One of the most important elements of any video is the soundtrack. Whether it’s a commercial video to promote your business or a home-made video for YouTube, the soundtrack will dictate the mood and tempo of the video and it’s overall success.

If you are new to video creation, you may be unaware of how to find and use free or paid legal music in your video. Firstly, it is important to point out that you cannot just use any music you like for a video. There are copyright rules in place that people must abide by – we will come back this to point in a minute.

Before I begin any video editing project, I will spend as much as time as possible selecting the right soundtrack for my video. I find it much easier to edit a video if you have the soundtrack pre-selected. After you have selected your audio file and placed it in the timeline of your video editing software, it becomes much easier to edit your video clips and sync it with the audio. I like to make edits and cuts on the beat or when there is a change in the melody.

Further into the video editing process, I may change the audio if I feel it’s not working or providing the right tone. Despite this, it’s easy to make any small adjustments to the video edits to match the new audio.

Check The License

AS mentioned above, there are copyright rules in place to protect artists and their music. If you are using free audio soundtracks, it is vital that you check the Creative Commons license to see how and in what capacity you can use the music. This is the most important aspect of using any free audio file. The last thing you want is to create a great video and you have to take it down because you didn’t give the correct credits or couldn’t use it in your commercial marketing video.

Currently, there are six “CC” licenses, which allow varying degrees of use and impose varying requirements on users.

The License terms under Creative Commons can be described as follows:

  • Attribution – Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these., (simply put – give credit to the rights-holder).
  • SA – Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work (simply put – you can remix a work as long as you share it under the same CC license that covers the original work;
  • NC – Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.;
  • ND – Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it (simply put – you cannot build upon or remix the work)

The image below perfectly describes how to use these 6 licences and what you can and can’t do with each of them. It’s pretty simple – Green Thumbs good, Red Thumbs Bad.

(Photo credit:

How do I give attribution to my video?

If you download and use a free audio track with a Creative Commons License, you will have to give attribution for it’s use. As mentioned above, this simply means giving credit to the creator of the work. To give attribution, you must include the Title, Author, Source and License. It is also important to link back, where possible, to the website that you got the audio from and the CC License.

It should look something like this (with links included):

Music: “So Far So Close” by Jahzzar
From the FreeMusicArchive
Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike

What does “Royalty-Free” actually mean?

Generally speaking, in music terms, it refers to a copyright license where the user has the right to use the audio without many restrictions based on a one-time payment to the licensor. The user can therefore use the audio in several projects without having to purchase any additional licenses.

5 Great Free and Paid Sites


First on the list is and is one site I have used on many occasions. This is a super resource for anybody looking for quality free soundtracks. The only downside is the search facility could be a little easier to use and navigate. I find I have to spend a lot of time listening to audio files to find the right track to use. Also, always remember to view the copyright license to double check in what context the track can be used (commercial or non-commercial).

All music in this online collection is created by Jason Shaw. These audio files are released under Creative Commons License 3.0 so you are free to use the music (even for commercial purposes) as long as you provide a link to the website OR credit Audionautix with “music by”. There are definitely some tracks in this collection that could be used for various types of videos, so get digging and find the best ones.

Vimeo Music Store
Vimeo, the video hosting website, is now offering a combination of Free (under CC license) and royalty-free music (paid). The great aspect of this site is it super easy to navigate and find which of the files are free to use in a commercial setting and which ones you have to pay for.

Although this is a purely royalty-free music site, this makes the list due to the minimal cost of purchasing a license. The cost of licensing these files are relatively cheap with few files going over $18 bucks. Not bad at all compared to other royalty-free sites. There is also a great selection of songs which can all be used in commercial projects.


For those with deeper pockets and bigger budgets, check out Marmoset. Depending on the type of license, prices range from $49 to $199. However, the quality of production on these files are excellent. They also provide a great filter system which makes it really easy to find the type of soundtrack you’re looking for. In my opinion, out of all the sites listed here, Marmoset probably has the best collection of songs, even if it is the most expensive.

This is just a small selection of websites offering music under the creative commons license, as well as royalty-free music. My selections are purely based on ease of use and audio track quality available. Please feel free to add any website that you believe should be on the list in the comments section.

If you found this post interesting, you may also be interested in our blog post on using Free Video Stock Footage in your videos.

This post first appeared on the blog.