What is Royalty-Free Music and How Can I Use It?

Royalty-free music is audio that you can use in your productions, usually behind a voice-over recording or as part of a video, to add emotional impact and professionalism. There. Shortest article ever. Oh, you’d like a bit more information? Well, if you insist.

Is It Free?

Great question! This comes up a lot because the word “free” appears right in the name. The English language is a funny old thing. The word “free” does not actually mean “costs no money.” It’s just that English speakers have used it this way for so long, it has taken on that meaning to most people. According to Princeton’s on-line dictionary, the word actually means “not hampered; not under compulsion or restraint.” When we hear something like “free beer,” what it actually means is “beer that is free of charge.” This particular beer is “not hampered or constrained” by a “charge” of money. So what does this have to do with royalty-free music? Looked at in this way, the term becomes more clear as meaning “music that is free from the constraint of royalty charges.” That means the music can be used legally and the copyright owner of the music does not require royalty payments when someone else uses the music.

I encourage you to review copyright law on line for more information on royalties. But for now, you may be noticing that I didn’t answer the question of whether royalty-free (RF) music is free. The answer is…not usually. It’s like anything else. Providers are businesses who charge for their products, though sometimes they give them away. The same is true for RF music. There are many providers on the web. Once you have purchased the music from them, you are free (no pun intended) to use it in your media productions without having to worry about being charged more royalties or about being sued for copyright infringement. However, there is usually an agreement for the use of RF music forbidding things like turning around and selling the music to someone else, claiming copyright ownership of the music, etc. Be sure you understand the terms of your provider.

So How Can I Use It?

If you can’t sell it and you can’t claim it, what CAN you do with it? You can use it in combination with other media in your productions. For example, if you have a podcast episode that needs music for the intro and outro, you can add the RF music to your podcast audio. If you need background music for a video you’re producing, you can add RF music to your video.

No, I mean HOW Can I Use It?

Oh, you mean “how do I add music to my podcast or video?” If you’re doing video, you’ll likely find that your video program (even Windows Movie Maker) has an “audio track” underneath the video track. You simply paste or drag your audio file into that track. With audio programs, you have to make sure you have “multi-track” capability. For example, the free audio program called Audacity, allows you to stack multiple audio tracks on top of each other. So you put your narration on one track, then add another track and put the RF music on that one. Then you adjust the volumes of each track to mix it together. After that, you render the result as a single stereo file. Not all audio programs do multi-track, though. For example, audio editors typically focus on mono or stereo files with one track only. Make sure you check this.

So to summarize, royalty-free music is a fantastic way to add spice, emotion, impact, etc. to your audio or video productions. But it usually is NOT “free of charge.” You still have to buy the music most of the time. But once you own it, you’re free to use it in your productions without paying royalties to the copyright owner. If you’d like to try out some RF music “free of charge,” come to the Home Brew Audio website. You’ll find some free music and tutorials on how to use it in your own audio production.

Royalty Free Music – What Every Media Producer Needs to Know

It’s now easier than ever for us to make our own ‘media’, whether it’s on Myspace, Facebook or Twitter, a podcast, a website, even making movies or TV shows is now relatively simple, with digital cameras cheaper than ever, and video editing easy to do on almost any computer. More and more people are making their own productions, and they want to use music as part of them. While music has never been easier to find with download stores all over the web, using this music legally in your own productions can be a minefield – and expensive if you get it wrong! There is a quick, easy alternative that’s used by everyone from home moviemakers to major broadcasters, it’s called Royalty Free Music.

So what is it? The easiest way to understand it is to look at the problems it is designed to help you avoid. As a media maker, using music without the correct licensing can be a risky strategy, landing the unwary producer in legal trouble for copyright infringement, with all the hassle and expense that involves. Let’s say you’re making a video production (a sales video, a YouTube video, TV show – it doesn’t really matter), and you want to include a famous song as part of your soundtrack. You need to obtain permissions from the songwriter and recording owners (or their publishers), and doing this can cost a lot of time and money. You will also probably have to pay “per use”, which means if the song is in your soundtrack 3 times you pay 3 fees, if your Video gets shown 3 times on TV you pay 3 fees for that as well. Royalty Free music is a way around this by providing music that’s “pre-licensed” for you to use in your media productions as often as you want, without paying more fees.

