Semi-Comprehensive guide to free or cheap royalty free music

The Tune Peddler

Pro Member
indiePRO
Recently, I have heard a lot of people asking what and how to go about finding royalty free music to use in their films. So I tried to put together a guide to help anyone with these question.

For anybody not entirely sure what Royalty free music is, the commonly agreed upon definition goes like this. You pay for a license once to use the music for as long as you want.

-- NOTE -- It's usually as simple as that. Although you need to check the terms and license agreement of each music library to be sure there isn't some kind of exception.

This license sounds great for a low budget filmmaker. "Pay once and use it in anything I make". The biggest issue seems to be the quality of the music. A lot of royalty free music sounds like no thought was put into it and just thrown together. So you have to scour through a bunch of pretty amateur music until you find the gems.

While doing research for my own production music site, I found site after site of incredible music that honestly surprised me at how good they really were.

So to help you in this rather daunting quest, I have tried to compile a long list of royalty free music libraries that offer either free or very inexpensive broadcast quality songs on their site. I have also included a little description of the site to help you know what they have available. Just be sure to check the music license terms and conditions.

http://www.thetunepeddler.com
(warning - shameless self promotion..) Thetunepeddler.com is a subscription based production music library that has had music used on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, Nat Geo and others. You can download all the tracks you want for a single fee. It's quick and simple and is constantly being updated with new tracks. Check out our "Free Tunes" page for some complimentary tracks.

http://www.gregvmusic.com/royalty_free_music.html

Greg is an in-demand musician in Nashville so you know these tracks are gonna sound great. They are mostly guitar oriented tracks but there are a ton of different styles. Also, they are free with credit given

http://www.audiojungle.net/

This site has what seems like a million pieces and really low prices compared to the most royalty free libraries. They also offer a free download every month.

http://www.incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/
This site was started by Kevin MacLeod and it was one of the most talked about sites I found when I was doing research for my site. The tracks are totally free, however he has a donation button if you would like to support him. Definitely check this one out.

http://www.q-music.co.uk

Here's a great British production music site. They seem to always be adding new pieces and the quality is great. They also have a free music section that you can use.

http://www.themusicase.com

This site offer tons of tracks as well as sound FX. The tracks differ drastically in price but you can find some really good deals if you look around

http://www.danosongs.com/

This site offers tracks in many different styles and offers them for free with credit given. You can also buy the whole package if no credit is given.

http://www.mobygratis.com/film-music.html
Now this is a brilliant site. Moby is offering a bunch of his music for free if you use it in a non commercial and non profit video.

http://www.purple-planet.com

This site has some really nice music and looks like it was designed and named by Prince, which I think it BRILLIANT! Their music is free to use for non commercial use. But even if you want to use it in commercials it's still really inexpensive.

http://www.musopen.org/music

Here is a cool idea. They take public domain songs and re record them so they're copyright free. Their motto is "to set music free". The recordings sound great and the pieces are obviously incredible seeing as they're classical pieces re-recorded.

http://www.jewelbeat.com/

This place rocks. Their music sounds great, the site is killer, and they offer an option to get their music on a hard drive or flash drive sent to your door. They also offer single downloads really cheap as well.

http://www.digitaljuice.com/

This is another one of those sites that was talked about a lot on various forums and blogs. Great quality and they are always running special promotions so you can get their tracks at a great deal.

http://www.stock20.com/commerce/index.php

Really great site full of high quality music. Their music has been used on abc, nbc, cbs and other networks and you'll hear why when you check them out.

http://www.shockwave-sound.com/

This site is not only one of the earliest sites to offer royalty free music. They also have the largest collection of royalty free classical music on the web. They say "we wade through the mediocrity, so you don't have to" and it shows in their tracks.
 
I shall do a bit of shameless promotion here for our site:

http://rocksuresoundz.com
Royalty-free music and sound effects for use in film, video, TV, gaming and other multi-media applications.

Just a small point about some of the free/very cheap music sites mentioned in the above list. Be prepared if you use their music to find that the same pieces of music you use will most likely have been used in many other films/videos because they are free. You need to decide whether or not that is an important factor in your choice.
 
Just curious Rocksure, why are all your samples/musix at 44.1k?

Would you prefer them at 48K or 96k rather than 44.1? All music and sfx are also available on there as 320kbps mp3, which are much smaller files but still sound good.

The difference in sound between 44.1 and 48 is pretty much neglible, and if you need them at 48k it's easy to sample convert (resample) with no real loss in quality.

