Before we get into royalty-free music, it’s important to know that the relationship between filmmakers and music has evolved quite a bit. Starting out by treating music in films as a purely functional tool, creators now acknowledge the powerful artistic impact it holds. And while so many things have changed in filmmaking and the film industry, thanks in large part to technology, copyrights, royalties and the process of using music in videos has pretty much stayed the same. And while once filmmaking was limited to a handful of people, John Milius’ quote that ‘everybody’s a filmmaker today’ is accurate now more than ever.

Editor looking for non-copyrighted music on laptop

Stock vs. Music Licensing

The high price of copyrighted music and the growing number of budget-challenged filmmakers created a need for affordable video soundtracks, and it was first filled by stock music, which is mostly generic and unsophisticated sounds cheaply made and cheaply sold. However, with the improvement in video quality, the prospect of paring your film with low-quality robotic sound became less appealing.

Enter Music licensing. Companies – like Artlist – decided to reach out to real aspiring musicians, offering them a real business opportunity, by paying them for the rights to sell the license of their music to video creators at a relatively affordable price. This resulted in a win-win situation for both sides – independent musicians found another source of income from their music while creators didn’t need to break the bank to get a quality soundtrack for their videos.

What to Compare in Royalty-Free Music Sites

Today, the choice of royalty-free music providers is plentiful, but before you sign up to the first site you see on Google, here are some things you must check to make the right choice:

  • Search

Some platforms boast having a massive selection of music. While that sounds nice on paper, once you start searching the site, you get lost in the huge ocean of songs, and finding the song you’re looking for can take hours. Instead of looking at the number of songs, make sure to choose a website that lets you find what you’re looking for the fastest.

Editor browsing royalty free music site Artlist

  • Quality

If you’re looking for royalty-free music and not stock music, then chances are that quality matters to you. Some royalty-free music sites take music quantity over music quality, so you need to compare the quality of songs between sites and choose the one that matches your standards.

  • License

While copyright free music sites broke into the scene to make the life of a filmmaker easier when it comes to getting music, many fine prints hide behind the license you acquire. Let’s break it down into three points:

  • Where: Some sites offer different types of licensing depending on the medium on which you display your film. There’s a license that limits you to use your music only on YouTube. If you’re looking for music for a movie or a commercial, then the price starts going up. Make sure the license you get applies to where you want to show your films.
  • When: Some sites cancel your license once you stop being a subscriber. If you downloaded a song today, cancel your subscription in a month and want to use it next year, you may get flagged. Check if the license for the songs you download has an expiration date.
  • Number of Uses: let’s say you found a song you like; there’s a chance you might want to reuse it on a different project later on. This can incur additional fees with some websites. Others make you commit that you use a song for a specific project, and commitment is one thing most of us fear more than anything.

Watching a video without music is like eating a plain pancake – pretty bland. If you want quality music without breaking the bank, you should look for royalty-free music. Compare the ease of use, music quality and terms of the license and choose the right platform for you. You are more than welcome to check the selection, quality, and license at Artlist and see if they fit your needs. 

I’m sure they will.