December 19

Video Production: Using Royalty Free Music


ROYALTY FREE MUSIC is an essential element for many styles of video making.

This post describes what royalty free music is, and it is the only kind of music some video makers will ever use.

royalty free music
Music is one of the single best ways to spice up your video and make it more entertaining.

Of all the storytelling elements available to a filmmaker, music is one of the simplest to add.  Music instantly adds a mood to your show that’s impossible to miss.

Does that mean you can download the latest #1 hit tune off the Billboard charts and use in on your online video?

Nope, sorry.

Well, you can, IF you have a ginormous budget, or don’t mind risking a lawsuit. And sue you they will. Record companies have been known to sue small-time, struggling public school system TV and video departments, so obviously, no one is safe just because they’re the little guy.  And honestly, the system setup to pay songwriters, singers, and studio musicians for the time and talents is one that spreads a good living around to a lot of people, so all in all is a good system you should not try to thwart.

YouTube and other streaming sites won’t (and shouldn’t) allow it.

Royalty free music is the solution.

Royalty free music is produced specifically for use in video and audio productions. Generally, it is lyric-free and timed out to match common video lengths, :30, 1:00, etc.  Royalty free music can also be called, production music, stock music and library music.  

The vast majority of video made by small production companies for local markets is going to use royalty free music and ONLY r.f. music.  Royalty free music is a big part of being a video maker.

Many people hear the term royalty free, and they get the impression it’s free.  It’s not.  Let me explain the difference.  Popular singers and songwriters like Taylor Swift are paid royalties for their work.  A royalty is a percentage fee based on how much money the song brings in over all.  Generally speaking, every single person who worked on the song is entitled to an ongoing royalty payment for whatever percentage they worked out at the time of the contract.

Royalty free music has no royalty fees associated with it, but there are general fees.

Using royalty free music usually requires paying a one-time fee, then, with most licensing agreements, it is yours to use forever. Certain restrictions apply and the specific licensing agreements vary from supplier to supplier.

Generally speaking, royalty free music is created by people who never become celebrities, so never command as much money as a big star.  It’s not necessarily elaborate music, so production costs are not terribly high either.  Almost all of it is totally original music, although I have heard r.f. music made from public domain songs.

Royalty free music will be categorized by genre, such as dramatic, humor, or horror.  When you are searching for a clip to use, you should know what kind of mood you want to create.  Then spend some time listening to

Usually, it’s instrumental music, so goes under video with narration or dialogue well.

A lot of it is really well done, but not all, of course.

custom musical score

The only perceived problem with royalty free music is sometimes it sounds like rejects from the “elevator” music category. You know, the kind of stuff that either puts you to sleep or makes you grab for your ear plugs.

I am pleased to say, however, over the years, royalty free music has improved tremendously. Nowadays, some of the best royalty free music is not only listenable, but actually quite enjoyable. An entire industry of professional musicians gravitated toward the field as demand increased.

How much will you pay?  There is a range.  You can find some free royalty free music as part of starter deals.  To me, an affordable price is 30-40 for one song that comes in several lengths made for TV, such as 30 seconds plus a minute-long version and 5 second sting. 

The price you pay depends on which level of licensing you need, they have three different levels. Fees start at about 25 bucks per song for the lowest level.  Look for package deals.  I’ve gotten package deals for way less than 30 bucks a song.  Over the years, I built up a huge library of royalty free tunes.

There are a large variety of websites offering different genres of royalty free music, so do not be afraid to do some research, so that you too can find deals.

So go download some royalty free music today.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips.

Lorraine Grula


  • In your own words, describe the differences between royalty free music and the popular music you listen to.
  • Is royalty free music free?  (NO!  That is a commonly confused point.  You can find free r.f. music, but the free part of royalty free music is not paying royalties.  Please re-read the article)
  • In your opinion, why is music one of the easiest and best storytelling elements for a filmmaker to use?


mike stewart royalty free music, royalty free music, royalty free music downloads, Smart Ass Music, using royalty free music in video production, where to get royalty free music

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  1. I saw your post regarding smartassmusic and thought I would add a few sites with *free* royalty free music and sound effects.

    On this page there is a collection of free royalty free music loops that are perfect of idents, stings or background music behind a voice-over. Avaialble for personal and commercial use, no strings attached:
    Free Royalty Free Music Loops

    This page has thousands of free sound effects to download and use, organized into easy to search categories:
    Free Sound Effects

    This blog constantly posts new royalty free music and sounds effects that are available for use in personal and commercial projects:
    Royalty Free Music Clips isn’t free but has over 4000 tracks from some of the best composers on the internet. If you need a wide variety of music genres to choose and nothing but high quality stuff this is the place to go

    Marks last blog post..10 Ways Businesses Use Twitter / 5 Essential Twitter Apps

  2. Hey Mark

    I checked out all those sites (briefly) and they looked good. I was afraid they would be spammy crap, but they looked good.

    So thanks for the quality information.


  3. My pleasure.
    Since this is a video production tips blog
    there’s another page that might be worth mentioning that has 10 free, Christmas themed video background loops available for personal or commercial use in any video production.

    There are 10 of them in full rez, PAL and NTSC available for download.

    They come in handy to add titles over or green screen or matted type elements.

    10 Christmas Themed Video Background Loops

    Marks last blog post..10 Ways Businesses Use Twitter / 5 Essential Twitter Apps

  4. Hey Mark.

    Wow! Those are positively gorgeous. I will be downloading them myself!

    Thanks a million for the info. We always love free video production resources here at VPT!

    Merry Christmas

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