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  • Writer's pictureDuncan Curtis - Director


In the past, if you wanted a good, varied source of music, it meant buying many expensive CDs from stock music libraries. Nowadays, as with everything, all you need can be found online. Finding the right track, though, can still be a challenge with so much on offer. Below are a few pointers towards finding a source that’s right for you and your project.


There will be times when clients ask to use commercial or chart music. This can be tricky and expensive. Depending on the artist and track, the cost can run into hundreds of pounds for a few seconds and more than that for an entire track. You will also need permission from both the publisher and writer, which can take time, and you will need to factor that time into your production planning. Many artists and publishers will grant permission if the price is right, but some may not agree to its use, depending on the artist and the subject of your film. You should also be aware of commercial tracks playing in the background when filming – e.g. a radio playing, or presenter ‘walk-on’ music at a conference. Events companies normally pay a blanket fee to use commercial tracks each year. This only covers the event and not the use of the track in videos. Depending on where the video is posted, you may find the entire sound on your video muted, a request that you take the video down immediately, or, in extreme cases, a copyright claim, which will be expensive.


Copyright-free music is music in the public domain, free to be used by everyone. This is normally music that has been around for so long, it has fallen out of copyright. There is an important caveat, however. If a certain track in the public domain is re-recorded by another artist more recently, or still living, that version of the track will fall under copyright law again. It’s important, therefore, to do your research before using any music track.


Royalty free tracks are what you would normally use in your corporate films. Royalty free does not mean cost free. It simply means that no permission from, or payment to the artist or publisher is required and you can use such a track as many times as you like. There are many sites where you can source royalty free music, and each source comes with benefits and drawbacks. Search through as many options as possible before you commit to a source to find what’s right for you.




Completely free tracks can be found, but they are, by and large, of lower quality, rarely fit with the video you are producing and offer limited options. It is worth urging caution here as well. Although some sites state that their content is free, individual tracks may have different rules for use and may still incur fees.


Prices vary a lot depending on the site, track, and options available. Anywhere between £20 and £200 for single tracks can be expected, although prices are dropping due to demand. £30 to £50 is a good average you can expect to pay. Lower prices will normally offer fewer options, but that will depend on the site.


If you use royalty free music a lot, it may be worth registering with one of the sites that offer unlimited use for an annual fee. If you’re a smaller company, who produces fewer films per year and rarely needs to use music, it may be more cost effective to pay for single tracks as and when required.


Be aware of what use you’re allowed for the fee you pay. Some sites allow only a single use for a single fee and require the name of the project it will be used in. With others, once you have paid the single fee, the track is free for you to use in perpetuity in as many projects as you like.


Closely linked to the cost is what you get for your money. The better sites will offer an entire suite of track options – e.g. several versions of the full track, different lengths of that track (3 to 4 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds, 15 seconds, etc.) to make it easier to use in different lengths of videos, and loops, which, as they suggest, can be edited together seamlessly to increase a track length if required. Other sites, will only offer one, full version of a track. I normally opt for the sites that offer more variety as, even if you don’t need them for a particular project, those options may come in handy for future edits.  


It is important to research what is out there. When you’re working to a tight deadline, you may not have the time to search the plethora of options online, so I would recommend that you search in downtime to find the sites you think will be most useful to you.


Finally, I would suggest that you have a bank of sites you can call on. Relying on one source can limit your options, so have backups in place in case you can’t find that ideal track on your preferred site.



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