Music quality feels "generic" with fewer moods and tones
Files only offered in 44,100 Hz
Free trial is now hidden
As one of the first subscription-based royalty free music services, AudioBlocks has made their mark in the industry. The service initially offered a $99/year annual subscription which was worth well the price, but have since increased this up to $149 annually. However, our affiliate link is still offering a 7-day free trial even though we can't seem to find this option on the AudioBlocks website.
Since then other competitors like SoundStripe have emerged with a better user interface and better library of quality stock music for just $135 a year. While we prefer SoundStripe, we recommend checking out both services to see which fits your needs better as they have significantly different music styles. What works best for us, might not work best for your needs.
The digital media world that we live in today is thriving, and user-uploaded content is becoming more common as each day passes. YouTube is currently the largest resource of streamable video and has strict legal standards for using copyrighted music within content hosted on the platform.
The easiest way to avoid any legal mess and ensure your video will not be removed is to utilize royalty free music. The downside is that royalty-free audio can get expensive with some sites selling the rights for YouTube use at an upwards of $50 per track.
When faced with this situation and a limited budget, we often made our way to SoundCloud where you can find audio suitable for use under the Creative Commons license.
This royalty free license allows the content to be used by others although there are often further stipulations and usually without any commercial use that is a gray area for use with monetized YouTube content. After YouTube had flagged some of our videos with Creative Commons audio within it, we decided to look for a better option.
This was when we discovered AudioBlocks, a unique service that offers unlimited access to download a vast library of songs and sound effects for a low monthly or yearly cost.
Better yet, each audio piece within the service comes with a lifetime license for royalty free use meaning you can download a track for use and still maintain the rights to use the song after your subscription period has ended.
For the rest of this review, we will be covering our experience using the AudioBlocks royalty-free subscription service over a 2 year period. We are using affiliate links (to make quality content like this available at no cost), but all opinions and views expressed within this view are our own without any bias or outside influences affecting the outcome of this review.
Subscription Pricing & Business Model
AudioBlocks offers two subscription types for the average user. The first allows for month-to-month billing that initially sounds like an excellent option for someone who doesn't want to pay for a year's worth of audio ahead of time.
However, going this route can get significantly more expensive as the monthly rate is $79 whereas the annual subscription is only $149 per year. You'll receive immediate value with the yearly subscription should you intend to subscribe for two or more months.
Editor's Note: AudioBlocks launched with $99/year and $49/month subscription costs, but has since increased these rates. We have updated these figures to reflect the most current pricing. However, our affiliate link is still offering a free 7-day trial before signing up at $149!
The $149 per year option is what we ultimately went for this reason. Considering we get 12 months of unlimited access to royalty-free music is quite a deal since it is still less than the cost of buying a license and the rights to use only three songs from other some premium pay-per-song competitors.
Now those of you who are on the fence as to whether the service is right for you can sign up for a free 7-day trial. You are granted unlimited access for a 7-day period and retain royalty-free rights to any content downloaded within that time-frame even if you don't continue your subscription further once the trial has commenced.
However, there are a few things to take note of with the trial. First off, the trial does require a credit card to initiate. This is common practice in today's world and popular services like Spotify, Amazon Prime and Netflix all do the same. While requiring a credit card upfront can be a hassle for the consumer, it ultimately leads to higher conversions and less abuse of the free trial, so it makes sense from a business standpoint.
The free trial for AudioBlocks has an odd structure. If you simply sign-up for the 7-day trial and then leave it to automatically convert into a full membership once the period is over, you’ll be transitioned into the $79/month plan.
For those of you interested in continuing the service after your trial yet you want to take advantage of the $149 per year subscription, you’ll need to log into your account and cancel the trial before the re-bill period ends. From there you’ll be prompted as to whether you want to “really” cancel your trial and then they will try to entice you to stay with the $149 per year option of which you can accept.
