Sep 122012
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The copyright nuances of YouTube can seem like a really scary thing to an amateur filmmaker.  Those just starting out may fear losing the video they worked so hard on due to using a copyrighted soundtrack as the backing music.  What can be done to remedy this though when the filmmaker in question does not have any musical experience whatsoever?  Does one have to start looking for things that sound practically like elevator music?  Is all hope lost?  The answer to all these questions is a fantastic media license called Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

There are several websites that embrace the use of Creative Commons music.  Creative Commons is a license that requires you to simply credit the creator of the music in your video credits or description.  For YouTube, the version of the license you are searching for is Creative Commons Commercial and Remix Approved.  The other versions of the license are not ideal for YouTube because several sources consider YouTube as commercial broadcasting.  The remixing part is more of an optional bonus but I recommend finding music that can remixed that way if you wish to alter the track, such as speeding it up or slowing it down, you will be allowed to do so.  Music that is approved for commercial/remix usage is usually denoted by the logo to the left.

The quality of Creative Commons music is far from elevator music!  I have heard a plethora of Creative Commons music that I believe easily surpasses most of the mainstream pop you hear on the radio today.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the stop motion animation below that uses a lovely Creative Commons song.

Sources for Creative Commons Music

The first source I am going to mention here is the one I believe is truly the best of all the other Creative Commons indexes I have tried.  Kevin MacLeod’s incompetech.com is a free music resource that has all genres of music.  The video shared above actually features his popular piano piece “Harlequin.”  MacLeod has no restrictions as to how his music can be used when credit is shared.  He does however charge if you have a situation when it is impossible under any circumstances to provide credit (ex. radio ad, TV ad, corporate presentation, commercial short, on-hold music, etc.)  If you wish to employ MacLeod’s talent for scoring a personal song for your project, he also charges a relatively low fee compared to his competitors.

If you require an even larger collection or need more tracks featuring vocals, the next best source for you is a website called soundcloud.com.  This website features all genres of music by thousands of artists.  I particularly like the library of trance, dubstep, club, techno, and contemporary that the website has.  The only major drawbacks of soundcloud.com is that not all the tracks are downloadable and some are remixes of copyrighted songs.  In the first case, the drawback can be remedied by contacting the artist and asking permission to use their music.  Most of the time they are more than willing to let you feature their content.  In the second case, you probably should avoid using the copyrighted mix in the first place.  Remember to pay close attention to the licenses when using soundcloud.com, as some of the music is not licensed for commercial use.

Another source with plenty of vocal tracks is the popular jamendo.com.  This website is utilized by musical artists worldwide and has a very diverse selection.  Perhaps you are making a film geared toward a more global audience.  Perhaps a French club song suits your fancy or a Korean pop mix may better fit the bill.  I do notice that jamendo.com is very vocal heavy though and you may not find that many instrumental tracks.  The quality is a little more uneven than the other sites too.  You will find yourself wading through more songs before you find the perfect match.  Licenses also vary on this site, so once again, keep on the lookout for the line or logo that shows commercial approved use.

A site that is very well known among filmmakers is ccMixter.org.  ccMixter.org embraces the remix approach in it’s music.  Users often incorporate each other’s tracks and loops to create a new song entirely.  For example, one of my favorite songs on the site “I dunno” by grapes uses tracks from J.Lang’s “It’s Time { Bootleg Remix }” and Morusque’s “260808 loops pins 01.”  Much of the music on the site goes through this long history of remixes and you can find so many cool variants of the same song.  The wonderful thing about ccMixter.org is that many of the tracks possess commercial approved licenses, making it an indispensible source for YouTube video makers.

Last but not least is a site for those of you who want to take the DIY route with your music.  Musicshake.com lets you create your own music with an incredibly easy to use interface.  You do not need to have any musical knowledge whatsoever and you will rarely make anything that sounds terribly bad.  Here’s an example of a percussion heavy track I put together that sounds quite good: Uncertainty II.  This particular resource is not exactly free however.  While you can make and listen to tracks for free, if you wish to use them commercially, you need to pay a fee of $20.  You can make some of that investment back however if people like your track and want to buy it from you.  Regardless, the tiny cost makes it an excellent option and one that I highly recommend if you need a track that is even more customized to your production.

Any Questions?

There you have it, 5 sources of music for any YouTube video you produce in the future.  Still need help obtaining music or media for your production?  Leave a comment below and I will be glad to answer.  Best of luck on your future films and don’t forget to subscribe to the Dragonblogger YouTube Channel to catch our own videos and reviews.

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Mitra Faridian

Mitra Faridian

Mitra Faridian first joined the site in 2011 under the handle “Persian Poetess.” Since then she has become one of Dragonblogger’s most passionate videographers. She is a regular on the Dragonblogger YouTube channel and has produced several high quality video game and product reviews. Her gaming and entertainment taste is very eclectic and she’s always open to a fun new virtual experience. Email her at the following address: mitra [at] dragonblogger.com
Mitra Faridian
  • http://www.speakingoflove.net/ Sally Brown

    Wow! Justin!  I didn’t know about this.  I know that right now I don’t use video for my blog, but it is in my future.  I will be saving this info to refer back to.  Great article and thanks for sharing. 

    • persianpoetess

       @Sally Brown Hi!  This is one that I wrote, glad it could help you :).

      • http://www.speakingoflove.net/ Sally Brown

         @persianpoetess I knew you wrote it and am very thankful for reading it.  I said Justin, because I had a ‘senior’ moment when writing comment. LOL  Sally

  • website101

    Soundcloud.com is fantastic for many reasons, but the most obvious is their system for managing music files. They provide widgets that you can use throughout sites, basic promotion tools, download statistics and more.