We have started added some sfx at 96k as well, but the file sizes are so much bigger.

What are your preferences?
 
@Rocksure Very good point about free music getting overused. Although I have seen many tracks from expensive music libraries (extreme music, video helper, etc) that have been used in tons of different films, tv shows, and commercials multiple times.

I recently did some audio post on a TV series where I was rather surprised to find out they had used music from one of the "free sites" you had mentioned in your list........and I recognized the music from hearing it in countless other shows over the last 10 years. Ho-hum.
 
Would you prefer them at 48K or 96k rather than 44.1? All music and sfx are also available on there as 320kbps mp3.

Obviously there's no point in converting the recordings to 96kFs/S if they've been recorded at 44.1kFs/S or if they've been recorded using a mic with little or no frequency response above 20kHz. 96kFs/s SFX can be useful for sound design, particularly when pitch-shifting. Apart from that, 44.1k and mp3 are useless in audio post as the international standard is 24/48 and you don't want to have to SRC everything, it's time consuming and detrimental to audio quality. All modern commercial sound libraries are available at both 48k and 96k.

You might also want to consider creating some surround SFX. There's a growing demand for high quality surround SFX (particularly in the HDTV sector), there's less competition and the prices are currently very high.

G
 
Obviously there's no point in converting the recordings to 96kFs/S if they've been recorded at 44.1kFs/S or if they've been recorded using a mic with little or no frequency response above 20kHz. 96kFs/s SFX can be useful for sound design, particularly when pitch-shifting. Apart from that, 44.1k and mp3 are useless in audio post as the international standard is 24/48 and you don't want to have to SRC everything, it's time consuming and detrimental to audio quality. All modern commercial sound libraries are available at both 48k and 96k.

You might also want to consider creating some surround SFX. There's a growing demand for high quality surround SFX (particularly in the HDTV sector), there's less competition and the prices are currently very high.

G

OK thanks, that's fair comment.
Me personally, and my studio is not equipped for surround sound. But I am not the only person who contributes to the site ( nor am I the site builder/maintainer). Surround is a possible road to look at in the future though I suppose, so thanks for making that point.
Some of the sound effects we have are recorded at 96k and offered at that as well as at 44.1. But as I said previously, the file sizes at 96k are just so much bigger to store and upload. All sfx are 24bit though.

Music is different. It's recorded at 24 bit but converted to 44.1/16bit, which is the normal CD standard. Quite honestly, many people doing audio/video that do download the stuff just want the mp3's because they are smaller and quicker to download.

When we first started with the site we had intended to offer pretty much every sample rate etc that was possible ( within reason), but the logistics of building such a site was a bit too daunting....so we settled on the current formats. That's not to say that we won't expand beyond those at some point though, and will continue to add more 96k stuff.
 
Music is different. It's recorded at 24 bit but converted to 44.1/16bit, which is the normal CD standard. Quite honestly, many people doing audio/video that do download the stuff just want the mp3's because they are smaller and quicker to download.

You said it yourself, 16/44.1 is the CD standard, not the standard for film, video or tv. The "many people who do audio/video" you are talking about would be home movie enthusiasts, professionals want 24/48 wav or aiff. 96k is only useful if you have mics which can actually record audio content above 24kHz, otherwise it's pointless. Also, with the music, depending on how you are getting from 24bit to 16bit, could cause problems.

G
 
You said it yourself, 16/44.1 is the CD standard, not the standard for film, video or tv. The "many people who do audio/video" you are talking about would be home movie enthusiasts, professionals want 24/48 wav or aiff. G

The majority of professional TV editors and TV sound recordists, youtube video makers etc are still working at 16 bit, and 48 k, and often using mp3's too. Not that I in any way recommend that people should record at 16 bit or use mp3s, and I never would myself.
You are correct in saying 48 k is the film,video, TV standard. But how much music out there is available at 48k?

.Also, with the music, depending on how you are getting from 24bit to 16bit, could cause problems.


I am an audio professional too. I didn't come down in the last shower......... I know about dithering v truncation etc, so.......yes the conversion is done "properly".
 
The majority of professional TV editors and TV sound recordists, youtube video makers etc are still working at 16 bit, and 48 k, and often using mp3's too. Not that I in any way recommend that people should record at 16 bit or use mp3s, and I never would myself.
You are correct in saying 48 k is the film,video, TV standard. But how much music out there is available at 48k?

