Anyone who’s ever made a video knows that finding good music is the hardest part of the job—and it’s even more difficult to find great tracks that are free. Here’s all the info you need to make your music search, and ultimately your video, a success.
You want to find uncopyrighted music because it’s free, right? Well—sorry to get all technical about it—but there’s really no such thing as uncopyrighted music. Huh? What you should really be looking for is music with a Creative Commons license. Before we get into Creative Commons music (and where to find it), let’s quickly clear up a few common misconceptions about music copyrights.
Why is there really no such thing as uncopyrighted music?
By law, after someone creates a piece of music and it’s put into a form that can be distributed, the music has copyright protection…technically. In reality, though, the artist won’t win a lawsuit against someone who uses their music unless they have a registered copyright.
Is royalty free music the same as uncopyrighted music?
NO!!! Don’t confuse these two, or you will find yourself with a copyright strike or Content ID claim. Royalty free is a kind of copyright. It’s the opposite of a rights managed copyright. Just because it has the word “free” in it, does not mean you do not have to pay. Darn.
So what is royalty free?
This means that you pay the owner of the copyright ONE TIME, and then you can use the track AS MANY TIMES AS YOU WANT. (If you want to use a track that has a “rights managed” copyright, then you have to pay the copyright owner for every single view of your video. Not a good idea if you’re on a tight budget). If you want a royalty free track for commercial use (monetized) you will have to pay a bigger one time fee than for non-commercial use.
For example, you can purchase any track on PremiumBeat music production library for $59. It’s a decent deal if you have the cash, as it’s all original music you can’t find on any other library. BUT, if you want to monetize your YouTube video or use it in a commercial, you’ll have to pay $199 for that same track.
Ok, so is there any way to get some decent music that’s completely FREE?!
Helllll, YES there is!!! When people are searching for “uncopyrighted music,” they should really be looking for music that has a Creative Commons (CC) license. A CC license is used when the owner wants other people to share or even build upon and reuse the song. Creative Commons music is a global effort to legitimately share music! When you use a CC song, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you can use the track for free—AS LONG AS YOU ABIDE BY THE CONDITIONS THAT ARE SPECIFIED IN THE LICENSE. Don’t worry, though, we can clear this up pretty fast. Hang in there.
Types of Creative Commons licenses
There are several types of Creative Commons licenses. You’re gonna want to narrow your focus to a piece of music with a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). This gives you permission to use the tracks in any way you want, for commercial use, and to even remix or change the track. Just make sure that you give appropriate credit (exactly as specified by the owner and clearly visible) and also indicate what, if any, changes were made.
If you want to use a piece of music that is licensed as “CC BY-SA”, you can still use it without worries. “SA” stands for “Share Alike” and it means that when you reuse (or change) the track, it still carries the same license with it, and other people can share your track and use it on their videos. Hopefully, that’s not a problem for you…if you’re a sharer!
Watch out for a license that has “CC BY-ND”. “ND” stands for “No Derivative Works” and it means that you cannot alter the piece in ANY WAY. If you want to use it as is, then it won’t be a problem.
Here’s the other one to watch out for: “CC BY-NC”. “NC” stands for “non-commercial” work. If you plan on using the track in a video to make money or sell a product, stay away from this kind of copyrighted music!
TIP: In general, just make sure when you use any Creative Commons music that you have documentation about the items you’ve downloaded, so you won’t run into any problems after you upload your video.
Let’s start searching already!
Ok, so now that you’re educated, we can get to the good stuff. We’ve collected 7 of the best ways to find uncopyrighted music—ha! just kidding–Creative Commons Attribution Licensed music easily and for FREE!
This has free music and sound effects and it’s easy to search. You’ll see a dropdown menu called “Attribution” where you can sort by tracks that are “Attribution Required” (CC-BY) or “No Attribution Required” (now that you know what this is all about, you can feel like a pro). If you select a CC-BY track, make sure you copy and paste the credits exactly as they are written. As long as you properly credit the creator, you shouldn’t have a problem using CC-BY in YouTube or anywhere else you upload your video.