Is Royalty Free Music good enough? A quick internet search will show you plenty of websites with music available to use. They range from small one-person businesses to large corporations, and the music quality varies among them. However, many of them are great quality, with music written and performed by established music industry professionals who also write and perform on chart songs, major movie scores and so on. You’ll easily find superb quality music, so it pays to look around and have a listen to what’s on offer. Many sites offer Hi-Fi quality previews of their music, often of the full length tracks, so it’s easy to hear the music in Hi-Fi quality and make a choice.

Most sites will have an easy way to search their music by style, speed, genre, making it easy to find the right music for you. Then it’s simply a question of paying a small one-time license fee, and downloading the high quality mp3 or wav file. Most of the license terms on the various sites are broadly similar, but be sure to spend a moment reading the license terms to make sure they are right for your project.

Royalty Free Music is a quick and easy way to add high quality music to almost any media production. The simple licensing gives you the reassurance that you are free from legal worries. It’s widely used by media producers of all types, including web designers, independent media producers, also by national TV broadcasters and major Hollywood movie companies. Licensing music this way is inexpensive, but the days of ‘stock music’ sounding cheap are long gone, and a quick search is bound to find you some stunning soundtracks!

What to Look for in Royalty Free Music

Purchasing music for use as production music for film, television and video projects, or as background music for different projects and companies as well as music on-hold for personal and professional telephone systems can be a time-consuming and very expensive endeavor. Because many businesses do not have the money to spend on on-going music royalties, many are turning to libraries of royalty free music to fulfill their many musical needs.

While royalty free music is certainly a convenient and inexpensive option for those in search of bulk music for their restaurants, not all royalty free music is created equal. Music from major providers such as Award Winning Music is an affordable and premium music choice for all types of professionals. The following are five characteristics to look for in high quality royalty background music, production music, and music on-hold to help insure it will enhance a business’ or project’s mission and communicate its purpose and style without reducing its value:

1. Good – make that excellent — sound quality. The sound quality of the music you are listening to will be the first and most noticeable element. If the music has been recorded under optimal conditions, you will hear a perfect balance between bass and treble, as well as consistent sound and texture regardless of the volume at which you are listening to the music. Similarly, you will be able to pick out the individual sounds of different instruments as they blend to create the whole piece.

2. Instruments that sound true-to-life. Similar to excellent sound quality, the best royalty free music ideally uses real instruments and not those that are synthesized. And if they must be synthesized, they should sound just like their original instruments and not like hollow versions of themselves. Most people have at some point heard instrumental pieces in the grocery store, in an elevator or used as on-hold music for major companies that sound no more textured than a sub-par demo on a low-end keyboard. The best royalty free music will have depth to it, and will demonstrate the many capabilities of the violins, cellos, percussion, electric guitars or brass instruments it incorporates.

3. Original musical themes that still evoke familiar tunes. One of the many benefits of royalty free music is that is an inexpensive way for film producers and directors to use original-sounding production music in their films, television programs and video projects. But, not all providers of royalty free music enlist the best composers and musicians (or, if it is purely digital, any trained composers or musicians at all!) to create their repertoire. First-rate royalty free music will sound original, yet be reminiscent of favorite songs. Stylistically and technically, it will make sense and fit into the grand scheme of a project while still making it unique. It will have rhyme and reason to it, and will therefore sound as though someone composed it for the specific film or project and will resonate in the minds and hearts of each listener and create a true emotional response.

4. Well-composed music by musicians and artists with real credentials. Great royalty free music sites will provide credentials for the composers and performers they enlist, and their artistry will shine through in the finished product. A purveyor of beautifully and carefully crafted background music, on-hold music and production music will be able to give the history of the artists involved in the design and production of the music, and this history will include collaborations with major artists in the genre of the type of music being composed.

5. A diverse yet still versatile music library. The best royalty free music will offer diverse styles that run the gamut of musical tastes. Genres of music might involve classical, jazz, different types of rock and roll, New Age and some progressive styles such as Hip-Hop and techno/dance music. But even within the more traditional styles of music, such as classical, there will be selections that appeal to younger listeners with typically more “modern” musical tastes, just as within the more cutting-edge styles, there will be pieces that can be enjoyed by even those that would not normally listen to techno and Hip-Hop.

Looking for these basic characteristics when shopping for royalty free music will help discriminating professionals select the perfect production music, music on-hold or background music to suit their very specific projects.