Update: We got a lot of great responses from people over at Reddit and Twitter who enjoyed this article on finding music for independent films. Rather than add their suggestions to this article though (which was getting a bit too long) we decided to make another article with additional sites which you can find here. Go check those out if you can’t find what you’re looking for below.
One of our goals is to create a place on the site for a lot of filmmaker resources with things like legal information, festival submission dates and prices, equipment reviews, etc. But since we’re all busy with the main function of the site, streaming and selling films, we’ve decided to put up some of the resources we’ve already collected here so you don’t have to wait. We’ll start with music you can use in your films.
Please note that 5th Cinema is not affiliated with any of the sites listed here, and the order of links is not necessarily reflective of anything. If you know of another site that you think should be here, feel free to tell us in the comments.
*Signifies mainly non-commercial
The Robert Rodriguez Method
Instead of buying the license to an individual song, buy the rights to cover the song, and then use the cover version in your film. If you really want a specific song that isn’t on one of the sites listed below, you might want to go with this route because it can be much cheaper than buying the rights to use the actual recording. You would have to contact the record company or artist directly that produces the song and ask about covering it for a movie, or you could use a service like Limelight which costs a bit extra. If you want to learn more about the legal ramifications of covering a song, this is a good place to start.
We’ve named this method after filmmaker Robert Rodriguez who’s used it on multiple occasions with his band Chingon.
Musopen is a non-profit, which in addition to doing a bunch of other cool stuff, provides a rather large library of copywrite free music for anyone to use on whatever they want. Their stated mission is to “set music free.” Most of the music is classical, and this is probably the best place to find what your need if you’re looking for a little Bach or Beethoven.
At the time of this blog post they’re preparing for a second Kickstarter campaign to record even more copyright free music.
Soundcloud is a great place for musicians, but what you may not know is that you can search for music with a Creative Commons license on it. If you don’t know about Creative Commons, you can learn about it here. Make sure you follow the Creative Commons license if you go this route as it usually means you can’t use it commercially.
Free Music Archive offers a lot of high quality music for free; however, most of it is not free for commercial use. Make sure you check the license of a song before using it in your film.
JewelBeat isn’t free. On the other hand, with currently over 35,000 tracks they have a much larger selection of music for commercial films than all the other site here with the exception of Jamendo, and you only pay 99 cents per song. They do have over 1,000 free tracks with a Creative Commons license, but those are really just for non-commercial projects.
Jamendo has by far the most variety of music for commercial projects with over 350,000 tracks, but it’s also by far the most expensive, with music prices ranging from $59 for a short film to $600 for a full length movie.
Freelance composer Tom Cusack has recorded a variety of music freely available here to filmmakers. Although this site was originally built with YouTube videos in mind, any filmmaker can use music here for any project as long as they attribute it.
Freelance composer Dan-O has recorded a variety of music freely available here to filmmakers. All the songs are under a Creative Commons license and all you need to do is give attribution to “Dan-O at DanoSongs.com” and you can use his songs for free.
Freelance composer Jason Shaw has recorded a variety of music freely available here to filmmakers. All the music is licensed under a Creative Commons license 3.0 and free to use on whatever project you need, including commercial projects, as long as they attribute it to audionautix.com.
Freelance composer Kevin MacLeod has recorded a variety of music freely available here to filmmakers. As he stresses in the FAQ: “Anyone can use any of my music in any project” as long as they attribute it.
DFTBA Records (which stands for “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome”) actually encourages you to use music from their bands on videos. Originally they built the company with YouTube videos in mind, but any filmmaker is welcome to use their music as long as they attribute it to the artist. It’s important to note that if you plan to monetize the film they do want you to notify the specific artist and ask for permission.