TIP: If you’re using a No Attribution Required audio file outside of YouTube, check the creator’s information to verify if the track is under a contract with YouTube. If YouTube has paid for use of the music on its platform, you should probably skip using the track outside of YouTube.
Here’s a great video on how to use the YouTube Audio Library, as well as how to do a search for music channels within YouTube:
Go to the YouTube “search” tool and type in “Creative Commons Music.” You can even get more specific and type, for example, “Creative Commons Music Background Chill.”
You can also check out some videos from your favorite YouTuber and look in the video description to find out if any of the tracks have a Creative Commons license. This is a streamlined technique for finding quality SoundCloud tracks!
Founded by Kevin MacLeod, a composer who believes the copyright system is broken, Incompetech provides free Creative Commons music. All 1193 songs are composed by MacLeod, and interestingly, you can choose to download all of them (1.8GB!) for $38. It could be worth doing if you constantly use his tracks.
You can pretty much use his music anywhere, even in a live production! Just make sure to credit him! If you don’t want to give credit, you can simply buy the license for around $30.
Also, check out another site MacLeod curated – freePD.com – for free public domain tracks! This is a library of modern recorded works by various artists who release their music into the public domain because they…are awesome! This is about as close to “uncopyrighted music” as you can get. You don’t even have to give attribution—but you can tip the artists if you’re so inclined.
If you search for “uncopyrighted music” or “no copyright music” on YouTube you might come across this YouTube Channel. It’s a popular channel turned record label from the UK, that features free electronic music for independent Creators (it’s not free if you’re a Brand). You just have to make sure to give credits as posted. You can use these tracks on YouTube and Twitch—even in monetized videos! BUT, you might receive a copyright claim if you try to use it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
Although it would seem like a self explanatory website name, you may have to pull out your wallet in some cases. You’re going to find mostly Creative Commons Attribution Required tracks here, but some are “CC-BY-NC” (Non-Commerical Use). Be careful and make sure you know which ones you’re looking at. Luckily, they offer you the option to buy the track for around $9 if you want to use it for monetized videos.
This site offers tons of free Creative Commons music (CC-BY) and all you need to do is credit them! You can use them for your monetized video, but they only give you a 192kbps MP3 (which should be fine for background music). If you want a higher quality download, you can pay 8 bucks. Pretty reasonable!
6. Cc Mixter
This site is all Creative Commons music, but make sure you are searching using this link dig.ccmixter.org/free if you want to use it for commercial use. Still, even for these tracks, there are thousands of hours of music. Woohoo!
Just as the name suggests, this site has free music, and of course, most are under Creative Commons. To find out which kind of CC it is—and if it’s available for commercial use—just click on the song title and then look at the far right column. The license info is under the box which shows the number of track downloads.
NOW—what if you need a track that’s truly unique?
Ok, you’ve got 7 options that will work well for myriad video purposes, like background music. But what if you need a really killer track? Well, you might have to cough up some actual dough. Here’s one more bonus site for you to check out: Epidemic Sound
This one is a subscription site, kinda like Netflix for royalty free tracks. While not technically free, you do get a FREE 30-day trial! When it comes to music, or anything else, you get what you pay for, so you’re gonna find a much wider and richer music selection on this site. Starting at just $15/month for an individual, you can download as much music as you need (including stems!) for as long as your subscription is active. You are completely copyright cleared for use on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitch. For a measly $15 per month, you can have peace of mind AND an awesome selection of over 30,000 songs. It’s probably worth the price if you consistently need fresh and unique tracks.
There you have it! Awesome simple tools to keep your videos packed with legal music that’s FREE! If you want to learn more about why we have so many free options for music these days, read How Has The Digitization Of Music Changed The Industry?