Finding the best royalty free music can become a hassle especially when you have to be strict about the song genre or temp for your project. In the following article, I'll explain the dilemma many filmmakers are coming across when creating content for the web or outside distribution resulting in copyright concerns over audio materials. I'll then go into detail on how to avoid them by the proper licensing through recommended services.
Video is quickly becoming the most popular way for people to consume content especially through social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram or Facebook Video. While this is ideal for creative professionals that incorporate filmmaking into telling stories or portraying a brand message, this can be a huge issue when it comes to finding a good song or musical score.
The reason this becomes a huge problem for so many online video creators is that services like YouTube and Facebook could be held accountable if one of their users uploads a video that has a copyrighted song within it. For this reason, the big social networks will usually have an algorithm to remove access to your video for violating their terms of service. Sometimes in YouTube's case, they will keep it live on their services, but instead offer the advertising revenue of your video to the given artist or band in exchange for the use of the song.
Being a filmmaker is not easy and spending several hours to produce a quality piece of video content just to have it immediately taken down or have annoying advertising placed on your video without seeing a penny of the proceeds is beyond frustrating. This is where we can help you introducing you to seven of the best royalty free music websites and services to help you find music that is quality and able to be licensed for personal and commercial use.
What Is Royalty Free?
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 this means in regards to music in online video usage is that you can purchase a license which gives you the rights to use a copyrighted song in your videos without the need to pay further down the line. Additionally, social media sites will acknowledge your license for use on their platform without repercussions.
Remember, buying a royalty free license doesn't mean you own exclusive rights to a song, but you are granted permission from the composer/artist/band to use it under the agreed upon terms of which you purchased a license.
Pricing Model: Pay Per Song Versus Annual Subscription?
Of the best royalty-free websites and services that I'll mention in the rest of this article, there are two different business models that are commonly used for distributing their content.
The first type is a subscription based model which sounds daunting or overly expensive, but it usually ends up being the more affordable and logical choice in the long run. With a subscription site like SoundStripe, you'll get access to the entire library of royalty free tracks for one flat membership 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 a single fee for one song's use. In this case, the cost usually differs depending on what type of distribution means you'll use for the video, so a license for use in an indie or wedding film will often be significantly 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 pricier choice, but it is most suitable for someone who knows exactly what song they want to use in their content and has no need to find more royalty free audio tracks later on in the year.
What Happens After My Free Trial Or Subscription Ends?
The best part of the subscription is that some of them like AudioBlocks offer a free trial period so you can test out the entire music library and download songs for use in your videos without the need to dish out any money up-front. However, you will need to supply a credit card that will be automatically charged at the end of your trial so canceling ahead of time is something you'll need to remember if you decide to not continue with the service subscription.
However, you will need to supply a credit card that will be automatically charged at the end of your trial so canceling ahead of time is something you'll need to remember if you decide to not continue with the service subscription.
In a case like this where you download and use a song during the trial or during your paid membership, you'll still retain the rights to use that song if you decide not to go through with or renew your subscription.
Here's what the SoundStripe, the #1 on our best royalty free music website list 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 Happens My Content Gets Flagged After I Purchased A License?
While it is a major pain to deal with a copyright claim after you have already paid for a license to use a particular song or piece of audio content, the truth is that many of these royalty free music licensing sites are just acting as a third-party broker for the original composer/artist and many utilize automated systems to identify piracy or unlicensed use.
So the bad news is that you could be wrongfully flagged on YouTube, Instagram or Facebook, but the good news is most of these services have dedicated pages on their websites to submit a counter claim. The matter is typically sorted out within 24-48 hours. I've had only one claim in the past when using these services in our YouTube videos, and it was cleared up in under 24 hours.
Best Royalty Free Music Websites & Services 2017
A newcomer to the royalty free music market, SoundStripe hit the ground running offering one of the best royalty free music subscriptions currently available. Priced at $135/year, SoundStripe provides tens of thousands of high-quality audio tracks with new ones added every Friday. On average, the service adds 150-250 new songs to their service each month.
SoundStripe is the first place we look for songs or background tracks for our tech-based video content as I prefer their sleek yet easy to use interface along with the filtering and customization options. If you are looking for more hip, electronic-style music then SoundStripe has some of the best selection for the lowest cost per year.
A subsidiary of the popular stock videography website, VideoBlocks, AudioBlocks focuses on audio elements which include more than just music with further access to sound effects and loops. The service has been around for a few years now and runs off the same subscription-based model with an annual fee of $99/year thus making it the cheapest royalty-free music subscription service.
