Best Royalty Free Production Music Sites
When it comes to royalty free production music sites for finding high quality music, at an affordable price, there are four main sites I always use for my client’s videos. As I cut a lot of charity, corporate and online content the budget requirements tend to fluctuate from ‘reasonable’ to ‘as little as possible’.
In this post I’ve brought together the four main sites I always look at first when trying to find decent tracks to use in my edits.
I’ve also put together a few playlists of tracks I like along with a few basic tips, that might save you some time next time you’re trying to find a decent track in a hurry.
Personally, having been forced to use Audio Network on a few corporate gigs, there are good tracks on there, but it always feels like you’re wading through a lot of slightly stale material. Or at least, stuff that might have sounded good a few years ago. Maybe it just needs a spring clean.
My top four sites are currently…
2018 Update – Art-list.io is now my ‘go-to’ site for production music for the best part of 2018, so I’d highly recommend it. The catalogue is always expanding and I’ve never not found excellent options for my projects, all for $199 a year, it’s tough to beat!
Here is a quick rationale behind each of these choices.
1. Art-list – A newer site that’s seeking to make waves in the royalty free production music world, Art-List.io delivers great quality music at an unbelievable price.
For just $199 a year you get access to their entire catalogue in perpetuity. That alone makes it worth the money, not to mention that the music is as good as anything else out there.
The catalogue evolves over time, so if you’re after contemporary artists providing fresh, authentic music, then you should definitely check Art-List.io out.
One of the major benefits of being able to download any and every track is that none of them are watermarked, so you don’t have to send client’s ‘temp’ versions, nor faff around replacing the signed off music with purchased full-quality watermark free tracks later on.
I download the full quality wav file first time, every time. Simple.
Another benefit is that as you’re not paying per track you can download both the instrumental and vocal versions of tracks to seamlessly blend between them in your own music edit, should you need to, without paying any extra per track.
Some other sites do also give you alternate versions of a track, shorter edits, stems etc. as part of the initial purchase price, but not all do. But definitely useful to have at your disposal.
2. Premiumbeat.com – It’s hard to beat the price to quality ratio of Premium Beat, give that it’s one of the best and most affordable sites I’ve worked with. Lots of the ‘most popular’ tracks will sound really familiar to you, because you’ve probably heard them on lots of videos you’ve seen before.
The search functionality and the layout of the new site makes it very easy to find what you’re after quickly, which is great because you want to find the right track, without investing hours trawling through options.
Obviously I have good reason to be a fan of Premiumbeat – they were long time sponsors of this site (thank guys!) and I’ve written for their brilliant blog for years. But that isn’t why I’m recommending them.
I and many other editors I know, use Premiumbeat.com on a regular basis because the music is really good and it’s affordable for any client’s budget. This is a win for me and the quality of the end product and a win for my clients too. They also have a great collection of sound effects too.
3. The Music Bed – When it comes to finding a site where you love almost every track, or can imagine using it on a project, that’s The Music Bed. It’s not the cheapest site around but it does offer discounts for registered charities, although you have to navigate a slightly overly complex pricing structure.
Possibly because the music is often from bands as well as composers, there’s an extra level of care and attention in the tracks that you might not find else where. I really like the visual layout of site and all the cover art and imagery helps keeps your brain engaged when searching for extended periods.
The Music Bed has provided tracks that have really lifted projects and delighted my clients, all while adding a certain ‘je ne sais quoi‘.
4. YouTube Audio Library – Sometimes free is the only option you have. YouTube provide a growing archive of free music that anyone can use on any project. Some of the tracks have Creative Common’s Attribution licenses but many are simply free to use as you wish.
Now the problem with free is that there’s a lot of not very good music on there. But, given enough time and enough client constraints, you might just find something workable. And you know, it’s free.
There is also a searchable archive of sound effects, which might come in handy too. Again, of variable quality. It’s unfortunate that more time wasn’t put into developing a player interface with some controls as it makes it impossible to skip through tracks to hear how they progress.
Even more Affordable Production Music in 2017
Since I first wrote this post lots of production music sites have been in touch and tried to get onto this list, or at least into the comments.
There have been a couple of sites that have been really interesting, but Art-List.io is the first to make me want to update this post with a personal recommendation.
What makes Art-List different?
First of all, the pricing and license model.
