July 20, 2022
In 2021, TikTok found that 88% of users reported sound is essential to their viewing experience so it should come as no surprise that background music plays a vital role in enhancing the quality of videos.
The music or sound effects you choose will depend on the tone, style, and messaging of the content you create, but the first step is knowing where to find music that you can legally use. To save you spending hours trying to figure it all out, we’ve put together a list of the best places to find royalty free music.
What is royalty free music?
Before we jump into the list, it’s important that you understand music licenses. We’ll focus on the three types you might come across so that you can avoid getting hit with a copyright complaint or the removal of the content you spent hours creating.
Content under public domain is available as free downloads for both commercial and personal purposes. These aren’t protected by copyright, so you’re usually free to remix, share, and use them without worrying about legal or financial implications.
Royalty free and copyright free
The word “free” in the name can be a bit confusing because royalty-free music often isn't actually free. In simple terms, it means that you don’t have to pay recurring royalties for using the music. Instead, recurring royalty payments are taken care of by the organization that licenses the music.
Copyright free music is slightly different (and much rarer). In this case, no one owns the rights to the music.
Thanks to the Creative Commons system, content creators get access to free, standardized copyright licenses, while creators get credit for their work. It’s important to check the terms under each individual license to confirm that you can use the music the way you intend.
There's much more to unpack when it comes to music licensing, but one of the most important steps you need to take is checking what type of attribution the music or sound you’re intending on using requires. Sometimes it’s enough to credit the creator, other times links to the license, and notes of any changes made to the original work must be included.
Now that you get the basics of copyright-free music, let’s jump into some of the websites you can use to find the next tune for your video.
1. YouTube audio library
All you need to access this music and sound effects library is a YouTube channel. Thanks to the seamless search system, you can filter audio by genres, instrumentals, vocals, length, and much more. All tracks are free but require attribution if they’re under the Creative Commons license.
Bensound has a large collection of music ranging from jazz and rock to world and folk music. It is free for non-commercial use when credit is given. If you want to skip the attribution, you can purchase a single-track license or sign up for a paid subscription.
You need to sign up to Thematic to access their music library. Once you’ve followed their attribution requirements, you’re free to download and use the professionally made music.
Note: Thematic currently only supports the use of music on Youtube and Instagram.
You’ve most likely heard about SoundCloud and it’s more than a platform for aspiring musicians and DJs. All Creative Commons tracks are free to use as long as they’re attributed so make sure you pay close attention to track information.
This website’s name implies exactly what they offer. Their music can be filtered by TV themes, video games and more, and the music can be used for YouTube, social media, and podcasts as long as the attribution for each track is included in the credits.
The following five websites aren’t free, but there are a couple of use cases for when you might want to purchase a track license:
When you don’t want to have to attribute/mention the artist
When you want to use it in pro/commercial projects – film, ads etc.
More choice and sometimes higher quality tracks
For $10 a month, Soundstripe users get unlimited access to an entire music library cleared for monetization, with tunes to use for web, social media, and podcasts. The stock music library is updated with new music and sound effects every Friday.
Formerly known as Audioblocks, this site was created when two content platforms merged to create a go-to-place for creators. Their subscription plans start at about $15 and include five monthly downloads of HD footage, music, photos, vectors, & illustrations.
This site was originally created for advertisers and marketers and features full-length songs. One of their most popular features is the ability to search their library according to project type. They offer the option of either paying for a single track or a subscription. Their monthly plan usually starts at about $80, but it’s currently on sale for $50/month.
9. Epidemic Sound
A key element that has made this site stand out is that they bundle all the legal rights you’ll need into a single license that can be used across all platforms. Epidemic Sound allows you to search music by genre, moods, tempos, and length. Their annual subscriptions start at around $112, but you can sign up for their 30-day free trial before committing to the full year.
10. Freeplay Music
With Freeplay Music, you can browse categories by scene, genre, mood, and more. There’s over 50,000 tracks available for non-commercial use like educational, or personal content, and their pricing for commercial use depends on the individual use case.
Pixabay is mainly known as a free stock photo site, but it’s also a good website to find free music and sound effects on. The content on their site can be used for both commercial and non-commercial use, as well as modifications. The site claims that attribution isn’t a requirement, but doing so is a nice expression of appreciation for the artist who created the free content you’re using.