Legally Free Music for Your Video or Podcast

by Cathy Zimmermann

Where can you find legally free music for your YouTube video or podcast? Not just royalty-free, but really free? Learn about the different kinds of Creative Commons licenses and where you can find music that's free and legal for you to use in your videos and podcasts.

Where can you find legally free music for your YouTube video or podcast? Not just royalty-free, but really free? Musicians now have the technology to distribute their own music online, but without the help of a record company, there's no big marketing machine - no budget, no industry contacts, no press. So how do they generate buzz for their music? One way is to let people like you use it for free.

Most free music is protected under licenses from Creative Commons (CC) - a non-profit organization that gives authors the tools to share their work without giving up any rights under copyright law that they wish to reserve. The author retains copyright to the music, and the license spells out the terms under which the music may be used by the public. One of the most popular free music sites is Jamendo, but not all of its offerings are licensed for commercial use. If you are using your video or podcast to promote your business, be sure to choose music that is.

These Creative Commons licenses allow commercial use:

  • BY Attribution (means you give the author credit)
  • BY-SA Attribution - Share Alike (means you give the author credit, and if you alter or build on it, you must distribute your work under the same or similar license)
  • BY-ND (Attribution - No Derivative Works) also allows commercial use, but according to Creative Commons, you cannot use music in a video if it is "licensed under a No Derivative Works license. This means that the musician doesn’t want you to change, transform, or make a derivative work using their music. Under CC licenses, synching the music to images amounts to transforming the music, so you can’t legally use a song under a CC No Derivative Works license in your video." Presumably, this would also apply to music edited for use at the beginning and end of an audio podcast.


Here are some resources for Creative Commons music:

  • Creative Commons Music Communities is a list of sources maintained by the Creative Commons Organization.
  • The Free Music Archive When you use their customizable search panel, remember to check the "commercial use" box.
  • Kevin McLeod of Incompetech offers his music for free commercial use, with an optional suggested donation of $5.
  • Jeff Baker of Sea Breeze Computers has a list of a dozen places to find free music on the Internet.
  • Media Bistro has a list for finding not only music, but also free sound effects.

Make sure you understand the requirements for each CC licensed recording you use, and include the proper credits when you upload your video or podcast, including the type of CC license. For example: "This video features the song ( title) by (author), available under a Creative Commons BY-SA Attribution-Share Alike license."

If you are not already podcasting and would like to learn more about it, you can find a good comprehensive tutorial at Voices.com, a service that connects voiceover talent with potential employers.

©2011 Attard Communications, Inc., all rights reserved.

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Cathy is a staff writer and digital media producer at Business Know-How and a graduate student in the Stony Brook Southampton MFA program for writing and digital media.
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