The more we produce new multimedia formats, from educational videos and vlogs to podcasts or online conferences, the more add-ons we need to make them more enjoyable. Today we advise you where to look for and how to make legal use of music and sounds made available for free.
Unlike free photos and vector graphics, sounds and music are not so easy to find online. Their production is more demanding, and the makers and creators usually earn their money exactly by selling licences. So before you rush off to check out the recommended links below, we suggest you first take a look at the legal download to help you choose the right track without worrying about copyright infringement.
If you want to use music in material of a commercial nature (e.g. advertising a training course), look for resources from:
- public domain (works to which copyrights have already expired).
- under Creative Commons Zero, Creative Commons Attribution, Creative Commons Attribution – Share-alike (contents under these licences can also be remitted, converted, shortened, etc.)
- under Creative Commons Attribution – No derivative works (you can use only verbatim copies of the work, i.e. by placing them in your video in their entirety, without converting or shortening them).
- under royalty free licences that allow commercial use but usually are limited by additional conditions (e.g. prohibition of selling the work in its original form, etc.)
When choosing resources under Creative Commons and royalty free licenses, be sure to check if and how the authors of the works require you to acknowledge the use of their music. For Creative Commons licenses, include the author, title, a link to the source of the work, the name of the license, and a link to the license. The best way to provide this information is to include it in the credits of the video, read it at the end of the recording (in the case of podcasts or audiobooks), and include it in the description of the video or recording if you are publishing such material on YouTube or another audio/video publishing service. Example below:
If you do not want to or cannot publish in your material the information about the authors and the license:
- search for works under Creative Commons Zero license, or:
- choose a royalty free solution that clearly indicates this possibility (usually only paid licences allow it).
FreeMusicArchive — search for a perfect track for yourself
FMA is a licensing service that aggregates recordings by professional artists who publish their music under Creative Commons licenses. You can search tens of thousands of tracks by genre, duration (an ideal feature for those looking for background music for films of a certain length) and by licence.
As in our cheat sheet above, you can specify the purpose for which you need music and search for material for commercial use or remixes. If you need additional consents or want to purchase a commercial licence for a work that prevents this, you can still do so through the FMA’s collaborative Tribe of Noise Pro licensing service.
Check Free Music Archive and save to tabs
A popular platform for publishing songs, remixes and recordings of entire radio sessions also features a substantial amount of resources made available under Creative Commons licenses. By marking the options “For commercial use” or “For commercial processing” during the search (as shown in the illustration below), we will find songs that we can use in our recordings, broadcasts or videos with the authors’ attribution. The search results can also be narrowed down to works of different lengths.
Check Soundcloud and save to tabs
Launched as a crowdfunding campaign, the Musopen project is today one of the largest services that shares classical music recordings, sheet music and music textbooks for free. Most of the recordings are available in the public domain, for free use, some under Creative Commons licenses (the terms can be found next to each work). In order to download the works, we need to set up an account.
Check Musopen and save to tabs
Freesound is a social database of sounds made available under Creative Commons licenses. The voices, available for download in WAV format, usually require the authors’ credit only (Creative Commons Attribution License) or no credit at all (thanks to the Creative Commons Zero License).
Check Freesound and save to tabs
It is one of the earliest music licensing websites, which today is largely a service for creators and customers looking for music for commercial use (under the name Jamendo Licensing service). Those looking for single tracks for their projects will also find some great recommendations here, but finding a track under the right license for you requires browsing the catalogue and checking the legal terms of the tracks (the option to search for music by license or legal terms is not available).
Check Jamendo and save to tabs
The music spinoff of the web archiving service, the Internet Archive, displays nearly 16 million results. Here you will find open and free recordings of audiobooks in several languages, archival radio recordings from the public domain or sound museums. Unfortunately, since there is no option of filtering by licenses and legal terms, you have to check these for each work separately. Browsing through such a huge resource is demanding, but if you need something truly original, here are the best chances for it.
Check Music Archive and save to tabs