While I do like AudioBlocks and have relied on their content in the past, their library is more on the traditional sense, and it doesn't offer a whole lot of modern-style music that I seek in my videos. With that being said, their library is vast with over 100K audio tracks to choose from so chances are you can find something that fits your needs especially with the ability to filter by duration, tempo, instruments, genre, and mood.
Besides the ability to view their entire library before signing up, AudioBlocks does offer a free 7-day trial, so you can access the entire royalty free music library for no charge for the first week. Just be sure to cancel your account before the trial period ends or else you will be automatically rebilled.
AudioJungle ($6+ Per Song)
AudioJungle is a royalty free website offering individual composers and artists the ability to sell their audio tracks and sound effects on through the well-established Envato Market. Unlike the two prior recommendations, AudioJungle is a pay-per-song service offering over 331K music clips starting at just $6 per track.
Depending on the selection, the per song price can rise from $6 all the way up to $39 although the service also offers discounted music packs that provide multiple tracks from the same genre, instrument or theme. The library of royalty free music is vast with options for all tastes from classical piano to heavy metal.
As you'd expect, you can view the entire library, listen to the tracks and even download a preview for editing purposes before deciding which track to purchase (the demo files have their infamous AudioJungle watermark embedded).
MusicBed ($49+ Per Song)
MusicBed is a popular choice for many filmmakers due to their high-quality content. However, their licensing costs are significantly higher than many of the other services mentioned here and 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 both sleek and highly organized, so it makes for a pleasant browsing experience. Its list of genres covers all your basic needs with a lot of modern sounding content derived from more than 600 of the world's best musicians, bands, and composers. Something to note about MusicBed is that while they offer a ton of great instrumentals, they also have a lot of tracks with vocals which is something that a lot of the other services lack in their selections.
Artlist is a newer player in the royalty free music game, but it is a very promising service offering a great visual interface, filtering options and general track selection for just $199/year.
What I like about Artlist.io is that their filters include the usual mood, instrument, genre, etc. but it also has a separate section dubbed ‘video theme' which allows you to choose from song groupings ideal for different types of videos including vlogs, weddings, slow motion, medical, travel, business and yes, even technology.
Premium Beat ($49-$199 Per Song)
Premium Beat has been a staple in the market and in the past has even been regarded as the best royalty free music service by many filmmakers. Their pricing structure is one license per song versus a subscription. However, they do it in a better way in my opinion as they have a flat rate of $49.
However, they do it in a better way in my opinion as they have a flat rate of $49 for the ‘standard' licensed used for web-based content or non-commercial distribution. If you are going to use the song within a non-web advertisement or revenue-generating content, then you simply pay for the $199 premium license.
Unlike many competing services who want you to pay for multiple licenses for a single song if you want to use it within multiple projects. Once you have paid the licensing fee once, you are free to use that license for an unlimited number of projects in perpetuity.
Song Freedom – ($60/Month or $500/Year)
Song Freedom is on the verge of renaming themselves to FyrFly, but they a service that is “about artists supporting artists.” The company originally launched in 2010 as a platform that allowed composers and artists to sell their songs to creative professionals on a royalty free license which was charged per song.
However, the company has changed their business model as of recent months and is now changing to a subscription based model along with the name change. Now membership pricing starts at either $60 per month or a discount of $500 for the entire year.
There are some catches that are worth noting with their subscription model. First off, commercial use of the entire library is NOT permitted with the subscription, and you'll have to pay an additional fee over the subscription cost.
Secondly, both a good and bad thing about Song Freedom is they do work with some major artists to license their content for filmmaking projects. These include popular artists such as Christina Perri, Jason Mraz, Philip Philips, One Republic, Maroon 5, The Lumineers and Bob Dylan.
However, songs found in the library by these well-known are considered “premium” songs and have a ‘P' icon next to their name. You'll have to pay an additional $10 per use of these premium songs in personal projects, and if you want to license the song for promotional or commercial purposes, you'll have to contact Song Freedom yet the fees start at a whopping $25K.
Which Is The Best Royalty Free Music Resource For Me?
Choosing the best royalty free site or service is a tough question to have a single answer for since every filmmaker's needs are different. For example, the same types of genres used in a wedding film likely wouldn't be identical for a compilation of extreme sports athletes. Similarly, the production budget may differ from someone who is being paid $15K to produce a quality business promotional video versus someone who is shooting a friend's wedding for free.
While most of these services offer a broad range of genres and song styles to choose from, it'll be your job as a filmmaker to click through to each website and determine which one offers the best song for your needs and budget. From there you can determine which piece of audio content is ideal for your project and go through with the purchase. My hope is that this article introduced you to at least one quality resource for finding music that can be used legally in your future works.
Do you agree with our list of the best royalty free music websites? Comment below!