We all can recall a moment when a film’s soundtrack, sound design or underscore heightened our cinematic experience. For me, this universal awakening makes the influence of music in film clear. It heightens our emotion, informs how we feel about a character, scene or setting, pushes the narrative, creates tension and produces unforgettable moments of movie magic. As I write now, the theme of Indiana Jones rattles in my head, and I recall the film’s iconic adventures in far-off lands and Indy’s (near-fatal) feats of bravery. That’s the power of music in film.
To create these memorable moments, however, indie filmmakers and content creators often rely on licensing the music featured in their films. This is where things can get tricky. The traditional process of licensing music is situational, with many different factors and complications at play. Depending on the song, licensing could mean navigating copyrights, researching publishing rights, chasing down rights holders, clearing usage permissions and negotiating territories, terms and fees. This is not ideal for the upstart filmmaker who doesn’t have a legal team.
Thankfully, there are alternatives that make music licensing seamless and easy, so you can focus more on finding the perfect soundtrack for your production instead of getting lost in the legalese. Let’s dive into some of the different options!
Where Can I Find Music For Film Projects?
Pre-Cleared Music Libraries Like Audiosocket
A great option is to use a company that provides pre-cleared music. This means that the company clears the rights to use the music when they receive the music from the composer or artist. Therefore, you simply need to purchase a license from that company, and the music is all yours to use!
Audiosocket is a music licensing company that empowers filmmakers and creators to find and license unlimited songs from a deep and diverse catalog of over 80,000 tracks from 3,000 artists in 200 genres. Their online platform removes the need for attorneys and large budgets, so indie filmmakers and content creators can license quickly and easily with the peace-of-mind that they won’t get sued.
Unlike other services, Audiosocket boasts authentic tracks from real bands, indie artists, composers, producers and touring acts. They have an unlimited music licensing subscription that starts at $15 a month, and also offer the flexibility of single-use licenses. The only thing you need to worry about is choosing which tracks to use!
In March, Audiosocket will launch a brand new, groundbreaking Similarity Search tool, allowing users to find songs using a YouTube URL, Spotify URL or by uploading an audio file. It cuts down the time spent searching for music and will find songs that sound similar to the musical references you use. How cool is that?!
Public Domain Music
Public Domain music is music that anybody can use for their project. This is because the track’s copyright has expired, and therefore it is no longer protected.
This sounds great in theory, however:
- There are limited tracks within the Public Domain
- It can be tricky and lengthy to confirm whether these tracks are totally free of copyright, and it is risky to proceed without being 100% sure. You don’t want to end up in hot water because your ‘copyright free’ track isn’t that at all!
Royalty Free Music
It’s tempting to think that royalty free music is the best option. This type of music is easily found online, quick to download and seemingly less hassle. However, there are tons of problems that can arise from using royalty free music:
- Firstly, the quality will most likely not be great.
- The tracks are usually bulk produced by the company itself, and therefore will lack individuality. You might start to see your song pop up in various other projects immediately afterwards.
- Royalty free doesn’t mean that accessing the track itself is free, and some sites charge extortionate amounts to use a track.
- This type of music also doesn’t include public performance royalties, which means that even if you aren’t paying these royalties, the music still isn’t officially royalty free.
- In short… it’s a big gamble!
Stock music is created for the purpose of being used in audiovisual projects, which means that permissions aren’t a problem. Similarly to stock images, these tracks are quick to grab for use. So, what are the down sides?
- The quality can be a gamble (being referred to historically as ‘canned music’ for its lack of authenticity).
- Once again, there will undoubtedly be a large amount of videos sharing the same track as you.
- You also can’t be entirely sure that copyright won’t be an issue.
How To Find Music For Film Projects: Final Thoughts
Trying to find music for film can be a tricky venture, and you may end up with your head spinning from all of the options. Using music in projects is something that you should research a little yourself, and make sure to always license music properly or download it from a reputable site. However, if you are looking for the fastest, most budget-friendly and lowest hassle alternative, licensing music through Audiosocket is your best option.
If you’re interested in finding out more about music copyright as a creator and levelling up your knowledge of using music in film, this Using Music In Films course is for you!