If you’re embarking on a video project, perhaps an explainer video, podcast, school project or video presentation, using the right production music can be the key to successfully drawing your viewers in; but finding the perfect song to use beneath a voice over actor‘s recording can seem a daunting task.
Of course you could commission a track to be composed especially for you, but that can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
Luckily, we’ve listed 33 amazing sites where you can find free music for videos.
But before you grab your free music and use it, it’s important to know if you have the legal right to use it for your project.
Using copyrighted material in your video may seem like an easy mistake to make, but it’s illegal and can get you into a lot of trouble.
So how do you make sure that your choice of track is acceptable to use in your video?
The most important thing is to understand what licenses are available when downloading free music, and making sure that you follow the rules for each license.
You’ve probably heard a number of different terms when talking about rights to use music, so what do they actually mean?
Public domain music has no copyright or usage restrictions, which may sound great, but it only applies to anything published in or before 1922 unless the creator has specifically given away all rights (see the types of Creative Commons licenses below).
A Royalty Free license allows you to purchase a single license for the use of a piece of music and use it without attribution.
Creative Commons is one of the most popular ways of finding and using music. There are a number of Creative Commons licenses that let you use music for free. Whether you have to attribute the music to the composer or not, and in what way, depends on the type of license.
You can use the music for anything as the creator has dedicated it to the public domain.
Music can be distributed, changed and added to, and used commercially and non-commercially, as long as the original creator is credited for the original piece of music.
As with Attribution, the music can be distributed, changed and added to, and used commercially and non-commercially, as long as the original creator is credited for the original piece of music and new creations are licensed under identical terms.
Music can be redistributed unchanged, commercially and non-commercially, as long as the creator is credited for it. Take note that the no derivatives mark means that it is not allowed to be used in videos.
This license allows you to change and add to a piece of music, as long as it’s only for non-commercial purposes and the creator is acknowledged. If you create any derivative work from the piece of music, you don’t need to license the work on the same terms. Keep in mind non-commercial means the use of the song in a video with advertising, commercial advantage or possible private monetary compensation is not permitted.
This license lets you change and add to the work non-commercially, as long as the original creator is credited and any derivatives are licensed under the same terms.
The most restrictive of all the Creative Commons licenses, this allows you to share music non-commercially, and the creator must be credited. Again, the no derivatives mark signifies the song cannot be used in videos.
As you’ll have seen from the Creative Commons license type descriptions, there are a number of licenses only available for non-commercial use.
So how do you know whether your project is commercial or non-commercial?
Creative Commons’ own definition of commercial use is as follows:
“…in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.”
Their guidelines on what constitutes non-commercial state that the following users are non-commercial:
“(a) an Individual (b) a Nonprofit educational institution/library, (c) a Nonprofit organization as defined under US or equivalent law , (d) A commercial copy shop, ISP, search engine, content aggregator, blog aggregator site or similar service provider who, in the course of providing a service at the direction of the allowable NC user, may exercise a right licensed under the Creative Commons license.”
In simpler terms, as long as you aren’t making money or getting commercial gain by using your chosen track, you’re OK to use one of the non-commercial licenses.
BUT …it’s not always as simple as that. A non-profit can use music in a commercial way, and a commercial entity can use it non-commercially, so you really need to look at the project itself when you decide whether you can use a non-commercial license.
Here are some examples of commercial and non-commercial usage:
You use a track on your new demo video for your website – commercial. Even though you’re not directly making money from the video, you’re using it for a commercial advantage.
A non-profit organization is making a video to sell to raise funds – commercial. Even though the organization is non-profit, and the money raised will be used for altruistic purposes, the fact that money is involved makes it commercial use. On the other hand, if the same non-profit is making a video to raise awareness of an issue, that’s non-commercial.
A big corporation makes a holiday video to show at their staff party, as a thank you for their hard work over the year – non-commercial. When the same corporation makes a sales video with background music, that’s obviously commercial.
If you’re in any doubt as to where your project falls, it’s always best to contact the licensor for clarification and permission.
As many licenses require that you attribute the work, it’s important to understand what that means. There isn’t one correct way of doing it, it often depends on what medium the music will be used in.
However you decide to attribute the work, you must include this essential information:
For videos or film, make sure that the proper attribution shows on screen when the music is playing, and/or attribute the work in the credits.
For podcasts, you need to make an announcement during the podcast itself, naming the creator and the fact that you’re using it under a Creative Commons license. You also need to fully attribute the music in writing along with the podcast download.
Now that you understand the terminology, your next step is to find the right track for your video project, but with so many options available to you, it can be hard even knowing where to start!
With that in mind, here are 33 of the best online resources that offer free music to help you find the perfect fit for you.
For each website you can see at a glance how many free songs there are available, whether you need to sign in to download music, what license types are on offer, whether it’s a simple one-click download and whether you’re able to easily search the tracks to find just what you’re looking for – for example, you might want to look for a certain instrument or mood. Also, listen to the 20 second samples from each site to hear the amazing quality of music available!
You can use the music on Jamendo for non-commercial projects as long as you respect the Creative Commons license chosen by the artist. You’ll see the license for each song once you click the download button. If you need a track for commercial use you’ll need to purchase a commercial license.
CCTrax has a fantastic search function, and offers over 1,500 entire albums as well as individual tracks. Music styles range from techno to jazz, with a lot more in between. Each release has a direct-link to the artist’s website (if existent), making it easy to get in contact, purchase a license or show some love.