Actually, more than you might suspect, on the back end. 48k was the DAT recording standard, and studios have been using it for years, in terms of recording. Mixed down to 16/44.1 for cds, as you said, but in the mastering stages. I agree that most people can't hear the difference (of course, the average person can't hear the difference with an .mp3), but recording 24/48 gives you headroom, both in frequency and dynamics, to get some good audio recordings. Now, you're looking at file size, absolutely have previews and freebies as 16/44.1 mp3s. It's ALWAYS better to downsample than up. Maybe offer higher quality recordings on request (I assume you have masters saved of all your work)? Specifically mention higher quality...maybe even through "HD" around, people seem to get that (though I saw a set of guitar strings labeled as HD and wept inside).

My personal workflow, I also send drafts and demos as .mp3s, but deliver final versions as 24/48 .wavs (.aiff if asked). I've also have had directors use the rough drafts in the final versions. In addition to the rough-draft-ness of it, they stick out like a sore thumb and make me cringe. Obviously the director didn't notice or care, but damnit, I don't want it lo-fi unless I'm GOING for lo-fi!

All that said, my experience is working with folks directly, not running a library, like you're doing. But even if the directors can't hear the difference, lots of people can, so communicating that their audience may appreciate a better quality recording can't be a bad thing!
 

The Tune Peddler

Pro Member
indiePRO
I feel a lot better about making my files 24bit 48kHz after reading these posts. I noticed not many of the other libraries I've seen were doing this, but whenever I compose music for a tv series or a film they always want it in 24/48 so that's what I ended up doing. I also include an mp3 at 320 in the download so it's already there if you need it, but I figured most video editors would appreciate having everything in the standard format.
 
Thanks guys...your interesting comments and perspectives have certainly given me some food for thought



audio recordings. Now, you're looking at file size, absolutely have previews and freebies as 16/44.1 mp3s. It's ALWAYS better to downsample than up. Maybe offer higher quality recordings on request (I assume you have masters saved of all your work)?

I can't speak for the other contributors on the site, but as for me....Yes I do have the original recordings of my songs and sfx at higher rates if they were required. Having said that, I am pretty sure that in ablind test 99% of people ( including audio engineers) would not be able to pick the difference in sound between a 44.1 and 48k file of the same audio.



. I also include an mp3 at 320 in the download so it's already there if you need it, but I figured most video editors would appreciate having everything in the standard format.

Yes we do that too. It's good to know that someone else does as well :)
 
Just brought to my mind was the case of someone who made a corporate video using one of my songs a year or so back, and instead of using the Wav file, or even the 320kbps mp3, they used a 96kbps mp3 sample demo in the video! Made me cringe to hear my music ruined by an mp3 of that low quality in use for all to hear. But that's how little many people ( even experienced video people) know about sound quality!!!!
 
The majority of professional TV editors and TV sound recordists, youtube video makers etc are still working at 16 bit, and 48 k, and often using mp3's too. Not that I in any way recommend that people should record at 16 bit or use mp3s, and I never would myself.
You are correct in saying 48 k is the film,video, TV standard. But how much music out there is available at 48k?

I doubt anyone can tell the difference between 44.1k and 48k, unless certain types of algorithm are applied to the SFX or music, in which case the difference in the smoother characteristics of the 48k decimation or anti-alias filter might become significant. Also, who wants the extra hassle of dealing with different sample rates when in fact there is plenty of material available at the standard 48k rate?

I haven't had music or sound recordists submit 16bit files to me in so long I can't even remember, probably 10 years or so. I occasionally still get a picture editor who wants to send me 16bit wavs embedded in an OMF or AAF but I bypass this problem by requesting a referenced AAF so I can access the original 24bit files.

I'm not having a go at you, I'm just trying to explain that 24/48 has been the audio standard for many years. If you're selling stuff at 16/44.1 you will be viewed by many in the industry as not very professional.

I am an audio professional too. I didn't come down in the last shower......... I know about dithering v truncation etc, so.......yes the conversion is done "properly".

No disrespect intended but to be honest when I started in this business 20 years ago, nearly everyone who called themselves a professional recording engineer really did have a good understanding of the engineering aspect of the job title, that is rarely the case these days. So, maybe you already know this: From your sentence above you're presumably dithering to 16bit rather than truncating, do you use a TDPF dither or a noise redistribution dither?

