Choosing the right music for my videos

Some months ago, I was following an Instagram live stream by the renowned English filmmaker Philip Bloom during which he was sharing some thoughts about video production.
On that occasion, I asked him the way he usually chooses the right music for his projects and he answered that it’s always a “Painful process” and it also said that it takes much time.

Philip Bloom’s short documentary ‘Ponte tower’

Music selection is surely one of the most crucial aspects of video post-production, because a perfect editing can be ruined by a wrong musical choice.
It’s not a process easy to handle, but to avoid it became ‘Painful’, I use some sources and a workflow that permit me to choose the right music in a reasonable time.

Sources

Music licensing market has grown fast in the last years and there are a lot of websites that sell music, but I will only consider those that I used.

Musicbed // Probably the most known and expensive of all the sites I will consider. The high pricing is justified by the music tracks quality and the variety of genres, so I’m not surprised that Musicbed is often chosen by companies like ABC, Netflix and Nike.
The prices changes depending on some parameters just like the use (personal project, web streaming, theaters), the size of the company that is purchasing the track (freelance, agency, production company) or potential audience.
I personally used Musicbed in various projects including the one below

In this mini doc is used a track by Tony Anderson, one of the most esteemed Musicbed author

Art List // The ‘new guy in town’, but constantly growing. With a claim like ‘Music licensing reimagined’ it proposes a unique business model, in fact paying $ 199/yr you can download an unlimited amount of tracks and use them in all the ways you want, not matter if it’s a family trip or a Hollywood blockbuster.
I didn’t subscribe yet, but I will do it as soon as possible because of the high quality of music available.
Recently, thanks to a Cinema5d giveaway I had the chance to download and use a song for this project below

In this video I used a Feet On Wood’s song available on Art List

Premium Beat // Cheaper than some other competitors, but with a fairly good music selection. When you purchase a music license, you can also download shorter versions of the track (15'’,30'’ and 60'’), very helpful if you know in advance video length or you’ll surely need different versions of the same edit.
As I said, the quality is not as good as Musicbed but with right search keys, you can find a track that fits your project as well.
This is a brand film whose soundtrack is taken from Premium Beat

For the brand film ‘Revenue Eleven’ I used a Dan Phillipson’s track

Music Vine // Though it’s on the market by more than two years, I only recently tested this service, thanks to a Cinema5d giveaway.
The website is very user-friendly with a clean layout that eases the track search, focusing user’s attention on musical genres (Cinematic, Folk, Indie etc.). The quality is quite good and pricing, at least for web streaming, is affordable, with some variations for broadcasting and theaters use.

A travel video for which I used Locarn’s ‘Embrace’ available on Music Vine

The selection

Basically the four sites I considered, though they have different graphic styles, have a similar contents organization.
Often the starting point is music genre and this kind of search is encouraged mostly by Music Vine, thanks to a clean and visually captivating layout.

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On Music Vine home page musical genres stand out

Musicbed, besides of genre selections, proposes some staff curated playlists divided by genre (‘Rock’) or mood (‘Vintage’). Another interesting service is the chance to chat in real time (only on business time) with a content curator to have some suggestions about the song to choose.

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Musicbed staff curated playlists

Art List also offers a topic-based music search tool: ‘Lifestyle’, ‘Travel’ and so on. Just to say, a song for every moment!

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Art List offers a song for every moment

The importance of a customized playlists

Customized playlist is a very helpful tool when I search for some music to use in my videos.
When you register on the sites I considered for this article, you can pick and group your favorite tracks in playlists with specific characteristics (genre, mood, instruments used ecc.).
For example, I often work on documentary-style videos (mini docs and brand films) so I created (and I often update) a playlist called ‘Short Doc’ in Musicbed, where I group all my favorite tracks that could fit that kind of project.
I use this playlist for the first round of selection, then I move the tracks with the right mood for the project I’m working on in a specific playlist, so I start the second round of selection.
Obviously there are many uses of this tool, so you can create playlists by genre, kind of video and so on.

Customized playlists on Musicbed

Affordable solutions: free and cheap music

Though my advice is always to invest in good quality music, sometimes you could be in a situation that forces you to use not copyrighted music.
Here are some sources for free music.

Audionautix // Very popular website, sometimes used even by national broadcast tv stations here in Italy (like Sportitalia for example), has a pretty decent musical selection, maybe a little stereotyped, but if you think the author wants only to be mentioned on credits or video description, it’s a good deal.

Free music archive // Don’t expect masterpieces from this site that sells music under Creative Commons license, but with some dedication (and time) you can find something interesting.

Pond 5 (The public domain project) // The renowned footage, music and sound fx offers a collection of copyright free classical music tracks.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right music for your projects is an essential aspect in video production and, luckily, filmmakers, producers and music advisors have a lot of tools available that makes the selection process easier .
Though there’s the opportunity to have music for free or at a very low price, my suggestion is always to save a good budget amount to purchase outstanding music.

Written by

Filmmaker, colorist, and motion graphic designer with a keen interest in short documentaries and brand films. My works at www.michelangelotorres.net

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