Free Music Archive has a huge selection of curated music from all different genres, and you can download clips without having to register. Everything on the site is free, although users have the option to ‘tip’ artists via PayPal if they want to.
Better known as a video archive, Vimeo also offers free music that can be used as long as the creator is credited. It offers both free and paid music, and it’s very easy to filter so you only see tracks offering free Creative Commons license types. To narrow down to Creative Commons tracks only, click the Advanced Filters and select “A Creative Commons License” under License.
Soundcloud is a place where musicians share their tracks, and it has a separate section from those with Creative Commons license types available. It’s very user-friendly and there’s no need to register to download free music.
Freeplay Music has a wide selection of music, and in 2013 they entered into an agreement with YouTube that lets registered users download free music to be used on YouTube for personal videos.
Soundclick lets users choose between commercial licenses (paid) and free Creative Commons licensed music. Once registered with the site, it’s a simple ‘right click and save’ process once you’ve found the perfect track.
Incompetech is all music created by Kevin MacLeod, and the site lets users search by genre or ‘feel’ (for example, grooving or uplifting). Kevin’s music is available for use by anyone for any type of project.
Musopen is a non-profit offering music recordings, sheet music and textbooks free to the public. It’s mainly orchestral pieces, and while they require all users who upload music to confirm that the music is in fact Public Domain, they state in their FAQs that they don’t confirm this themselves.
CcMixter offers mainly instrumental tracks that are used by DJs, and offers a lot of information about each track, including the creator’s inspiration! Check out the Music Free for Commercial Use section!
TeknoAXE offers music in the Techno, Rock, and Orchestra genres. You can also narrow down the selections to sub-genres like house, funk or drama. New tracks are being added every week!
TrackTour Music offers royalty free high quality music loops by Gugge Kristofferson. The library is updated weekly.
Although there isn’t a free choice search facility, you can search for tracks by genre, tempo and mood.
iBeat offers a range of free beats, loops and breaks that are perfect for background music. No sign-up is required, just find the track you like and download!
South Hills Records offer free music for non-commercial purposes, and also offer commercial licenses.
SampleSwap has 100% free music available, and offers drum beats/loops, drum hits, sound FX and instrument sounds, as well as vocal tracks. They also have a forum where registered users can discuss the various tracks.
All music on Opsound are either Public Domain or Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licenses. As there’s no search function, users have to choose the genre and listen to each track to find what they’re looking for.
The YouTube Audio Library offers a collection of tracks that can be used as background music, and there’s a handy step-by-step guide to using the library in the Help Center.
Bump Foot is a Japanese site offering mainly dance music tracks for use in non-commercial projects.
Free Stock Music has free music available in ten different genres, from classical to rock n’ roll. Sign-up is free, and users can even log in with their Facebook accounts.
All of the tracks on this site are created by Josh Woodward, and he’s chosen to give all of his music away for free. He asks that users attribute the tracks to him in various ways depending on the usage, more information can be found on the Sharing page of the website.
Very user-friendly, Jewel Beat has a couple hundred background music tracks that can be used for TV, videos, school projects or YouTube videos. You just need to provide a link to their site.
Moby Gratis is a project of successful musician Moby, and offers a selection of his tracks free to independent and non-profit filmmakers, film students, and anyone in need of free music for their independent, non-profit film, video, or short. To download the music, users have to register with the site and put in an application for the tracks they want. There is a 24 hour response time to applications.
MusicForMonetize is a YouTube channel that helps other YouTubers find the best Creative Commons music for their projects.
Purple Planet offers a range of originally composed and performed music that can be downloaded and used in exchange for linking to their site.
Scott Buckley sees himself as a composer and electronic arranger, and users can download and use his music for non-commercial purposes, as long as he’s credited as the composer.
Peter John Ross offers all of his music on the site for free, as long as he’s credited.
The music on Bensound can be used for any multimedia project, as long as users link back to the website. The Non-Derivative license on Bensound is to prevent remixes or adding lyrics to make a song. So even though the music is ND, use of the music in videos is permitted.
Musician Carl-Otto Johansson offers two of his albums as free downloads, but users can also select individual tracks. He asks only to be credited and that users link back to the website.
From classically trained composer Taylor Brooke, comes Sound Phenomenon Studios. SPS creates production music in a wide range of styles, specializing in game music and cinematic music. Easily browse genres and find tracks for non-commercial projects.
PacDV offers a range of sound effects and music for video productions, and all of the tracks are categorized by moods and emotions.
Shane Ivers of Silverman Sound Studios has produced some really high quality music! There are 11 tracks to start with at least one new track being added every week. Filter by style, mood, length and BPM.
Music For Makers is simple! Sign up and you’ll receive one royalty-free song to your inbox every Monday, for free. Since everything is CC0 you can use in any way you see fit. No costs. No attribution.
In case you lost count, that’s over 493,000 Creative Commons songs available for free (legally) right now!
Once you’ve found the perfect music for your video project, it’s important that you fully understand the terms of the license you’re using.
One stumbling block for many video producers is the fact that music with the No Derivatives mark is not licensed for use in videos (unless the artist gives permission). When in doubt, always check with the owner of the music to make sure you’re not infringing upon a license.
You’re then free to add it to your video, confident in the knowledge that you’re following the rules and legal requirements that make the track free for your use.
So what site do you use for Creative Commons music? If we’ve missed an awesome website let us know in the comments below.