G
 
Last edited:
I'm not having a go at you,

No disrespect intended but to be honest when I started in this business 20 years ago, nearly everyone who called themselves a professional recording engineer really did have a good understanding of the engineering aspect of the job title, that is rarely the case these days. So, maybe you already know this: From your sentence above you're presumably dithering to 16bit rather than truncating, do you use a TDPF dither or a noise redistribution dither?

G

I knew you would come back with that question. If you are not having a go at me as you say, perhaps you trying to show that one of us is more of an audio expert than the other?

I expect questions like that on Gearslutz...but on Indietalk it's perhaps a little surprising.


But for the record...I use High-pass triangular dither applied to a stereo mix that has had all other mastering done to it first, and the dithering is the final satge of the mastering process.

I have noted your points, believe they are valid and will give them consideration as they have given me food for thought. Thank you.
 
I knew you would come back with that question. If you are not having a go at me as you say, perhaps you trying to show that one of us is more of an audio expert than the other?

No, I was trying to help you but by getting testy all you are doing is proving that you may know a few facts but only really enough to be dangerous rather than a skilled professional because:

But for the record...I use High-pass triangular dither applied to a stereo mix that has had all other mastering done to it first, and the dithering is the final satge of the mastering process.

Unfortunately, there is a large hole in your logic which is resulting in you selling a product which in some cases would make it unusable and unfit for purpose! The hole in your logic is caused by you coming from the music business rather than the audio post business and not understanding the difference. Music used as part of a soundtrack in a film or tv program cannot be mastered by the music producer because the final adjustments of levels, compression, EQ, etc., are made by the re-recording mixer during the re-recording process. Therefore, the dither you have added has not been added as the final stage of the mastering process but has been added effectively before the mastering process! The addition of a lot of energy in the high frequencies can cause all sorts of interaction problems with the other audio elements in the mix or worse still, cause problems with broadcast chain limiters. While noise shaped or noise redistributed dither is standard practice for music products, it should never be used in audio post applications.

If you want to take this as some sort of expertise competition, then go right ahead, I'm not interested. As I said I came to provide help, help which you obviously need because you are trying to sell products which are unfit for purpose and in my country that's illegal. I'll leave this thread now as there is nothing except apparently a flame war to be gained by my staying here. But I certainly will not be buying your products and would advise anyone else considering purchasing your products for use as part of a film or TV soundtrack to avoid them.
 
No, I was trying to help you but by getting testy all you are doing is proving that you may know a few facts but only really enough to be dangerous rather than a skilled professional because:



Unfortunately, there is a large hole in your logic which is resulting in you selling a product which in some cases would make it unusable and unfit for purpose! The hole in your logic is caused by you coming from the music business rather than the audio post business and not understanding the difference. Music used as part of a soundtrack in a film or tv program cannot be mastered by the music producer because the final adjustments of levels, compression, EQ, etc., are made by the re-recording mixer during the re-recording process. Therefore, the dither you have added has not been added as the final stage of the mastering process but has been added effectively before the mastering process! The addition of a lot of energy in the high frequencies can cause all sorts of interaction problems with the other audio elements in the mix or worse still, cause problems with broadcast chain limiters. While noise shaped or noise redistributed dither is standard practice for music products, it should never be used in audio post applications.

If you want to take this as some sort of expertise competition, then go right ahead, I'm not interested. As I said I came to provide help, help which you obviously need because you are trying to sell products which are unfit for purpose and in my country that's illegal. I'll leave this thread now as there is nothing except apparently a flame war to be gained by my staying here. But I certainly will not be buying your products and would advise anyone else considering purchasing your products for use as part of a film or TV soundtrack to avoid them.

Great ..you are entitled to your opinion, and if you choose not to use my music or sfx that's fine..but rather than help, you have infact come here to discredit me on this thread it would appear.

You are correct in saying that I have come from a music industry background. But...I have also worked as a sound engineer in Television. Aside from that I have also have had a fair bit of my 44.1@16bit music used in TV and video over the years, and by a range of different people, shows etc with no complaints.

But you are correct in saying this is not the place for a war of words, so let's just say with both see things a bit differently and leave it there.
 

The Tune Peddler

Pro Member
indiePRO
More sites added

Here are a couple mores site I've come across that have some great royalty free music.

http://www.joshwoodward.com/
This guy has around 170 songs and he asks you to "use and abuse" his tunes meaning use them in whatever way you want. The songs sound great and would be great for I'm sure a number of projects.

http://www.pacdv.com/sounds/free-music.html
Really nice selection of music. Not the largest but really great quality. Lots of cool chase stuff.
 
Top