For just $199 a year you get full access to their entire catalogue, from which you can download as many tracks as you like, use them in as many projects as you like and continue to use them even after your subscription has ended.
Cinema5D has a helpful interview with Ira Belsky the founder of Art-list.io which is well worth a read. Ira covers the positive feedback on the beta and a few more details on how the subscription model actually works.
Since the license doesn’t end when a user’s subscription ends, are you not worried that people will take advantage? Theoretically, they could subscribe once and download your whole catalog.
We’re not too worried about that. While it is certainly a possibility, it would be a lot of effort!
Seriously, though, we’re catering to professionals. We think that people will be more than willing to pay the subscription because we’re providing an easy to use, affordable service with constant updates and an ever-growing catalog. Our current subscribers seem to think that Art-list is worth the annual subscription price, and we do too; we just have to maintain our quality of service, and I believe that we’ll be safe from being abused.
The second thing that makes Art-List stand out is that the music is really good. And not just really good at that price point, but really good, full-stop.
The music catalogue has a contemporary sound to it and lots of authentic feeling tracks. There’s a wide enough variety of tracks that you’ll find a hispter-folk up-beat tune along side a cinematic build that will help to really lift a dull corporate think piece. As well as many more interesting and unusual sounds that help make the catalogue pretty unique.
Hopefully Art-List will generate enough traction that it can pay it’s talented artists well enough to attract even more of them and entice more users to give it a try.
My only quibble with the beta-site is that I wish it had a universal volume control, rather than unique controls per track, as adjusting this all the time gets a little cumbersome. But it’s fast approaching it’s first release and I’m sure a lot of these beta things will be ‘tweaked-out’.
Other than that, the UI is intuitive, nice to look at and makes finding music by theme, instrument or ‘video type’ really easy. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see some of my (current) favourite tracks.
Why you should work with a Composer, if you can
A quick caveat about Composers and Composed Music
This is a post about production music libraries. Obviously much of the music is composed by a composer (or a band), selling their music and making a buck from their talents. This is good.
This is also almost always at a massively discounted rate than they would charge for composing a bespoke piece of music that is uniquely tailored to the pictures, the cut and the director’s ambition. That is fine and the digital market place means that hundreds of people might use the same track and make them a lot more money. This is good.
This post isn’t focused on working with composers and bespoke compositions, but I thought it was worth stating that if it’s a possibility for my edit, it’s always my preference to work with a composer.
With the composers I know I’ll try to set up a shared archive of their finished tracks, as well as their experiments – either through Dropbox or Sound Cloud – so that I can try pieces of their music in my edit. If the client likes it, and they have the budget, then we can always pay the composer to do some further work on it. This means I can get one of my composer friends some work, which is always nice.
Tips on Using a Production Music Sites
Here are a few tips on getting the most out of a production music site. Nothing I’m about to say will be mind-blowing, but when you’ve spent quite a bit of time in a music library, a lot of little things can add up to big time savings. Time saved looking for music, means more time to edit, which means a better, more polished project.
One of the great things about The Music Bed is that there are waveforms for every track, making it incredibly quick to see how each track will progress over it’s duration. I wish this was something that Premiumbeat had, as it is incredibly helpful, especially when previewing a track in the browser as you can easily see where changes are going to occur and jump to them.
One of the problems with some production music is that it can be quite repetitive without much progression. This might be useful for a piece of bed music that’s just sitting under other dialogue or sound design, but for a promo (for example) it would be a non starter. So look for tracks that actually goes somewhere, either with builds, breaks, solos or crescendos that you can then edit together as your project requirements dictate.
Also think about the beats per minute (BPM) of the track you’re looking for. This is especially helpful when the client has asked you to change the music as your edit is likely flowing at the same tempo, and so finding a track with a similar BPM, or divisible BPM can help set you on the right course. One of the major benefits to Premiumbeat’s layout is that all the track info is clearly presented at once, and it’s interactive.
If you click on any of the category headings, your search results list will be ordered by that data. This is really, really helpful, especially when searching by BPM or track length. It also makes it really easy to add tracks to lists, favourite them and grab links to share with directors, producers or whoever.
