When creating a filmmaking project, costs add up quickly. Whether paying for cast, camera equipment, PA’s, or countless other expenses, you wanna save anywhere you can. So how about music? Today, we break down copyright free music. We talk about what it is, how to use it, and copyright free vs “royalty-free.” We’ll get you one step closer to a finished project with music that’s cheap, effective, and not breaking any rules.
Uncopyrighted Music = Free Music for Videos
First, let’s define copyright free music
The music and soundtrack to a film/video can be just as crucial as the cinematography or direction. Whether meant to contrast images or pull on emotion, you want the best music possible. But you also want the lowest price.
Thanks to uncopyrighted music, this doesn’t have to be a catch-22.
Copyright Free Music DEFINITION
What is copyright free music?
Copyright free music refers to music that can be used freely by anyone. Without a copyright, the content can be used without restriction. Yet, no song is really without copyright because musicians are granted natural copyright for any produced work.
That’s a technicality. If someone lists “non copyrighted songs,” “uncopyrighted music,” or “non copyrighted music” they are telling you it’s fair game.
People say “copyright free music” for songs that are
- Creative Commons
- Basically, music that is made for other people to use
Understanding Free Non Copyrighted Music
Royalty-free vs non copyrighted songs
Okay, so if something says “copyright free music” you’re in the clear, but what about “royalty-free?”
Here, we’re not so lucky. Royalty-free means you pay once, but never have to pay royalties on the music later. So, while it's not exactly free, it can still be a viable option for creators looking to soundtrack their projects. Here's a quick explainer on the subject.
These fees can vary significantly but this is an article about free music online, not paid music. If you do opt for royalty-free music, just make sure you read all the details to make sure it truly is a one-time payment.
Always prioritize truly free non copyrighted music over royalty-free music.
Creative Commons - Not Copyrighted Music
What is Creative Commons
Perhaps the most important term in uncopyrighted music is Creative Commons. Creative Commons does what you think it would — allows creative works to be used by the commons.
When someone says their work is free uncopyrighted music, they’re actually telling you it falls under Creative Commons.
There 4 different types of Creative Commons licenses:
- CC BY: Use the music any way you want.
- CC BY-SA: The same as the above, but the SA stands for Share-Alike. That’s good, it means you can change the track and other people can use it (you can share it) and it’s still all legal as long as you offer it under the same CC BY-SA license.
- CC BY-ND: ND = No Derivative Works. The music cannot be altered or changed. Using the music is fine, remixing it is not.
- CC BY- NC: NC = Non Commercial. Meaning you can’t profit off the video the song is used for, especially if you’re trying to sell something.
So that was a few different ways of explaining the same thing: CC BY & CC BY-SA are the best, CC BY-ND is OK, and avoid CC BY-NC when you can.
Free Music Online
10 best free music websites
Okay, we know some terminology to look for, now let’s talk where to find non copyrighted music.
All of these sites offer 100% free music for videos. That doesn’t mean everything on the site is free, but there are free options. These sites are very good about explicitly listing the type of Creative Commons license for each song, and whether you need to credit the artist (you normally do).
Make sure you pay attention to that stuff.
If you’re not afraid to let go of a little cash, stock music sites have more extensive options.
Free Music Online - Non Copyrighted Songs
Definitely free, so that’s step one, but you’ll notice “All music is composed and produced by Jason Shaw.”
Nothing against the man, he does great work and offers it to the public for free. Yet, with one composer, it's hard to match the breadth and variety of some of the others sites.
Attribution is required.
Free Background Music - Uncopyrighted Songs
Their mission is to set music free. Amen to that! It’s all not copyrighted music.
The problem… The site is more about musicians than filmmakers. They focus on “music education,” and while that’s certainly valuable, I’m not trying to score my own projects yet.Most of the available music is classical and orchestral with greats like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven
Free Non Copyrighted Songs
The search bar says “ALL FREE DOWNLOADS” and it lets you filter by CC license. That’s what I’m talking about. So why isn’t this not copyrighted music site higher?Well, the songs aren’t necessarily geared towards filmmaking and, outside of licensing and genre, the search filters aren’t great.
Not Copyrighted Music
A bit limited in selection, Incompetech offers songs with a CC BY | CC BY SA license. Under this, you can use, alter, and share the song as long as you offer it under the same licensing. Attribution is required.
They offer a premium membership but don’t be fooled, the free downloadable options are more than sufficient. If not, we have plenty more sites later.
Free Music Online - Uncopyrighted Songs
ccMixter is a site that’s all about Creative Commons. You don’t need to sweat over regulations, as it says on the home page: “all you have to do is give credit to the musicians.”
The search filters aren’t as streamlined as some of the later options, but there’s a nice selection of music and no cause for concern.
Not Copyrighted Music
5. Free Music Archive
The homepage offers you the ability to choose between royalty free or Creative Commons. Once inside the Creative Commons portal, you filter based on genre, popularity, specific musicians, purpose, etc. They also have an entire page dedicated to licensing and questions about use.
Attribution is handled on a song-by-song basis, but it’s a great place for free background music.
Best Non Copyrighted Music
4. Planet Purple
Note the big “Royalty Free Music” in the middle. Now, this might seem like a red flag, but if you read underneath it says “free... for your own projects.” Under their “Using Our Free Music” tab, it lays out all the ways you can use the music 100% free.
As long as you're making videos for Youtube, vlogging, educational use, film festivals, etc. you will be fine. You can even profit from it!
Attribution is required.
Free Uncopyrighted Music For Youtube
3. Free Stock Music
Again, very clear about the legality and licensing. Stock music provides free music for videos and all the music requires attribution to the musician.
You can search by moods, lengths, tempos, title, Creative Commons type, and more. They even have sound effects and TV themes on this website.
I like it for its simplicity and straightforwardness in terms of licensing. Plus, it has tons of non copyrighted songs.
Free Uncopyrighted Music for Youtube
2. Youtube Channels
Separate from the YouTube Audio Library, there are tons of Youtube channels dedicated to copyright free music.
You can do a simple search like “Creative Commons Music” and find a channel you like, or you can get specific on tone and style in your search.
Attribution requirements are specific to each channel and will be explained in the song description or the channel homepage.
It’s easiest to find upbeat, borderline EDM/vlogging music here, but it’s by no means limited to that. Calming free background music is also very popular on these channels.
Free Music Online - Best Non Copyrighted Music
1. Youtube Audio Library
It’s no coincidence that the #1 destination for uploaded videos holds the best free non copyrighted music. It’s familiar, easy to navigate, and made for what you’re doing.
Like most, it has search filters like genre, mood, duration, and even attribution. The download button is conveniently placed right next to the song name.
Now, finding the Youtube Audio Library can be a little tricky: you have to click your profile icon and then click “Youtube Studio.” From there it should be easy.
Guide to YouTube Audio Library
Ready to start the music search? Don’t do it by yourself! We’ve got a how-to guide, best practices, and picked out some of our favorite tracks from the Youtube Audio Library.