Licensing & Use Of Content
Unlike most Creative Commons content, the royalty-free audio files found within the AudioBlocks service are able to be used for both commercial and non-commercial use without jumping through any hoops.
According to their website, the service's royalty-free license allows the following uses:
“Our content may be used for nearly any project, commercial or otherwise, including feature films, broadcast, commercial, industrial, educational video, print projects, multimedia, games, and the internet, so long as substantial value is added to the content. Once you download a file it is yours to keep and use forever, royalty-free, even if you change your subscription or cancel your account.”
Prohibited use of their content only comes into play during the following instances:
Our content may not be:
Resold or redistributed as standalone files;
Used in any work which includes pornography, condones violence, or violates the privacy or publicity rights of any third party.
In regards to YouTube usage, we no longer have to worry about attribution within the YouTube description. We are now 100% certain that we are within my legal rights to our music selection. This goes for digital multimedia projects including podcasts, live streaming, vlogs, wedding videos, school projects and more.
This is in contrary to the use of Creative Commons content whom can become a tricky legal battle fast, should the author ever question the use of their content within your production.
Audio Library - Selection & Variety
One of the largest reasons why the AudioBlocks service is such an alluring investment is the wide variety of content found in the library.
Unfortunately, the AudioBlocks interface doesn't have any way to determine the exact amount of audio content within the entire library, but they do mention there is "over 100,000 tracks, loops and sound effects". Their website also states that new content is added daily, so this number is increasing over time.
The content is well organized making the interface easy to navigate and find precisely what you are looking for. As of now, AudioBlocks has structured their library in the following ways:
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With this wide of a selection, there is something for everyone although we are solely using the audio tracks as a means for background music within our YouTube video reviews and tutorials. If you are looking for business, drama, holiday or ambient music there should be plenty within their library.
At the time this review was originally written, this was the best library of music for the cost as no one else was offering unlimited downloads/licensing on royalty free music.
However, we believe SoundStripe's library surpasses the overall quality and variety of AudioBlocks. Something worth noting is that SoundStripediffers by solely offering royalty-free music with no sound effects or loops available.
User Interface & Ease Of Use
As stated earlier, navigating through the service's web-based interface is easy and straightforward. You can filter your results by several different criteria such a mood, genre, instruments, tempo, or duration. Once a list of results has been generated you can also sort these results by rating, download count, relevancy, date added, and popularity.
You can preview each piece of audio by hovering your cursor over the track name, and it will begin to play automatically. Each song, track or loop displays the waveform so you can foresee any changes to the pitch or tempo throughout the entirety of the track.
Once you've located a track that you are interested in, you have the option to download it in MP3 or WAV or save it to an album.
We appreciate the choice of format for downloads, but you still don't get a choice in sample rate for the audio files. All files are delivered and downloaded in 44100 Hz which isn't a big deal in our case although it may be a deal breaker for those who are overly picky about their audio needs.
Albums within AudioBlocks are playlists that you can save content to for easy reference for future use. You can create multiple albums and store audio files for different purposes. In our case, we have one album of background music and another of sound effects that we'll eventually use for shot transitions.
Having been involved in multi-media creation for the last 6 years, we know what it is like to find affordable royalty free music without running the risk of lawsuits or receiving copyright infractions.
AudioBlocks was one of the original pioneers of the subscription-based royalty free music industry and help the reigns as the top service for years although new competition like SoundStripe is keeping them on their toes offering better quality content at an affordable annual cost.
At this point in the market, we recommend taking a look at both AudioBlocks and SoundStripe's content libraries (both can be browsed for free). From there, choose which fit your needs and budgets the most.
We personally think SoundStripe provides the better quality library and choose to subscribe there over AudioBlocks although you might not feel the same way.
As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and our Managing Editor, Colt loves testing out the newest tech products/services. His goal is to help better educate other consumers to ensure the most satisfying purchases decisions on consumer electronics and services. When he is not working on creating new content, Colt enjoys spending time with his two Australian Shepherds, Mia and Zoey.
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