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The hunt for your sound: my research into royalty free sites

Written by Georgia Rayment/Production Intern. 

As a new production intern at Sort Of…films, I was given the task of researching new and interesting royalty free music websites to ensure that the company is as up to date as possible and able to offer the best value and quality for our clients.

Both Ed (Sort Of…Producer/Director) and Jamie (Sort Of…Editor) have backgrounds in music and apply their combined knowledge of genres, instrumentation, tone, tempo, rhythm, time signatures, structure and other technical aspects such as EQ and compression to every track they consider, select, edit, process and integrate into the films they make. There’s a lot more to it than simply choosing a track that they like and plonking it in the background. The music needs to be woven together with the rest of the audio tracks in order to maximise emotional impact while minimising distraction from the core narrative information.

Although royalty free sites are not the only method of finding music for films, it is the one that we feel works best for the majority of our clients and the budgets that they tend to have available. Of course, we can also oversee the production of bespoke scores and sound design should budgets allow and we’ve also licensed well-known music for films such as this use of ‘Live for the Moment’ by Sheffield’s The Sherlocks:

In no particular order, here are some of the best websites I found:

1. Epidemic Sound
One thing in particular I liked about Epidemic Sound was that you can search for similar tracks. It finds similar tracks by looking at BPM, mood and genre. This means that if you find a particular song you like and have videos that require the same type of music, you can avoid reusing the same track. They also offer a 30-day trial period for new customers so that you can try before committing. After the trial period the fees will be £39 for 1 month or £239 for the year – which is a significant discount for paying in one lump sum.

2. Hook Sound
Hook sound is expensive in comparison to its competitors costing $69 per month or $348 for the year. This is a whopping 59% discount for paying annually, however still on the expensive side for this kind of service. The guys that run Hook Sounds are musicians who are able to compose original music specially for your project (for an additional cost) if you can’t find what you need on the site.

3. Enovo Music
Enovo music does not offer a subscription service and charges $29 per track. Once the track is purchased it can be used an unlimited amount of times. If you purchase multiple tracks at the same time, discounts can be applied.

4. Audioblocks
This is the cheapest out of all the websites that I researched, costing only £15 for 1 month or £149.04 for the year. This website is very simple to use and has over 100,000 tracks, and you are allowed to download as many of these as you wish. However, their musical style does feel more corporate than their competitors.

5. Music Vine
LIMITED OFFER – 50% off for first 3 months due to coronavirus crisis
You can join Music Vine for £33.74 per month or £323.88 for a yearly subscription. However, Music Vine does allow you to purchase individual tracks without a subscription. Individual tracks cost approximately £35 each, so in most cases it is worth buying a subscription, even if just for a month. Music Vine has a relatively small library currently, offering just over 4,000 tracks.

6. Soundstripe
Soundstripe has just over 4,000 songs, with unlimited licences throughout your membership. This provider is one of the cheapest in the market charging only £11.50 billed monthly or £103.70 per year. Soundstripe has Premiere Pro integration allowing you to preview, licence and import tracks directly from the library to your timeline. The integration process allows you to add watermarked versions of the music to your timeline to check that it would be suitable before purchasing a licence.

7. Artlist
Artlist has a nice, very easy to use website. At £152.80 per year this pricing is on par with its competitors. Unfortunately, there is no option to pay monthly with this provider. The music is of high quality, featuring new and innovative tracks which step away from the typically corporate feel of most royalty-free websites.

8. Jamendo
Jamendo allows you to purchase track packs (minimum of three tracks) as a method of discount. The more tracks you purchase, the more the percentage of discount increases. A standard Jamendo licence costs £35 per track, so if you know that you’ll require music for later projects it’s worth buying your licence as part of a track pack to save you some money. There is also an ‘unlimited’ monthly subscription available for a limited time only.

9. Premiumbeat
A standard licence for premium beat is £37.60, which is valid for one track. Premium beat is run by shutterstock, a well-known, reputable brand so you can ensure you are paying for a good service. If you’re working on a very small budget, Premiumbeat do have a very small collection of roughly 10 songs available for free.

Please note that all figures are correct as of 24/04/20 but are likely to change.

If you’re interested to hear more about how Sort Of…Films choose and use tracks for your project: