Music has always been the most complex part for a filmmaker to solve in order to achieve the finesse he/she wants from the end product, the film, short film, documentary or just a video. The music sorting part becomes even more complex for independent filmmakers and filmmakers who are on tight budget since the music rights; the copyrights can play the spoil sport. The music rights or simply the necessary copyrights or the licenses can be confusing as nobody would like to add a song or a musical piece into his/her project only to be facing legal action. Your film/project might be rejected from the film festivals you intend to enter, it could also kill the distribution deals, air space and not to forget, the bad publicity you receive.
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand that you need to place all the licensing documents with proper publishing rights and master rights if you are going to use a popular song. This can be tough and thus the professionals seek help from professional music clearance supervisors. The process can be lengthy depending on the number of people involved with the finished song or the musical part. This isn’t the case with big production houses since there’s no budget problem there; plus, big production houses already have their eyes set on particular singers, songwriters, musicians, studios for that particular project, thus the license and rights part of the film are already cleared (they still place these documents properly).
Many of us independent filmmakers, especially the newbie’s get excited with the “royalty free music” offers and the biggest mistake we make is to think that the royalty free music is a simple download and upload process, where the music is free to use for your next student film, your short film or for your feature. However, like most other things, the royalty free music comes with a ‘conditions apply’ tag that we forget to check. So, in a nutshell, the royalty free music isn’t free, it isn’t copyright free either, it isn’t cheap (though, you’ll be able to find songs and music for as low as $1 or even less) and it isn’t poor quality, but it simply means copyrighted music that you can have the rights to use without having to pay royalties and fees for each time you use. You can purchase royalty free music or get free music if the owner offers it for free and use the product for the mentioned time span (one day, one month, one year, 5 years or even lifetime) once, twice, 10 times, 100 times, or for as many projects as you wish. I know this might be still confusing for most.
The best bet could be to use your friend’s music (if there’s one with musical talent), a local band’s music and to play safe, you should still have all the licenses and rights on a document if you wish to enter festivals and get distributors.
I have been working on my own project and had been compiling a list of websites and sources that offer good royalty free music. The best list of websites that offer royalty free music and songs for your videos, films, presentations or any other project not only includes dedicated websites, but also features professional musicians.
These websites/sources offer royalty free music (sounds, effects, songs) that you can purchase or get for free, but remember to properly credit the source. For your online videos, you can or I must say that you should definitely consider YouTube Audio Library and Vimeo Music Store. You could even check out independent artists on Stage32 from musical backgrounds. There are music composers who are dying to make a mark and get their names out of the shadows. This way you’ll be promoting the new composers and also getting custom music for your project. These are some of the best websites I’ve compiled and if you have any other source that you believe should be on the list then just hit the comment section below and I’ll add.
So, here’s the list:
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