Finding the best royalty free music websites isn't easy with dozens of services competing out there. We scoured them all to find the best and determined SoundStripe as the overall winner. It offers the best stock audio selection for the annual price. You will learn more about SoundStripe and its top competitors in the remainder of this article.
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. I'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. The major social networks have 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. Quality video content 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, I'll introduce you to 7 of the best websites to help you find copyright free music. These services offer quality audio content that can be licensed for personal or commercial use.
What Is Royalty Free & Is It Different 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 seek attribution and non-commercial use and only allow limited distribution of the work that incorporates their content. While Creative Commons is free, it has a much smaller selection 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 Free Trial Or Subscription Ends?
The best part of the subscription model is that some of them like AudioBlocks offer a free trial period. This allows you to test out the entire music library for use without dishing out any money up-front. You will need to supply a credit card that will be automatically charged after your trial is over. You'll need to remeber to cancel ahead of time if you decide go through with the annual subscription.
What happens if you download and use a song during the trial or 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 Happens If My Content Gets Flagged After I Have Purchased A 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 violations on YouTube, Instagram or Facebook. The good news is most of these services have dedicated pages on their websites to submit a counter claim. The matter is usually sorted out within 48 hours. I've had only one claim in the past when using these services in our YouTube videos, and it was resolved in under a day.
7 Of The Best Websites For Royalty Free Music
SoundStripe is one of the newcomers to the royalty free music market. They have done a great job offering one of the best subscriptions for filmmakers. 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.
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.
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 $99/year. This makes it it the cheapest royalty-free music subscription service on this list.
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 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 for no charge for the first week. As long as you cancel your account before the trial period ends you won't be billed.
AudioJungle ($6+ Per Song)
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. There 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 ($49+ Per Song)
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. They also offer tracks with vocals which most competitors do not.
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 ($49-$199 Per Song)
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 a 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 for the $199 ‘premium' license.
Competing services make you buy more licenses to use the same song in multiple projects. Once you have paid the licensing fee for a song, 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. They are a service that is “about artists supporting artists.” They opened their doors in 2010 as a platform that allowed artists to sell their songs to creative professionals. Initially, they offered a royalty-free license which was charged per song.
Since then company has changed to a subscription model along with the name change. Membership pricing starts at either $60 per month or a discount of $500 for the entire year.
There are some hidden catches that are worth noting with their subscription model. Commercial use of the entire library is not permitted with the annual subscription. You'll have to pay an extra fee over the subscription cost for commercial use.
Song Freedom does work with major artists to license their works to filmmakers. Included is popular artists like 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. You'll have to pay $10 extra per use of these premium songs in personal projects. If you want to license the song for promotional or commercial purposes, you'll have to contact Song Freedom with fees starting at a whopping $25K.
Which Is The Best Stock Audio Service For Me?
Not all filmmakers music requirements are the same. The type of tracks used in a wedding film be the same as a compilation of extreme sports athletes. In turn, a $15K production budget for a promotional corporate video differs from 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. Each filmmakers's needs are different so the best royalty free music service will depend on the situation.