When it comes to music, the term royalty refers to a fee that must be paid every time a piece of music is used. Royalty-free music, on the other hand, uses a type of music licensing which grants the buyer lifetime access to use a piece of music for a one-time payment. The term ‘free of royalty’ would be more accurate and less confusing, as royalty-free music is not necessarily free, and it’s not copyright-free. It just means you’re paying once for unlimited use of the content, versus paying based on how many times it’s used, and/or how many people will be exposed to it.
The main difference is that royalty-free music is typically more affordable. But remember, if music is listed as royalty-free, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free, or that you’re free to do whatever you want with it.
Unless there’s a song that’s an absolute must-have for your video that isn’t available royalty-free, the affordability of royalty-free music makes it the best option for most projects. Luckily, there are lots of online resources where you can find the best royalty-free music. Here are a few of them:
Free Music Archive is exactly what the name suggests – an online library of free, legal audio downloads. To use some features, you have to create an account on the website, but anyone can go to the site and download tracks without having an account. FMA offers more than 100,000 tracks organized into 16 genres and several licensing categories, and it simplifies things by allowing you to simultaneously search for tracks within multiple genres and/or license categories.
The songs are displayed on charts to keep users updated on the tracks that are currently trending. While all the tracks on the site can be legally downloaded, the name Free Music Archive can be misleading, as many of the tracks still have restrictions on what you can do with them, depending on the licensing requirements. Some of them even have copyright restrictions that prevent them from being used in videos without getting permission from the artist, so keep this in mind and make sure you read and understand the licensing before using any of the tracks in a video you’re going to distribute online or otherwise.
Bensound provides a collection of royalty-free music from the site’s owner, Benjamin Tissot, a composer and musician based in France. The majority of the music is available to download for free, and all the tracks are licensed under a Creative Commons License, meaning you can use them for your videos or other projects, as long as you credit Bensound. If you want to use the music without crediting Bensound, you can create an account and pay for a Pro License. You also have the option to subscribe to the site to get access to the entire library. Standard subscription packages cost €129 for the first year, and €49 for each subsequent year.
This site also offers access to video producer and extended subscription options which allow you to do even more with the music, but with a considerably higher price tag. The subscriptions allow unlimited downloads for one year, but the licenses for the downloaded tracks are valid forever. Though the site does offer an eclectic mix of music in many genres, the total number of tracks is quite limited, and the recordings can only be downloaded using computers, as there’s no support for mobile devices.
AudioBlocks offers over 100,000 stock music tracks, sound effects and loops, all under a royalty-free license. You have to create an account using your email address, and you can choose either a monthly plan, at $79 USD per month, or the annual plan, for $149 USD per year. The subscription provides unlimited downloads, which can be used for personal and commercial purposes, with no geographic restrictions or limit on how many times the tracks can be used.
The site has a highly detailed search function, which allows you to search based on a number of different aspects, including the type of media, mood, genre, instruments, tempo and duration. However, there are a few limitations on how you can use the content you download, as is the case with most licensed works. You can’t re-sell or re-license files downloaded from the site or use them for unlawful purposes or in a way that encourages violence. Still, the full text of their royalty-free license agreement is surprisingly short, at only 2 pages in length, and while it does contain some legalese, much of the agreement is written in plain English, and it’s pretty easy to understand.
It can be daunting to try to comprehend the legal language surrounding licensed works, and the term royalty-free doesn’t make things any clearer. So, no matter what you’re looking to do with the music you’ve downloaded, you need to make sure that you fully understand the legal implications of what you’re doing. A good rule for this sort of thing is when in doubt, reach out. If you’re at all unsure about what you can legally do with a song you’ve downloaded, it’s best to reach out to the website or individual you got it from and clarify anything that’s still unclear. Sending a few emails now could save you from dealing with legal consequences in the future.