Find Music for Projects: How Licenses Work and Free Resources

Dear Catholic new media producer,

Creative Commons is your friend. For the past month, I’ve been creating a 20-minute video about my employer’s ministry. One of the most important and daunting tasks involved was finding the music.

Whether you’re making videos or podcasts, ensure that you’re giving credit where it’s due and using music legally. Read about Creative Commons licenses but here’s the gist…

Artists allow you to use their songs according to certain criteria: 1.) Will the song be used commercially or noncommercially? 2.) Will the song be modified? 3.) Will the song be attributed to the artist in some capacity?

  • EASIEST TO FIND FREE: Are you using this song for a non-commercial ministry project AND able to credit the artist? You’ll easily find free, legally-available music. Look for an “Attribution” or “Attribution-Noncommercial” license.
  • FAIRLY EASY TO FIND FREE: Are you using this for a commercial project AND able to credit the artist? Look for an “Attribution” license.
  • HARDEST TO FIND FREE: Are you using this for a project BUT unable to credit the artist? You’ll be a bit more hard-pressed to find music. Search for a “Sans Attribution” license.
  • …ALSO CONSIDER… If you see a song marked with the phrase “NoDerivs,” you must use the song verbatim. If you’re looking to mix together a song with other sound effects, for instance, don’t use “NoDerivs”-licensed songs.

My Favorite Sources for FREE Music

1. Free Music Archive: Search this database according to your needs. They’ve got a great variety of genres, and they make finding music licensed according to your needs a piece o’ cake.

2. Incompetech: Kevin MacLeod is my hero. His music is available under a simple “Attribution” license, and you can also obtain a “Sans Attribution” license easily through his website. All genres.

3. Josh Woodward: Previously-highlighted here on the blog, but another hero. All albums available under “Attribution” license, including instrumental versions of all his songs. Mostly acoustic guitar.

4. Jason Shaw / Audionautix: Another great source of “Attribution”-licensed works. Several genres!

5. Public Domain 4U: Does your project lend itself to an old-school sound? Songs that have aged into the public domain have no legal restrictions. Obtain great oldies here.

6. Jamendo: All genres, languages and countries can be found, previewed, and downloaded at Jamendo. Artists tag their own music, so sometimes you’ll need to be creative in your search terms. Use their great Advanced Search to find music appropriately-licensed for your project.

7. Live Music Archive: Non-commercial use only! This music arm of Internet Archive (nice resource, by the way) allows users to upload live music recordings to be downloaded for non-commercial use. Browse the list of artists – ranging from obscure indie bands to artists with Top 40 fame. Not easily searchable.

Double-check individual song licenses before using. Happy creating!

Do you have any favorite resources to share?


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