A Quick Overview
Editor’s Choice - Best Overall - Soundstripe
Leading the pack of best royalty free music sites is a popular option for creatives, Soundstripe. This company has been on the scene for years and has curated an impressive music library. Music on Soundstripe are all produced in-house by professionals hand-picked by their team. The music quality is top-notch as the founders themselves are musicians, so they know the skills to look out for.
Soundstripe works on a subscription model. They have membership plans that give access to different libraries on the website, with the highest plan granting access to royalty free music, sound effects, and stock videos.
Licensing music on Soundstripe is as seamless as it comes. Members who have an active plan can get a single-use license on any music per project, and can get multiple licenses per music for as many projects as they wish.
Searching for music on Soundstripe is quite simple, as the user interface is easy to navigate. The search option helps to filter music by genre, duration, key, instruments, beats per minute, mood, and so on. Then, there are over 50 playlists based on genres like sports, sci-fi, weddings, etc, that can help direct your search. Soundstripe also helps sort sound effects using their categories.
Soundstripe is one of the fairly priced royalty free music sites available to filmmakers. The majority of music available on this platform are best-suited for film scores. So, with a single subscription, film producers get access to sound effects, music, and for some packages, stock videos.
Best for high quality music - PremiumBeat
As the name of this site gives them away, PremiumBeat is certainly one of the best royalty free music sites for creatives. They have racked up a solid reputation for themselves by listing only quality sounds. And you’d be pleased to also know that this platform is owned by Shutterstock; that gives an idea of the top-quality to expect.
PremiumBeat offers her services for quite a steep price, however, the quality of music available on the site is commensurate. The music inventory on this website is quite broad, spanning across almost all genres of music you could need on a project. From classical music to contemporary jams, PremiumBeat tracks provide good variety for video creators.
Another laudable feature of the PremiumBeat platform is the categorization. Music files exist in separate categories, and are displayed on the homepage to help visitors easily find the exact type of sound they need. The search tool on the site is quite immersive. It comes with the option to explore subcategories under main categories. This means you spend less time finding quality music that suits your work.
PremiumBeat offers both single song purchases and membership subscriptions for a given period. The subscription plan saves up to 70% on track costs depending on the package chosen. They offer standard and premium plans, with the premium being the option with unlimited license suitable for commercial use.
Best subscription-based site - Artlist
For video creators and agencies that work on multiple projects at a time, opting for single purchases of royalty free music would not be cost effective. The best route to go here would be subscription-based stock music purchases. So, if you’re looking for great subscription options, Artlist is our best royalty free music site in this regard.
The model Artlist uses is not for one-off users, it’s best designed for long-term users who would always circle back to the platform to explore more music options. The yearly plan offer goes for a flat rate lesser than $200, which when calculated on a monthly basis, is cheaper than most other platforms.
And in case you’re wondering; no, the quality of music listed on this site doesn’t suffer for the payment option. There are close to 100k tracks on the platform; songs and sound effects included. More importantly, the Artlist team constantly updates their catalog by adding new tracks every week. The deal here is just good, little wonder why big brands like Google, Netflix, and Nike have used this platform.
The licensing provided for Artlist tracks is lifetime which allows you to use them on any project whatsoever, commercial or not. And on the usability front, visitors can search out needed tracks using the filters and categories, and can also keep track of preferred choices by adding to favorites.
Largest royalty free music library - Pond5
As a company that has been around for far longer than most other stock music sites, Pond5 has been able to grow their music library to a little shy of a million tracks. Now, that’s some impressive catalog right there. The only issue would be, how would creators be able to dig out the right music for their work?
Not to worry, Pond5 boasts a sleek interface with innovative methods for filtering and categorizing files. As the website hosts much more than license-free music, creators can also explore their vast library of royalty-free video footage, as well as other motion graphics.
With their ever-expanding list of music available to creators, Pond5 capitalizes on this by offering competitively lower prices for single purchases, alongside stacking loads of short music snippets, as short as 30 seconds. This is ideal for creators looking to get the best royalty free music on the net without having to commit to a subscription or unnecessarily overshoot their budget. Pond5 music lists for as low as £5, and the prices vary depending on demand for the track.
For creators who have lots of projects to handle and would be needing multiple licenses on the long run, Pond5 offers premium memberships. But this option is a little more costly than similar alternatives, although the music library here is more robust.
Best Creative Commons license - Bensound
For a one-man show, Bensound has quite an impressive music library. This royalty free music site belongs to an English artist, Benjamin Tissot who is based in France. The site has some of the best royalty free music for YouTube videos as it offers a Creative Commons license for creatives to use some tracks on their videos, the only catch being that they’d have to credit the site as source.
For those who don’t want to credit the artist, you can pay a small fee to purchase a license to use any of the tracks. The site has a lot of handy tunes for creatives who are looking for fitting sound for projects. These work for personal videos, motivational clips, animations, short films, and other quick projects.
