If you’re a filmmaker then you’ve undoubtedly had the experience of looking for music to use in your feature films, documentaries and short films. Unfortunately this is often an issue of compromise for filmmakers who lack the budgets to license music from record labels for their films or hire someone to compose music specifically for their films. The cost of both of these options are often prohibitively high.

The compromise usually consists of using your musician friends music which may or may not be professionally recorded and likely not relevant to the tone of your film. Just because you have access to a song it doesn’t mean you should use it in your film for the sole purpose of having a soundtrack. No music would be more professional than wrong music.

This is why many independent filmmakers don’t incorporate music into their feature films, shorts and documentaries. Not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t afford licensing fees.

Still other filmmakers use overused stock music which often lacks in a musical sincerity and gives your film a very compromised or gimmicky sound.

However, there is free and affordable music available for your films (both student and commercial films) and this article will go through your different options. There are other websites that simply list where you can get free mp3’s, but I would caution you against just downloading a track from anywhere. It’s important that you ensure you have the legal right to use a song for your intended purpose.

For this reason I’m outlining 2 very good sites for you to use with great music libraries and clear contracts on music usage rights.

Jamendo is a great music website for filmmakers. They offer free music for personal, non commercial as well as commercial use!

They use the creative commons system to allow people to upload their music and share it with others under a certain set of restrictions. Creative commons does not abolish the copyright to the music, but instead compliments it with additional limitations.

The set of guidelines for music use are:

Attribution – This means you need to give credit to the musician
No Derivative Works – This means you cannot build upon the existing track
Noncommercial – This means you cannot use the work for commercial purposes
Share Alike – This means if you redistribute, you need to use the same creative commons license.

Therefore if you find an album and it doesn’t mention “non-commercial use” as one of the limitations, technically the artists is not asking for payment for the commercial use of their work.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay the artists for their music. It also doesn’t guarantee that you are infringing on any contracts with performance rights organizations (i.e. SOCAN, BMI etc).

Because you can’t be certain that the musicians that are offering their music are not a part of any of these music rights organizations you should purchase a “Jamendo PRO license”.

But not to worry, the costs for this certificate are not enormous. It varies depending on how many tracks you want and what your intended use is with the music.

For example let’s say your intended use is for your film website promotion. You choose “website” and then tell them 1. how many visitors you have to your website / month 2. what type of website it is (i.e. personal or business) and 3. how long you want the license for.

For example, if I had a small commercial website getting less than 1000 visitors / month and I only wanted the license for 6 months, the license fee would be 10 Euros. If I had a website receiving less than 10,000 visitors / month and I wanted a 6 month license the fee would go up to 50 Euros. If I wanted unlimited use of the song on my website with less than 10,000 visitors (per month) the fee goes up to 504 Euros. Unlimited licences (unlimited period of time) obviously increase the price of each certificate.

To order your certificate go to Jamendo PRO

If you’re not sure if your film is “commercial” or not consider these things:.

Is the film / video using the music available for sale?
Does it cost anything to access the film / video using the music?
Does it come with any advertising?
Was it created to promote a business?
Were you compensated for the products creation?

If you answered “yes” to even one of these things then your project would fall under “commercial use”.


RevoStock is another great royalty free music website where you can’t get free music for your film but you can get very low cost music. They also have a big library of “film score” tracks that work very well for films, documentaries and commercials.

What I like about RevoStock is that their website is very easy to navigate, you can quickly sample all of the media, the quality of their royalty free music is great and you get immediate access to your purchased music. We’ve used this website in the past and we can vouch for their products and services.

“royalty free” simply means you don’t pay a royalty free each time the music is used. This usually means you pay 1 fee to use the music however you wish. However, with RevoStock they have 3 royalty free plans for their music.

1. Standard license ($20) : Corporate, Non-Profit, Trade Shows, Web*, Not-For-Broadcast Re-Production to 5,000 copies. Project and Student Films.

2. Wider Release ($30) : Includes Standard License plus local/cable broadcast up to 300 miles and reproduction from 5,000 to 50,000.

3. Wide Release ($50): Unlimited broadcast and reproduction.

It’s important to remember, that musicians, like filmmakers seek to be compensated for their hard work and creativity. It’s important therefore, that we work together with recording artists and we find mutually beneficial partnerships where we get access to high quality recordings that enhance our films, and the recording artists get compensated accordingly.

Best of luck with acquiring music for your next film!


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