The right music and sound effects can enhance the mood and add texture to any film or video production. But what if you don’t have a private orchestra or Foley stage at your disposal? How will you give your production the amazing soundtrack it deserves? The more affordable answer is to use royalty-free music and stock sound effects.
Below you’ll find our picks for the best royalty-free music and sound effects sites. Each site was evaluated based on library size and quality, as well as pricing and available licensing options. We recommend you start your search for the perfect soundtrack on one of these sites.
The Editors’ Choice award recognizes exceptional video production equipment, software and services. These products must help videographers be more effective storytellers while being affordable, easy to use and dependable. The products must also deliver a superior user experience.
Best a la carte royalty-free music
- Exclusive tracks
- High-quality tracks
- Smaller library
With a growing library of production music hand-selected by music industry professionals, PremiumBeat offers lots of variety in an easy to browse interface. Royalty-free licensing keeps the legal side simple, and it’s valid forever once the track is purchased and downloaded. You never have to pay any additional license fees based on usage.
A team of leading composers for film, video and media, compose each track, and all tracks are exclusive to the PremiumBeat library. As a result, you won’t have to worry about copyright flagging issues when using tracks on YouTube or Vimeo.
The library is organized into collections and users can filter searches by genre, instrumentation, mood and even tempo. Curated playlists make finding the right music even easier. Plus, stems are now available with some tracks, making them more versatile. New music is added monthly. Clips are sold a la carte and priced at $49 each. Files can be downloaded in both .wav format and MP3 format.
$49 per clip
For any size video project, CSS Music offers royalty-free music with a large bundle rights and a standard “forever license.” CSS Music is “exclusive” with no re-titled tunes and 100% copyright cleared. You can search for music by keyword, style and genre or use the CSS Exact-a-Track™ system to compare any sound recording with the unique waveform “fingerprints” of tunes in the CSS catalog.
In addition to single-track downloads and full volume virtual CDs, you can buy a “You Pick ‘Em” Bulk Download Plan and save 50-90%. Also available is the CSS Rollover Download Subscription Plan. If you don’t use it, you don’t lose it. Unused download credits rollover as new downloads are added to your account.
Also, CSS Music offers FREE Music for non-commercial YouTube videos. The entire catalog is available. Search, listen and download. No need to pay. Fully licensed. Learn more at www.cssmusic.com.
Best subscription royalty-free music
- Unlimited downloads
- Lifetime license
- Best rates require a longer commitment
Formerly known as Audioblocks, Storyblocks aims to provide affordable creative content as a one-stop-shop for stock video, audio and images. The Basic Audio subscription allows up to three downloads from the Storyblocks music library per month. From there, you can step up to the Unlimited Audio subscription, which removes download limits, or the Unlimited All Access plan, which includes unlimited downloads of audio, video or images from the robust Member Library. The Member Library is updated frequently and offers thousands of royalty-free tracks, clips, photos and templates.
Content can be used multiple times for commercial and personal projects. Anything you download is yours to keep and use forever. Monthly pricing starts at $9, but the annual billing option provides substantial discounts.
Basic Audio: $10/month
Unlimited Audio: $15/month
Best Sound Effects
- High quality, professional recordings
- Wide range of effects
The Soundsnap library is focused strictly on high-quality sound effects. With nearly 250,000 professional recordings, users can find sound effects for nearly anything. There are plenty of menu and interface sounds, ambient nature sounds, footsteps and more. The searchable database is organized by tag and location and all sound effects are royalty-free. Files can be downloaded in either MP3, WAV, or AIFF format.
Pay as you go pricing is set at $15 for 5 downloads or $29 for 20 downloads. At the $35 subscription rate, you can download up to 50 sounds per month. An annual subscription allows for unlimited downloads and costs $199 per year.
Pay as you go: $15 for five downloads, $29 for 20 downloads
Annually: $199 for unlimited downloads
Factors to consider
To find the right royalty-free music library for you, you’ll need to consider the type of project or projects you’re working on. Especially when shopping for subscription options, consider both the size of the library and the quality of the tracks. For high-end projects, you might look for a more limited and exclusive library while other producers might want a broader selection at more affordable price points.
On top of finding the right style of music to complement your production, you also need to think about how the project will be distributed and how many times you want to use the specific track in question. That’s why it’s important to understand the license that you’re buying and any accompanying restrictions.
The licensing rights that you buy when you download a stock music track determine where and how you can use that music. Even free stock media usually comes with a license that limits your use of it. To avoid any issues, read all licensing information carefully to make sure your intended uses fit within these legal bounds.
Finding free stock media
You can sometimes find royalty-free music available on the internet for nothing but a credit in return. These stock tracks vary in quality, but it is possible to find just what you need on a site like Freesound.org. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Videomaker’s Free sound effects and Stock music pages are good places to start your search.
Now that you know the basics of royalty-free music, it’s time to put your headphones on and start listening for the perfect track for your next project. For more information on finding and using stock music and other kinds of stock media, see Stock media: How to find and use the best stock photos, videos, music and more.