Visitors also get the option for a yearly or monthly subscription, which allows you to come back to explore the online music library for more custom sounds. Bensound is a popular choice among creatives because of the several upbeat music found there which fit right in for most online video projects.
What does royalty free music mean?
With the many terms being thrown around when it comes to copyright and licensing, it often leads to creators confusing some of these terms one for the other. It requires that creatives pay some attention to the different terms, especially as this could have legal implications.
That said, what is royalty free music? These are music pieces that do not require end users to pay any royalty when they are used in a creative work. Is it that the copyright owners of the song give them away for free? No. The royalty on the songs are instead paid by the platform offering the music for public use.
These sites/platforms that offer stock music(1) for creatives to use also handle the technical and legal bits of the copyrighted music. In exchange for the service fee they charge creators, they give specific licenses in return which detail how the obtained piece can be used.
Here are some of the license types offered by royalty free music sites;
- Sync license
A sync license is issued when a copyrighted song is played as a background for visual media. This license is needed by filmmakers, video creators, and illustrators. That’s why it’s prevalent in the royalty free music space. Creatives need this license for virtually all projects like YouTube videos, TV commercials, video ads, and so on.
- Master license
The master license works hand-in-hand with a sync license. You need both to use a song in any recorded material – which could be other audio media or visual media. So, for most videos which are audiovisual, you would need both a master license and sync license from the copyright owners to use a song.
- Mechanical license
Altering any part of a song under copyright requires a mechanical license from the copyright holders. The terms are a bit more technical for this type of licensing as there are more parties involved. So, be sure to get this if you plan to tweak, remix, or cover a song before using it.
Alternatives to royalty free music for your creative projects
Some of the best royalty free music used on creative projects weren’t sourced from sites selling such music online. Here are some alternatives that could interest you;
- YouTube audio library
For creators on YouTube, you get access to the YouTube audio library where there are thousands of copyright-safe tracks to add life to your videos. This library remains the place to source the best royalty free music for YouTube. Although, some might require attribution to the music copyright holder. And of course, the royalty-free license doesn’t extend to creating videos outside YouTube.
- Custom scores from composers
Another route to go for video creators is to opt for custom scores. This involves hiring a professional to create music especially written for your video project. Oftentimes, creative shy away from this method because it can be cost intensive. But the good news is that there are some online studios, as well as aspiring artists, who would create custom music at low cost.
The main issue here is having to search for quality artists on your own. You can explore platforms like LinkedIn, Music Gateway, and Fiverr to get freelance musicians.
How to choose the best royalty-free music site to use
Now that we’ve addressed the basic knowledge of what royalty free music means, let’s now proceed to the features that determine which royalty-free music site to choose.
- Music quality. As important as the music genre, vocals, tune, and blending of a song is, the sound quality used to upload or download can make or mar its perception. So, in searching for a quality royalty-free music, the music type and sound quality must be considered first.
- Music library size. The larger the music library of a royalty-free music site, the more options for creatives to explore. Before signing up just for the numbers, be sure to consider the categories listed and the ratio of songs to sound effects before signing up on any platform.
- License term. The type of license issued differs from one site to the other. They can either be termed or perpetual. Termed licenses have an expiration date and would need renewal for continued use. While perpetual licenses last for as long as you want. They can either be unlimited, covering many projects, or single-use which covers only one project.
- Price. These sites operate on either single purchases or subscription models or both. The duration of your project, available budget, and type of music needed would determine which platform you should go for. Overall, subscription-based royalty music sites can help save cost in the long run.
- Ease of use. A great user experience is the icing on the cake that is a royalty-free music site. Searching out the exact sound you need from a library with thousands of tracks can be confusing without the appropriate tools like categories, playlist, filters, and an exhaustive search tool. Also, a neat and organized interface helps users to explore the website more effectively.
Royalty free music is not completely free to use as long as someone else holds the copyright. It’s either a platform is in charge of paying the royalty or the copyright owner gives a free Creative Commons license with the expectation that users credit the source.
Yes, creatives can use royalty free music in commercial videos as long as they have the necessary license from the copyright holder.
In this piece, we have waded through five of the top sites with some of the best royalty free music you would find on the net. And for new creators, we\ve answered the main question, “what is royalty free music?” Here’s our final verdict.
As a creator, you need unique and quality music with crisp clear sound, a vast track library, good license deals with long-enough terms, a fair price point, and an intuitive site interface. Our top choice, Soundstripe, combines most of these features which is why we recommend them for your creative projects.
Do you have a favorite royalty free music site you use to find music for your videos? Is it on this list? Let’s know all about them in the comments below.
- Pablo Olóndriz. (October 11, 2021). What is stock music? Legis Music website. Retrieved from https://legismusic.com/what-is-stock-music/