- <40 bpm – Extremely Slow
- 42 – 66 bpm – Very Slow
- 58-97 bpm – Very Slow
- 60-66 bpm – Rather Slow
- 76-108 bpm – Moderately Slow
- 66-126 bpm – Moderately
- 120-168 bpm – Rather Fast to Fast
- 168-208 bpm – Quite Fast
- 184-240 bpm – Very Fast
As an aside, music loops are sections of the track that are designed to loop indefinitely and might help you with a music edit or a (surprise, surprise) looping video. Also with the 15, 30 and 60 second shorter edits of a track, it’s worth downloading these at the same time as the full track, to see whether their edit has all your favourite bits in it. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s always worth listening through everything first.
When I’m searching for a track one of the things I’ll do is try to concentrate on only a few artist’s work and then mine them for all their worth. Partly this is because if I like what the style and quality of what they’re doing in one track, it’s probable that their other work has a similar quality to it. For example when I was putting my selected track list together for this post this artist had a lot of great tracks.
When I’m searching for tracks across several different sites I’ll always download a whole bunch of temp tracks of anything I think ‘might work’ to try out against my edit. This is really the only way to know if a track will entirely connect with your images, and it’s surprising how immediate the reaction can be.
The simple tip is to keep these downloads organised in folders per source. If you’ve got a lot of music in the project from a lot of different sources it’s worth colour coding them in your NLE so you can easily see how many tracks you’ve used from each site.
Another useful way to use colour coding, especially on an attended edit by a client, is to colour code the different track options, when you’re all listening back. This makes it really easy for everyone to see which track we’re currently using, although it should be obvious, some client’s never cease to amaze.
You should only buy the track when the client actually signs off on it. This saves you needless expense and it is easy to replace the edited track in your NLE with a simple re-link, as it should match identically. But always double check you edit. Also try to hold off purchasing the tracks to the last possible moment as client’s occasionally change their mind at the last minute.
The last suggestion is one that you probably won’t get around to, but if you do, you’ll be glad you did! The tip is to curate your own playlists and favourite tracks from your own go-to production sites, in your down time. This helps you hit the ground running when you’re under pressure to find a track quickly, and in those scenario’s you’ll usually want as much time to edit as possible.
Try to categorize these as tidily as you can, by project type most likely, e.g. promo, trailer, corporate, upbeat charity etc. otherwise you’ll just have your own big long list to wade through. That said, I do tend to keep a ‘junk drawer’ playlist that I can quickly throw things in, that I happen to like when I’m searching, that might not be right for this particular project but I might want to come back to later.
Recommended Production Music Tracks
In this last section of the post I’ve put together a set of playlists of tracks I like from Premium Beat and The Music Bed, that might help you get started or save you time in the future. They’re in no particular order and with no particular project in mind, and in some cases, I only like parts of the tracks. With YouTube you’ll have to find your own way!
Premiumbeat.com – It’s really easy to share a playlist publicly on Premiumbeat.com – just click this link.
The Music Bed – There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to share my Music Bed Selected Tracks Playlist at the minute, other than a set of individual links… but hopefully it will give you some ideas of tracks to use and artists to check out! You’ll need to be signed in to a free account to hear the full tracks, and save them to your own playlists.
Simple Things – Dexter Britain | City on Fire – A. Taylor | Ninety – Greg Thomas | Lift – Eric Kenny | Tonight – Secret Nation | Three (Instrumental) – Cameron Ernst | Sunny Side Up (Instrumental) – Cameron Ernst | Aerials – Lights & Motion | Rise – Tony Anderson | Found – Ryan Taubert | Summer Chills – Generdyn | Vona – Moncrief | Home – Lights & Motion | Wide Awake – Lights & Motion | Homeward Bound – Lights & Motion | New Perspective – Lights & Motion | Where is Hope – Salomon Ligthelm | Evidence of Things Unseen – Salomon Lighthelm | But One Day – Bradford Nyght | Absolute Morality – Bradford Nyght | Sky’s the Limit – The Lady & I | Eyes Wide Open – Tony Anderson
Art-List.io – When the site comes out of beta there will hopefully be an easier way of sharing a curated playlist, but for now here are a few of my favourite finds on Art-List.io.
First Contact | Coal Mine Rhythm | Sat Night | Tell Me a Story | The Grand Piano | Magic | Divine Splendour | Halation | The Valley Man | The Beat of the Land | I Remember | Lilli |