Finding the best royalty free music sites is not always an easy task with dozens of services competing out there. Our team scoured the web looking for the best value on the dollar and ultimately determined that Soundstripe is the overall winner. We decided on Soundstripe due to their competitive pricing, excellent user interface, wide selection of varying music samples and newly added support for sound effects on their higher-tier plan.
Coming in as the runner-up, AudioBlocks is a popular royalty free music site run by StoryBlocks (the same team behind VideoBlocks). While we don't love their user interface or their song/sound effect selection as much as SoundStripe they remain a viable option for many filmmakers or creative needs.
Lastly, if you are on a very tight budget and don't want to sign up for any form of royalty-free music subscription then you might have some luck checking out AudioJungle. Unlike the previous two recommendations, AudioJungle is an online marketplace for musicians and composers who want to sell their sound effects or royalty free music to filmmakers or production teams on a per-song basis thus only requiring you to pay for what you need.
The best royalty free music service based on song library, license terms and pricing.
In business since 2016, SoundStripe is a newer service geared for providing filmmakers with the best quality royalty free music tracks with easy and affordable licensing terms.
From the creators of VideoBlocks, a subscription-based royalty free music provider.
Operated under their parent company StoryBlocks, AudioBlocks is the sister service to VideoBlocks and was one of the first services to offer an unlimited royalty free music for a flat annual fee.
Best For Low-Budgets
An online marketplace for composers and songwriters to sell their work.
Part of the popular Envato Market (VideoHive, ThemeForest, CodeCanyon, etc.), AudioJungle is an online marketplace for third-party sellers to license their content to media professionals.
A common dilemma for filmmakers when creating content is copyright concerns about audio. Even more so when you have to be strict about the song genre or tempo for your project. We'll go into detail the best way to properly licensing songs for legal use in films or web content.
Video is becoming a common way to consume content via social media like YouTube or Facebook. This offers new opportunities for filmmakers or brands to get a message across to a wide audience using video content. Finding the right musical score or song to go along with your video is an important task.
Social media platforms like YouTube or Facebook can face a lawsuit if a user uploads content under copyright (even harmless short films, travel videos or a music video). The major social networks have built-in algorithms to remove videos that violate their policies. In YouTube's case, they might not remove the video. Instead, they may keep it on their platform yet offer the advertising revenue to the song author.
Being a filmmaker is not easy. A quality video project takes several hours to produce and edit. No one wants to work hard to have their video removed or filled with annoying ads that don't benefit you. This is where we can help!
In the article below, we'll introduce you to 7 of the best websites to help you find copyright free music. These services offer quality stock audio content that can be licensed for personal or commercial use.
To be able to afford to create our free content like this, we are using affiliate links for some of the recommendations (those which offer a program), but rest assured our recommendations are honest and based on integrity without any bias.
How Does Royalty Free Differ From Creative Commons?
The term ‘royalty free‘ is defined as:
“the right to use copyright material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold, or some time period of use or sales.” (Wikipedia)
What does this mean in regards to music in your films? You can buy a license grants the rights to use a copyrighted song in your videos. Social media platforms can then recognize the license allowing use of the audio their platform without any risk. Remember, buying a royalty free license doesn't mean you own exclusive rights to a song. You just have permission from the composer/artist/band to use it under the license terms.
A ‘Creative Commons‘ agreement differs by being:
“a set of various licenses that allow people to share their copyrighted work to be copied, edited, built upon, etc., while retaining the copyright to the original work (often used attributively).” (Dictionary.com)
When it comes to creative commons, there is many types of licenses. Most content holders allowing use under the Creative Commons license seek attribution (meaning video creators must give credit in the video description) and non-commercial use and only allow limited distribution of the work that incorporates their content. Some of them are so old that they are outside of the copyright regulation and remain for use in the public domain. While Creative Commons is free, it has a much smaller music archive and the risk of facing serious legal trouble for misusing the license terms.
Pricing Model: Pay-Per-Song Versus Annual Subscription?
