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How to Choose Music for your Video, Film or Game

It only takes a few seconds of searching online to realise there is a huge amount of music available for you to buy. From very cheap to very expensive, from distinctly average in quality to stunningly produced.

Hopefully a few of the points I’ve made in this article will help you navigate through the world of stock (also called production) music and avoid some of the common pitfalls.

Mood and Style

Before you even start searching you need to decide the mood and style of your production. Is it fast or slow paced? Is it happy, sad, heroic or emotional? Do you want it to sound like a current composers work?

It’s worth noting down a few keywords that best represent the mood of the cue you are looking for, including composer names. Most music libraries will use a keyword system to tag their music.

So to help give yourself a clearer idea of the music you need:

  • Choose the style of music – do you want orchestral, piano, electronic, rock?
  • Choose a tempo – do you need your music to be fast, medium paced or slow?
  • Think about the mood of your production – note down a few keywords that sum up what you’re looking for
  • If you like a particular composers style, note their name down to include in searches

What will the music be used for?

The music you choose has to fulfil its purpose within the context of your production. It’s tempting to use a track you personally really like, rather than one that is appropriate.For instance a big, epic track with a strong melody may work great as a introductory theme or on a trailer, but if you have a lot of dialogue or a voiceover it may conflict with the music causing a muddy mess to the viewer/listener.It’s also inadvisable to use a song with lyrics behind any words being spoken on screen.

Which license do you need?

Once you’ve found a cue you think is perfect, you need to think about licensing options*.Many libraries allow you to select a license type based on end usage. This can greatly alter the price of the track. For example, if your video is only going to be shown on Youtube or is an internal corporate video the price of a license is likely to be a lot cheaper than if it is to be broadcast on TV.*This probably doesn’t apply so much if you’re using the Royalty Free stock audio libraries, they often only offer one or two – if any – options.

Choosing the right Stock Music Library

It’s worth spending a bit of time searching online for various libraries. Often just a quick look at the homepage of the website will show you the type and style of music that sells well. Try and find a library that has a broad selection of music in the style you want.For instance, if a website primarily promotes vocal songs on their homepage, they’re probably not likely to have a massive selection of big orchestral tracks. They’ll no doubt have some, but it’s worth going where the marketplace is bigger.There are a few point to consider when picking libraries to search and buy music from.

  • Royalty Free LibrariesThere are some incredibly popular royalty free music libraries available. Royalty free means that the track you buy can be used anywhere – even broadcast television – without paying additional royalties.
  • The quality of these libraries can vary quite dramatically, but there is no doubt there are some excellent composers who contribute to them.
  • Exclusive vs Non-ExclusiveAn exclusive library means that the tracks in their catalogue can’t be found anywhere else. Non-exclusive means the tracks can be found on other libraries if you decided to have a search.