Royalty Free Sound and Music

Royalty Free Music and Sound

When you’re making a film, finding music can be a difficult and time consuming process. Buying a song on CD or iTunes doesn’t give you permission to use it in your film. Artists and record companies rightly assume that they should be rewarded for their hard work. If you’re going to use a song in your film – particularly a well known song – the cost of purchasing the rights to use this music can sometimes be prohibitive.

While a track by U2 or Coldplay is out of reach for most low budget filmmakers, there are a number of different ways to obtain royalty free music for your movie. Royalty free means you don’t have to pay an additional fee for the use of that song. Although some royalty free music is actually free – often distributed under a creative commons license – it is far more common to pay a flat fee for royalty free music which allows you to use it in your own creative works.

So why bother with royalty free music? When your film is complete, you’ll want to upload it to YouTube and enter it in film festivals. Using royalty free music means that you can distribute your film without worrying about potential legal difficulties of using copyrighted material.


There are a number of sites that allow you to download free, royalty free music.

Incompetech. Kevin McCloud is a professional composer who writes and distributes royalty-free music on his website His music has been used extensively on television, radio, advertisements and film. As noted on his website: “MacLeod believes that the current copyright legal regime denies people the freedom to express themselves creatively. The vast majority of MacLeod’s work falls within the creative commons license, which permits anyone to use the work however they wish as long as they credit him to the work. Kevin encourages people who use his music to give him a donation.”

Bensound. A wonderful collection of creative commons music that spans a variety of genres. The music on this website can be used with an attribution in the credits of a film or the online description of your video. You can also support the site by paying for tracks and signing up for a paid subscription which allows you to download uncompressed WAV files of the songs.

Open Music Archive. The Open Music Archive is a project that collects information about music that’s in the public domain which means that anyone can use, remix and profit from the recordings. The site allows you to search for particular tracks and also browse using a range of tags, such as ‘piano’ or ‘jazz’. A terrific source of music that you won’t need permission to use!

Free Music Archive. An archive of free music that is constantly updated and can be used, royalty free, in your own productions.

Sound Cloud. One of the leading websites for bands who want to share their music online, Sound Cloud also has a terrific search option that lets you find creative commons music. Visit Sound Cloud’s search page and click on ‘Show advanced search options’. Check the radio button that says ‘Search only for Creative Commons licensed tracks’ and also ‘Downloadable’. Add the necessary keyboards and you’re away!

Moby Gratis. A collection of music for films from award-winning musician Moby. All of the tracks are free to be used by anyone who needs music for their “independent, non-profit film, video or short.” You will need to sign up for an account to download music. If you want to use any of the music in a commercial film, you can apply for a license, all proceeds go directly to the Humane Society.

Vimeo Music Store. The Vimeo Music Store features a range of tracks that are either free or can be purchased for a fee. To search for free tracks, click on ‘Advanced Filters’ to expand the menu, there are a number of options including ‘Price Range’ which allows you to select music that’s available for free.

Audio Jungle. A website that allows you to purchase royalty-free music for a small fee via PayPal.

Creative Commons. The Creative Commons website maintains a list of sites that distribute music under a CC license. Worth checking out.


Sound effects are also subject to copyright. Sound recordists and foley artists work hard to create sound effects – everything from the sound of footsteps on wood to the sound of laser guns. Professional sound libraries can cost thousands of dollars. Fortunately, there are a number of communities online that provide sound effects under a Creative Commons license.

Freesound is one such online community. People record, produce and upload sounds which are shared. To download the sounds, you need to sign up for a free account. Most sounds are recorded as MP3s, WAV and OGG files which can be opened and edited in the free audio editor Audacity.

Sound Library. Stephen Schultz’s Sound Library is a collection of high quality sound effects that can be used in film, television and video games. A program can be downloaded to search and download sound effects.