Whether you're creating a commercial promo video, interview testimonial, documentary, animated explainer, etc., the music track will be an important ingredient in the overall effectiveness of the video. While it's true that creating high quality video content largely relies on the fundamentals of video production (things such as having your frame look good and recording quality audio), the music track can be the element that elevates your video to a higher and more effective level of communication.
In fact, the music track you select plays a key role in the overall feeling a video gives off. While the spoken message of the video might remain the same, the emotional impact it leaves on a viewer can be greatly influenced by the music. At times you will have a lot of freedom in choosing what style of music you go with, and other times you'll be looking for a specific sound.
In this post, we'll be looking at 4 different websites that are all unique in their music offerings and license terms, and together should be a well-rounded song solution for almost any video project. At BiteSite, we've utilized all of these sites for our many and varied videos. We'll also mention a couple of additional options that work for either zero-budget productions or productions where you're looking for a more original or unique style of song selection.
After looking at these valuable resources, we'll go over some strategies that you can use on these sites to make your quest for the right song a little faster and more effective.
It should also be noted that while the licensing terms differ for each site (outlined below) all of them require that you pay a licensing fee in order to use their tracks. While there are always many terms and conditions outlined for licenses, you will generally be interested in two things: the term and the usage. The term refers to how long the license lasts before it expires (if it ever expires), and the usage refers to how many projects you're allowed to use the song in. Additionally, terms can change depending on the use of the video. For example, if a song is to be used in a paid advertisement, its terms and cost will generally differ.
We won't be going deep into all the legalities of music licensing in this post. The purpose here is to offer some options for music collections and outline generally how they compare so that you can be better equipped when going about selecting music for your own video project. Music selection can be a daunting process and sometimes requires a lot of time to be put into previewing tracks online. We hope this information makes that process a bit easier.
AudioJungle is the first site we used at BiteSite for selecting our music tracks. It offers decent quality music tracks at low prices. Their site's current tagline reads "royalty free music and audio tracks from $1". While AudioJungle does offer cheaper prices than the others, it requires that you re-purchase the song every time you use it in a new project. The term however is ongoing; you can use the track indefinitely once purchased. The one-time-use stipulation can be reason enough for some to not use AudioJungle at all. Once purchasing a song, it's nice to know that you can use it as much as you want, essentially getting more bang for your buck. However, if you're confident the song won't be used again or you wouldn't mind repurchasing, AudioJungle's licensing may not be as much of a problem.
AudioJungle does also offer higher priced tracks, with the general quality of music increasing with the price. Generally though, you'll have a harder time finding a quality track to suit your video.
Pond5 is similar to AudioJungle, yet differs in its licensing terms and generally offers a higher quality of music at higher prices. Pond5 offers the majority of its selection for an unlimited number number of projects, and also for an unlimited amount of time. For this reason only, we've said goodbye to AudioJungle and have used Pond5 ever since. You never know when a client might come back asking for a re-edit or a new version of a video to put out. Not having to repurchase the song is a nice thing to have in these cases. Even if it's not planned outright, knowing that you can use a song in multiple projects if needed offers peace of mind. As mentioned, we've also found that the quality on Pond5 is generally better in comparison to AudioJungle.
MusicBed differs greatly from the sources mentioned so far and is generally used for scripted videos that are looking to inject a lot of emotion and tone into their messaging. MusicBed provides very high quality music from legitimate musicians who create tracks that you could imagine hearing in a Hollywood movie, documentary, or high-gloss commercial video. You could classify a lot of the songs MusicBed offers as singer-songwriter style music.
Most of MusicBed's licenses are perpetual and single-use only. That is, while a song can be used for an indefinite amount of time once purchased, it can only be used for one individual project.
Since the quality is so high, you're probably assuming the tracks from MusicBed are therefore quite a bit more pricy, and you're right. However, Musicbed recently started offering a subscription-based payment plan that makes their songs quite a bit more affordable. Plans differ based on who is using them (personal vs. business), but generally these plans are a great option if you're putting out multiple videos a month.
It's quite impressive that Musicbed has a subscription-based payment plan for such high-quality songs and can be a very attractive option if it's the type of music you're looking for.
Filmstro differs substantially from the previous three options in terms of its service offering. Filmstro offers a software application that can integrate with most editing apps that allows you to customize how a particular music track sounds. To see how it works, you can visit their website. Basically, you have three parameters that you can modify in each song: Momentum, Depth, and Power. Each song can therefore be adjusted considerably. We've found this functionality that Filmstro offers to be very effective. It's clear that a lot of thought and ingenuity went into the creation of this software.
When it comes to its application, you can adjust a song to match your edit rather than vice-versa. Normally you would be editing your video to match a song's beat, length, or intensity. With Filmstro, the song can be adjusted to match your edit just as you need. As well, finding the right tone for your video becomes a little easier. Using other sites, you'll find songs that are almost right, but are just a bit too fast or have something in them that makes them not right. Filmstro can generally solve this issue with it's added functionality.
In terms of quality, Filmstro generally offers high quality tracks that you could argue rival Pond5's. Filmstro's tracks, while not as original and singer-songwriter as MusicBed, are generally more suited to scripted and cinematic style videos.
Filmstro is a subscription based service only and each song can be used for multiple projects for an indefinite amount of time. As with all music providers, licensing and pricing changes if you're using the music for paid-advertising.
In addition to the four options listed so far, there are also options that offer music free of charge, such as FreeMusicArchive. Generally, these sites will have lower quality music, but can be suitable for videos that are not meant to come across as super high quality. Additionally, you can support musicians on Patreon in return for usage of their music. Each musician will have their own terms outlined for how their music can be used, along with a tiered payment system with different benefits for different price-points.
How To Go About Choosing
So, once you've decided on a service to use for selecting your music, what is the best way to utilize that platform? It's always a good idea to use the search tools that each site offers to the best of their ability.
First and foremost, knowing the right keywords to use is key. Once you've begun, you should start to get a feel for what results different keywords return. You might be using words like upbeat, inspiring, cinematic, calm, alternative, etc. You can also sort your search results by popularity, price, tempo, and duration. You can also search for a well-known artist that you know of that has the sound you're going for. Sometimes songs will have names or tags of that same band (eg. Coldplay) if the song has a similar sound.
It's also a good idea to create collections of songs that are possibilities for your video. Once you have a selection of five to ten songs, you can compare them to each other and hopefully find one that works best in comparison to the rest. Most websites will allow you to curate collections of your top picks.
Another strategy that can be quite telling is to playback songs from the website as you playback your video at the same time in your editing application. This can be help in determining how a song will match up with your video. Sometimes you'll find a song that you think will work well, but when played back against your video, doesn't match as well as you thought it would. You can even take this a step further and download a preview of the song before moving forward with the purchase. The preview will have an audio watermark, making it unusable for a final cut, but you can still use the preview to determine if the song will work in the edit. Once you're confident in your song choice, you can go ahead and make the purchase.
The four resources listed above should provide a solid and well-rounded solution for your song needs. Song selection usually requires a certain degree of patience as you playback sample after sample, but having these strategies and a variety in sources will hopefully help to speed up that process. While the type of project you're working on will determine how much time you want to spend on song selection, it's always a good idea to put some effort into picking out the right track.