Out of the best royalty-free websites, I'll mention in the rest of this article, there are two different business models that are commonly used. The first is a subscription-based model which may sound daunting. Surprisingly, it usually ends up being the more affordable and logical choice in the long run.
With a subscription service like Soundstripe, you'll get access to the huge library of royalty free tracks for one annual fee. Most of these services offer unlimited licenses with no use restrictions and add new songs to their libraries every week.
For second business model, you pay for each audio track, one at a time. In this case, the cost per use differs depending on what type of distribution means you'll use for the video. A license for use in an indie or wedding film will typically be cheaper than a license for use in a worldwide advertising campaign. If you are looking to use it for promotional or commercial purposes, expect the cost to rise significantly.
The “pay-per-song” license tends to be the more expensive choice. For someone who knows exactly what song they want to use in their content, it could be more suitable. Especially if you have no need to find more royalty free audio tracks later on in the year.
What Happens After My Subscription Ends?
What happens if you download and use a song during your paid membership, but don't buy or renew the annual subscription? You still maintain the rights to use that song!
Here's what the SoundStripe, the #1 on our list of the best royalty free music websites has to say on this topic:
“Each time you download a song for final use from the site, it is in perpetuity which means any song you license and use in projects you create while you’re a Soundstripe member, remain legally licensed forever and ever, amen.”
What If My Content Gets Flagged With A Proper License?
It is a pain to deal with a copyright claim after you have already paid for a license to use a song or piece of audio content. The truth is that many of these royalty free music licensing sites are third-party brokers for the original composer/artist. This requires them to use automated systems to identify piracy or unlicensed use.
The bad news is that you could still be flagged for copyright music violations on your YouTube channel , Instagram or Facebook. The good news is most of these services have dedicated pages on their websites to submit a counterclaim. The matter is usually sorted out within 48 hours. We've had only one claim in the past when using these services in our YouTube videos, and it was resolved in under a day.
Comparing The Top Royalty Free Music Services
Commerical Use (Base Price)
Best Royalty Free Music Websites (2018)
SoundStripe is one of top services in the market and most trusted source for royalty free music. They have done a great job offering one of the best subscriptions for filmmakers. With a base plan that is priced at $135/year, SoundStripe provides tens of thousands of quality audio tracks. On average, the service adds 150-250 new songs each month with new releases every Friday.
Recently, the copyright free service added a premium tier which jumps up to $245 per year and includes all the same features as their standard tier in addition to over 10,000 royalty free sound effects, music stems and pre-release access to new songs.
SoundStripe is the first place we look for songs or background tracks for our video content. I prefer their sleek and simple interface along with the advanced filtering options. If you are looking for more hip, electronic-style music then SoundStripe has the best selection. All while remaining at an affordable cost per year. Click to read our full Soundstripe review.
Since we enjoy this subscription's quality so much, we decided to try to get readers some extra value on the subscription costs. SoundStripe was kind enough to set us up with an exclusive 10% discount for any new sign-ups through our link using the coupon code: 'thetechreviewer'. Be sure to check out all the services, but reap the savings if you end up choosing SoundStripe!
AudioBlocks subsidiary of the popular stock videography website, VideoBlocks. AudioBlocks focuses on audio elements which also include sound effects and music loops. The service has been around for a few years now and has a great reputation. It operates with a subscription-based model with an annual fee of $149/year (used to be $99/year).
While I do like AudioBlocks and have used them often in the past, their library is more traditional style. It doesn't offer a whole lot of modern genre of music that I seek for out videos. Their library is vast with over 100,000 audio tracks available to choose from. Chances are you can find something to fit your needs with filters such as duration, tempo, instruments, genre, and mood.
You view their entire library before signing up, but AudioBlocks does offer a free 7-day trial. This means you can access the entire royalty free music library at no charge for the first week. As long as you cancel your account before the trial period ends you won't be billed. Click to read our full AudioBlocks review.
AudioJungle lets artists sell their audio tracks on the well-established Envato Market. Unlike the two previous services, AudioJungle has a pay-per-song model. They offer over 331K music tracks starting at just $6 per song.
