjoyed. How has it influenced you?

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

2

What young filmmaker hasn’t been influenced in some way by Peter Jackson’s brilliant film trilogy? Any filmmaker my age has mentioned how The Lord of the Rings influenced them at some point or another.

I could talk for a very long time on the how and/or why these films are so influential, but I feel like I took something much different than most.

Sometime before I watched these films, the books had been read to me. So it was incredibly fascinating for me to see these great stories retold on the screen.

Despite the fact I was exposed to the books first, if given the choice, I would choose to watch the films rather than read the books. This introduced my interest in visual storytelling.

When the books were read to me, I would imagine them as a film. So when I actually watched those stories in a movie form, I was hooked on the idea that I could do the same thing.

Learning something from these films is incredibly relatable to any up and coming filmmaker. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in a film such as this? It’s epic scale and intriguing journey make for a great inspiration.

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

3

So far my journey to film consisted of entertainment with a flare of visual storytelling.

After watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean, however, I was back to pure entertainment. I was old enough by then to understand story and I think this film’s story is quite good. But the amount of entertainment this film provides is through the roof.

This film has everything I enjoy: Great characters, genre blending, and visually interesting.

While great characters and visually interesting is a more typical thing to enjoy about a film, genre blending is not.

I thoroughly enjoy mixing different genres together, especially if they’re not commonly put together. Pirates of the Caribbean mixes fantasy, swashbuckler, and comedy and ends up with great balance.

And while I didn’t realize this at the time, this film also proves you don’t necessarily have to follow the structure of story to the letter. This has had a massive influence on me as a storyteller. I enjoy adding bizarre moments and beats that don’t always make sense until much later in the film.

Think about the films that you like, but you don’t even really know why. I mean, you know you enjoy it and it’s a fun time, but what is the true reason behind all of that? If you looked deeper into those films, you’ll begin to discover commonalities with your own work.

So now my interest in entertainment value expanded into practical application.

  1. Star Trek (2009)

4-secondary

Sometimes films just speak to you. And more often than not, those films heavily influence you. Don’t ever think that that is a bad thing. Allow those films to help shape how you create.

This is my favourite film of all time, so it’s no shock that it ended up on this list and I openly admit it influences nearly everything I have written since seeing it.

Every time I watch this film, I enjoy it more and more. And now as I’ve gained more knowledge about film I can articulate why.

This is another case of taking something I already knew and portraying it in a way I was much more captivated by. I watched seasons upon seasons of Star Trek television shows and while I enjoyed them very much, the 2009 feature film reboot was what I really wanted.

J.J. Abrams, who I am a big fan of by the way, perfectly merges together the two things that make a good film: entertainment and story.

These elements are vital in producing good content. Story is obviously very important, but to me film is a form of entertainment. Although you may not see it this way, a good story does not always equal entertainment.

I won’t really elaborate on this, because that statement is purely based out of my own perception.

But going back to Star Trek, I remember walking out of the theatre and think that that was the most fun I had ever had at a movie.

I know that you’ve probably had those moments, so I’ll give you a tip on how to use that feeling to your advantage. Don’t try to copy what you’ve seen on screen. Dive deeper into the reasons why you loved the film and try adding those techniques into your own stories.

For me, this film brought on the idea of writing stories in the genre of science fiction, which I have since been fascinated with. But also it showed me how to use an ensemble-like cast but still have a clear focus on who the main character is.

  1. Avatar

5

James Cameron’s box office wonder hit Avatar only solidified my interest in science fiction and world building.

Yes, the story isn’t the most original, but you cannot deny the incredible detail and depth to the world James Cameron created.

I was mesmerized by the images on the big screen. Everything was so well thought out and intricately detailed.

In every science fiction story I create, I strive to do this. Build a world that is both interesting and detailed, but without sacrificing story for the sake of wow-factor.

Films like this should merely hint at a well thought out backstory.

To me, Avatar did this immensely well and it’s the reason why everytime I watch it, I’m still intrigued with the world. So much so, I am still very excited to see where James Cameron takes his sequels and how much further they will delve into the world created in the 2009 film.

Conclusion

I think you can see the pattern that got me hooked on film. Yes, story is a common theme, but entertainment and world building are the big standouts to me.

This reflects heavily on my own storytelling and how I go about conceptualizing new ideas.

So this is just a little insight into the films that propelled me into the film industry. I hope this gets you thinking on what films inspired you and the reasons you create the way you do.