Maybe you’re a vlogger. Maybe you run a technology site and you post review videos. Maybe you’re a company and you have a product announcement video. Whatever your reason for publishing on YouTube, you might be having a hard time finding music that you can use in your videos. If you choose a popular hit song (and you monetize your videos), there’s a very good chance that YouTube’s algorithm is going to catch you.
Depending on the copyright owner, you might still be allowed to keep your video up, but you might not be able to monetize it. Or maybe it won’t be allowed to be played in certain countries. Worse yet, YouTube might take your video down and you could even get banned from the site if you rack up too many violations. These are all rather undesirable.
The good news is that you don’t have to hire a musician to create custom tracks for you. And while licensing music is certainly an option, just like getting images for your blog, there are also useful resources available with royalty-free music that won’t cost you a dime. Oftentimes, they just ask for attribution or credit in your video description.
YouTube Audio Library
It may or may not surprise you that one of the best places to get free music (and free sound effects) for your YouTube videos is on YouTube itself. When you log into your account and access your Creator Studio, you’ll notice “Audio Library” under the “Create” section in the left sidebar.
You can search through the expansive library to find just the right song for your project. You can also browse based on genre, mood, instrument or duration, as well as the attribution requirement. This is important, because some tracks will require attribution and some won’t. Some may allow you to use the song, but you won’t be able to monetize the resulting video. Check carefully.
There’s also a handy “popularity” bar in the listing to give a sense of how popular the song is. While the more popular songs are probably “better” in a subjective sense, it also means that they’re going to be less original as more people are using them in their videos.
From what I can tell, Bensound is run just by one guy, but he has a fairly large library of royalty free music that you can use under the Creative Commons License Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 license. This just means you have to provide proper attribution when you use any of his tracks.
The main categories include acoustic/folk, cinematic, corporate/pop, electronica, funky/groove, jazz, rock and world/others. You can also look through using the search function. For each track, there’s the ability to preview the song before downloading. There’s also a brief description to give you a sense of style, as well as the noted duration.
Free Music Archive
I’m personally a very big fan of Free Music Archive as it has gathered together a truly impressive array of artists from all around the world, approaching a very broad range of genres and styles. You can browse based on genres, curators and charts or you can search for a specific artist, album or song title.
However, this comes with a very important caveat. Not all songs are royalty-free in the sense that not all of them can be used freely in your YouTube projects, with or without attribution. The best way to filter what you can use is to start a search. Along the left sidebar of the search results page, you can filter based on the associated license. Click the boxes for public domain, allows for commercial use, and allows for use in a remix or video.
To broaden the results while retaining the license filter, clear the search field in the left sidebar and then choose the genre you’d like to look through. You can also filter for only instrumental tracks or restrict the duration range.
Just like on Free Music Archive, not all of the tracks on Soundcloud can be used in your YouTube videos for free. In fact, the overwhelming majority are probably not licensed for that purpose, as a great number of professional artists (who produce music for a living) post their songs and albums on Soundcloud.
Filtering for free music you can use is very similar to Free Music Archive. Start a search, like for “Star Wars” in this hypothetical example, and look in the resulting left sidebar. One of the options under “Filter results” is to choose the license. Pick “to modify commercially” or “to use commercially” to bring up what you can use.
Something that’s also important to note here is that the songs may not have an available “download” link, even though they are licensed for free commercial use. You may need to use audio capturing software, like Audacity, to do this.
While Incomptech is the least professional looking of the five resources listed here, it shouldn’t be immediately dismissed either. There’s a good variety of royalty-free music here. You can look through curated lists, like the most downloaded, or you can search for something specific.
If you want to save yourself some time, you can also download all of the music as one large archive for a one-time fee of $48. Similar to Bensound, Incomptech is run by one guy — Kevin MacLeod — and he has specific instructions in his FAQ for how he wants to be credited.
Music can really take your YouTube videos to the next level, helping to establish desired moods or to suitably cover up undesirable background noise. And now you’ve been armed with literally hundreds, if not thousands of free tracks to do it.