What to Do Before and After You Download Music for Your Videos


Many platforms offer music and SFX that are free to download or have royalty-free licenses
The Artlist license lets you use all the music and SFX on the platform for any video project
Make sure your video’s music choices fit with its mood and pace
Table of Contents
Explore article topics

It’s easy to think that making videos is all about the visuals, but there’s a whole lot more to it. One element you should never underestimate is the impact that audio, whether that’s music or sound effects (SFX), has on your videos. Music sets the tone, and sound effects draw your audience in and provide focus. Change them, and your video will have an entirely different feel. It’s amazing how background sound effects make a video feel realistic and authentic. Take them away entirely, and you’ll be looking at a much less compelling video. In short, video needs audio.

When you’re a filmmaker – not a musician or a Foley artist – then knowing how to find the perfect sound effects or background music for your videos could be a bit daunting. Don’t worry! Here at Artlist, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know to download music for videos.

Where to find music that’s free to download

Whatever you do, when you look to download music for videos, you need to be sure that you have the right to use it. The same goes for sound effects, too. You can read about copyright in our article on copyright-free music to bring yourself up-to-speed, but in short, you can’t just use something because you like it. You need to download your music or sound effects from a reputable library, such as Artlist, and have a license to use them.

music producer

If you have a limited production budget, it is possible to find free music downloads that won’t require you to purchase a license. YouTube has an extensive archive from which you can download background music for videos. The music here is either out-of-copyright and in the public domain or made available using Creative Commons licenses.

Creative Commons licenses allow people to use creative content, such as music or photos, for free, but with varying conditions. For example, some creators will enable anyone to use their work in any way they choose. But some Creative Commons licenses will only allow content for non-commercial use and with credit to the original creator. You can read more about this on the Creative Commons website.

The Free Music Archive is packed full of content both in the public domain and under a Creative Commons license, cleared for use in various ways, some of them commercially. It makes it easy and legal for you to download music for videos without having to pay anything at all.

Other places where you can download music for videos under Creative Commons licenses include SoundCloudccMixterBenSound and ccTrax.

If you’re looking for Orchestral pieces, then try Musopen, which includes recordings by famous composers, including Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, among many others.

Where to find royalty-free music to download

Royalty-free music isn’t free to use, but it does present you with a broader selection of music to download. And you’re helping to support fellow artists. When you buy a license for a royalty-free music download, you pay a one-time fee, so you don’t have to pay for every play of the track. The rules of a license can vary depending on where you purchase it, but we’ll look at that later on.

Electronic DJ

We obviously think that Artlist is the best option for royalty-free music downloads, but there are other places where you can download music for videos. Use the term ‘royalty-free music download’ in a search engine, and you’ll get plenty of choices.

Get everything you need to create the perfect video

Where to find sound effects

Artlist has an extensive sound effects library to download on a royalty-free basis. But, if you are looking for sound effects that are free to download, try the BBC. There you can download sound effects that are free to use for personal, educational or research purposes. If you want to download sound effects for commercial purposes, you can license them there too. Freesound has a library of sound effects free for download under Creative Commons licenses, while Free SFX has thousands of sound effects that are free to download.

Music and SFX licensing

Licenses to download background music or sounds come in different varieties. You will usually be looking at rights-managed options when you pay a fee for every time a piece of music or a sound is played (that can get expensive fast), or royalty-free when one payment allows you to add background music to your videos or to insert a sound effect. However, not all royalty-free licenses are the same.


Some royalty-free music or sound effects libraries will operate on a per-song or per-sound basis. In this case, you pay a one-time fee for each track or sound effect you download. Other libraries, such as Artlist, operate on a subscription basis, which allows you to download as many songs or sound effects as you want for a periodic fee.

Even with a royalty-free license, there could be restrictions written into the terms and conditions. Be sure to check that your license allows you to use your music or sound downloads on any platform, in any geographical location and without time limitations. Some licenses expire after a given period or if you don’t keep up your subscription.

The Artlist license

The Artlist license, for both royalty-free background music downloads and royalty-free sound effect downloads, is very straightforward. When you subscribe to Artlist, you get access to all the music and sound effects in the library for $25 a month (billed yearly at $299). You can download up to 40 items a day before the system thinks you’re a bot, but there are no other quantity limitations.

The Artlist license on published projects lasts forever, so you don’t have to worry about renewing it in five years. If, for whatever reason, you decide not to renew your Artlist subscription, any project that features music you downloaded as a subscriber remains covered in perpetuity. When you download a royalty-free background music track or sound effect from Artlist, you can use it wherever you want and on whatever video project you want. You can use it on any platform, in any jurisdiction and in as many different projects as you wish, as long as you are a subscriber. That means you can use the same piece of music in a video, a podcast and a videogame without having to worry about multiple licenses.

That said, you can’t use Artlist music or sounds for anything hateful, racist, pornographic, inciteful or otherwise illegal or defamatory. Downloads are not transferable, either. That means only you can use it unless you are a contractor creating something on behalf of a client. But we think that’s fair enough.

The Artlist license is simple and straightforward. With your subscription, you are covered for your royalty-free background music and sound effects downloads in just about any way and place you can think of.

How to choose and add songs to your videos

When you want to add music to a video, think about the type of video you are making. What is it saying, and to whom? What emotions are you trying to evoke in the audience? The kind of music that you cut into it will help to direct and enhance these emotions. You want the music to connect with your audience and combine with your story to intensify its impact.

A whole track may be too long to include where you want it in your video. In this case, don’t just chop it short. Instead, think about editing it to have the right beginning, middle and end to fit with your story.

Getting the pacing of your video and your music right is critical. If your music includes lyrics, you don’t want the words to clash with your video’s dialogue. Think about whether an instrumental piece is best. Give your video pauses and breathers. Use the music to highlight pivotal moments to allow the audience to absorb and contemplate what they’ve just seen, prepare for what’s coming next and build to the denouement. And don’t forget to give your music its moment to shine!

Was this article helpful?

Daniela is a writer and editor based in the UK. Since 2010 she has focused on the photography sector. In this time, she has written three books and contributed to many more, served as the editor for two websites, written thousands of articles for numerous publications, both in print and online and runs the Photocritic Photography School.

More from Daniela Bowker
Share this article
Did you find this article useful?

Related Posts

Latest Posts

Get all the creative assets you need in one place