The per-song price can rise from $6 all the way up to $39. There are also music packs that provide a discount on multiple tracks from the same genre or instrument. Their library of stock music is vast with options for all tastes from classical piano to heavy metal.
You can view the entire library and listen to the tracks without making an account. AudioJungle even lets you download a preview for editing purposes before buying. However, their demo files have an AudioJungle watermark until you buy a license.
MusicBed is a popular choice for many filmmakers due to their high-quality content. This makes their licensing costs higher than many of the other services listed here. The prices can rise significantly depending on the type of usage. For example, the cheapest license is for a home movie ($49), yet anything commercial starts at $199 and up.
The MusicBed interface is sleek and organized making for a pleasant browsing experience. Their list of genres covers all your basic needs. They have a lot of modern sounding content derived from more than 600 artists and composers. The MusicBed offers a ton of great instrumentals which is ideal for background music.
Recently the MusicBed added an annual membership which offers unlimited access starting at $9.99 for personal use on social media or student projects all the way up to $99.99 a month for their top tier plan (to use music for commercials or marketing videos). However, these are all 12-month commitments and not 100% of the song roster is included in this subscription.
If you have a subscription and a song or artist you want isn't supported, you do get a 25% discount on a per-project license. Additionally, MusicBed has incorporated a convenient authorization service dubbed SyncID which will provide an automated approval for YouTube so you won't get your content using MusicBed songs flagged or taken down.
Artlist is a new player in the royalty free music game. They offer a promising service with a great interface, filters and track selection for $199/year. What I like about their filters is that they have a separate section dubbed ‘video theme'. This allows you to choose songs for different types of videos like vlogs, weddings, slow motion, travel, business and technology.
Premium Beat has been a staple in the market. In the past has been seen as the top royalty free music service by many well-known filmmakers. Their pricing structure is one license per song versus a subscription.
However, they do it in an easier way with a flat rate of $49 for the ‘standard' license. This is suitable for web content or non-commercial distribution. If you are going to use the song for a non-web advertisement or revenue-generating content, then you'll pay the $199 ‘premium' license.
Competing services make you buy more licenses to use the same song for multiple projects. Once you have paid the standard licensing fee for a song, you are free to use that license for an unlimited number of projects in perpetuity. However, the premium licensing agreement only allows for use in a single project in perpetuity.
A lesser-known yet reputable service for purchasing copyright free music is HookSounds. Operating on a per-song basis, you can purchase a 'basic' license for $24 which includes commercial use and lifetime rights for social media and traditional web use.
Jumping up to the 'business' license which is $49, you can use it for advertising (Internet, local TV and radio) as well as things like podcasts, software, indie/documentary films, video games, apps, plays and background music for business.
If you are searching for royalty free music for widespread broadcast use then you'll have to jump way up to the $580 license. While expensive, this allows you to use the music for national and international advertising through television, radio and theatrically released films.
For convenience, we like that HookSounds includes a PDF certificate with every license purchase which makes it easy to prove that you have authorization to use the specific song or piece of music should a social media network or legal entity question this.
Not all filmmakers music requirements are the same. The type of tracks used in a wedding film likely wouldn't be the same as a compilation of extreme sports athletes. Additionally, a $15K production budget for a corporate video differs greatly from the no-budget scenario of a film student shooting a friend's wedding for free.
Most of these services offer a broad range of genres and song styles to choose from. It is your call as a filmmaker to determine which service offers the best music for your needs and budget. When you discover a piece of audio content is ideal for your project, you can buy a license or subscription.
For most people, we believe the library and annual fee of Soundstripe results in the best value overall.
An earlier version of this article included SongFreedom/FyrFly as a recommended service for those looking for royalty-free music. However, it has been brought to our attention that despite the service's decent music offerings, their subscription has some shady/poorly worded terms and is not setup to be easily cancelled should you be unhappy with the service.
For this, we have removed SongFreedom as a recommended vendor and replaced them with a more reputable service called HookSounds. We are sorry for any confusion this may have caused.