We all increasingly need music to soundtrack our projects, whatever our creative discipline. But it's easy to underestimate how much thought and consideration you need to put into your music choice. Whether you need to add a soundtrack to an Instagram Story or Reel, podcast, YouTube video or animation, your selection can make or break its effectiveness and should not be rushed into lightly.
Most people who are inexperienced at picking music rely on their gut and just pick tracks that they like. That's a fine starting point, but if it's all you do, that's not usually the best way to select tracks.
You need to see beyond your own personal taste and focus on the kind of "mood" the music evokes. Does it fit with the content you're using for the soundtrack? Stock music sites can help here, as they often tag or categorise content according to moods like 'dramatic', 'authoritative' or 'edgy'. Another useful exercise is to find other content with a similar mood and pay attention to its background music; it might not be what you expected.
One important part of mood is tempo. Without stating the obvious, the faster the rhythm of the piece, the more energising it is, while slower tracks will create a more relaxed feel. Most stock music websites will list a track's beats per minute (bpm). Around 70-80bpm will be calming, while 110-120 will be very upbeat.
Another consideration is tone. You don't, for example, want to mix lighthearted music with serious content or vice-versa.
As with everything in the creative world, practice makes perfect, and you can go a long way using trial and error. Thankfully, most stock video sites let you access music samples for free, so try teaming these with your content and seeing how well they work before you commit. With all that in mind, here are our picks for the best stock music sites available today.
Mixkit is a great place to get started with finding music because its tracks aren't just royalty-free – they're actually free. Yes, you can find music here that you can download and use for video editing at zero cost.
You're permitted to use Mixkit's music for free in private projects, YouTube videos, blogs, websites, social media platforms, podcasts and online advertisements. Note, though, that you're not permitted to use it on CDs, DVDs, videogames or TV and radio broadcasts.
2. Premium Beat
Owned by stock image giants Shutterstock, PremiumBeat provides exclusive, high-quality tracks and sound effects for use in new and traditional media projects, including videos, films, apps, games, and television programming. Its interface is very straightforward to use. Browse and preview their tracks, pick the one you like, and you can purchase a licence with a credit card or Paypal. Then download your music: simple.
Artlist takes a Netflix-style approach to stock music. Instead of paying for individual tracks, a subscription gives you unlimited access to a library of over 900,000 professional assets. This makes it a great choice for agencies or anyone who needs to license a lot of music in the space of a year.
If you're using Adobe software such as Premiere Pro or After Effects, then Adobe Stock Audio makes it easy for you to access stock music directly within your editing software. You can search for tracks by mood or genre, and each genre has multiple sub-genre options. You can then fine-tune the results by filtering by tempo, duration, vocals, and audio partner. You can also try out an audio track by downloading a preview version, which is supplied in a low bitrate M4a format.
5. Music Vine
Music Vine was born in 2015 with a vision to democratise music licensing and make it easy to find the right tracks. As one of the newer stock agencies, their selection isn't the largest, but on the plus side, their prices tend to be more affordable.
If you're looking for a cheap way to license stock music, Audiojungle has royalty-free tracks from $1. Operating under the Envato umbrella, this is basically a free-for-all marketplace, so quality isn't guaranteed. But if you find something you like, you may be able to get it for a bargain price.
Pond5 is mainly known as a stock image library, but it also has millions of great music tracks to choose from. The service offers you the choice to pay per item, purchase a prepaid credit pack, or by picking a membership. Prices are set by the contributing artists, and tracks start at £5.
If you're looking for songs by well-known artists like Bruno Mars, Fyrfly is your best bet. Beyond that, the service is aimed at those who feel "All the songs on the other music sites sound the same". To correct that perceived problem, it offers up 10,000+ indie and cinematic songs for use in corporate projects, indie films, and weddings.
BenSound features a brilliant selection of music tracks that can be used for free, as long as you respect the licence conditions, in online videos (YouTube, Vimeo, social media, Twitch and live streaming), animations, slideshow, websites and educational projects. All this music is produced by one man, and styles include acoustic, folk, cinematic, corporate, electronica, urban, jazz, rock and world music.
10. Marmoset Music
Marmoset is a full-service music agency that's very much geared towards TV, film and big brands, with Netflix, Apple and EA sports amongst its users. As you'd expect, that makes it pricier than most providers, but with a high level of quality across the board. Marmoset specialises in curated music for licensing, music production, music supervision, clearances, customisations and sound design.
11. Addictive Tracks
Want to customise the music you're using in your projects? Then check out Addictive Tracks. Not only is its content first-rate, but it also provides different instruments within a piece of music as separate tracks and lets you switch them off at will. So, for example, if you like a piece of music but the trumpets come in at the wrong moment, you can mute them until you're ready to bring them back in. That can be a great solution when you have a client who likes everything to be just so.
12. Epidemic Sound
Supercharge your content is the promise of Epidemic Sound, a Stockholm-based company that offers subscriptions for unlimited access to high-quality music and sound effects for videos, streams and podcasts. All rights included. There are over 35,000 songs to choose from, along with 90,000 sound effects, so you'll never run out of options. Opt for a Personal or Commercial subscription to suit your needs, starting from £7 per month if you pay annually. Even better? There's a 30-day free trial, too. What are you waiting for?