When you are producing your next video, multimedia project or slideshow and you want to have some nice music to accompany it, you just can't use the latest Katy Perry tune that you may have purchased. If an artist creates it, then it's copyright. Buying music on sites like iTunes only gives you right to listen to it, not use it in your work. Sites like YouTube often remove copyrighted music, along with whatever audio you might have had in your project.
The best way to find legal music you can safely use in your next project is to license some royalty free-music. Royalty free means once you purchase the track, you won't have to pay out traditional music royalties every time you use it, like radio stations do. You pay a fee upfront, and while you won't find top 40 hits, if you go to the right sites you can find some really great music to add some punch to your videos.
One of the sites I have been using lately is FriendlyMusic.com – it's probably the cheapest option at $1.99US per track. It has a really nice search engine where you can just search for a mood or keyword and then narrow your search results even further – just selecting instrumentals for example. They are partnered with YouTube, so if that is the destination for your work, then this is a great place to start searching.
The one catch is that the music has to be used non-commercially, meaning you can't have gotten paid to produce the video, or be using the video to make money. The basic $1.99 only gets you personal use rights, which is fine if its a family video or a personal project.
If you do get paid to produce video, or would like to make money from your work at some point, you can go checkout a great site called Neosounds.com. They have lots of great music, usually for around $29.95US for a full track. They also have a nice search engine where you can browse tracks by mood, genre or even usage (e.g. Documentary) which I thought was a great entry point to their collection.
If you prefer traditional CD's I have also used DigitalJuice.com – they have lots of music collections for sale as well as some stock motion graphics for video projects. If you watch the site carefully, they often have some great blowout sales and you end up with an entire disc of music for a reasonable price.
One of the things I really liked from Digital Juice is when you get your CD and use the free software provided – you select a track you like and you can actually choose what instruments you want in the track. Don't like the drum track? Delete it. I have had good luck finding tracks that were so-so and then deleting the instrument that was distracting to the listener. If you are real keen you can also export each instrument separately and do your own mix in your audio or video editor of choice.
When you make a video, audio is half of the users experience. Choosing great music for your work sets the mood that the user views your video in, and when chosen wrong can detract from your visual elements. Make sure to spend lots of time sourcing some great quality music, and it will show in your end production.
Have a favourite source for royalty free music? Share it in the comments below.