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If you're creating a video, a podcast, an online training, or any other project that might benefit from adding some sweet tunes, the Free Music Archive (FMA) offers more than 80,000 free, completely legal-to-use audio downloads. Here's how to get the most out of this free resource.
The Free Music Archive is a curated, interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by WFMU, the most renowned free-form radio station in America.
Radio has always offered the public free access to new music. The Free Music Archive is a continuation of that endeavor, designed for the age of the Internet. It was launched in 2009, and as of May 2015, it contains 83,000+ recordings.
Here are some quick tips to help you find the right music for your project.
Customize your search. Search comes with a few nifty features like filtering by BPM (beats per minute, or the tempo of the song), duration, or what kind of license is associated with the track in question.
Make use of the extensive FAQs. There's way more to cover than we can put in this blog, so cruise through the FAQ (there's one for video-specific questions too) or website support pages to help you get your bearings.
The pop-out player is your friend. Activate it by hitting the "+" next to a track (or at the bottom of an album, to listen to the whole thing). This lets you control volume and skip around in the track to check for vocals, see how it progresses/ends, and so on.
Visit the Music for Video page. This page lists stuff from all over the FMA that is appropriate for use in video — in terms of licenses and cinematic quality.
Give new sounds a chance. You won't love everything, but you're bound to find a few things you really like. Be adventurous! Browsing by genre, tempo, and duration can be good ways to find things that fit your needs.
Don't be shy. We know the Creative Commons license thing is new to many users, so don't hesitate to scour the FAQs or get in touch if you don't understand.
Every MP3 recording you discover on the Free Music Archive is pre-cleared for certain types of uses through Creative Commons (or similar) licenses. Some of them are optimal for videos! Others, not so much. Here's a quick run-down:
Attribution, which is the foundation of all Creative Commons licenses, requires simply that you credit the artist. This means giving the name of the song and the name of the artist somewhere in your production.
NonCommercial licenses can be a little confusing. This clause has nothing to do with your tax status and everything to do with how you're actually using the song. If you're making an educational video, go ahead and use that CC BY-NC (noncommercial license) track you love! If you're making a video to raise money in some form or another, it's best to stick with the CC BY or CC BY-SA track you also thought was cool.
The Share Alike clause requires you to use the identical license on your work when you use a music track in a video. If you don't want to do this, or can't (for whatever reason), choose something with a different license, like CC BY-NC or just plain ol' CC BY.
No Derivatives, for purposes of this post, mean you can't use the track in a video without further permission from the artist. Save yourself the trouble if you're under deadline and skip to another song you like. That said, FMA currently has 46,000+ songs licensed for use in videos … so we're confident you'll still find something suitable.
Note: the author of this post is not trained as a lawyer, so if you need expert advice, please consult one.
Want more info about finding music and creating videos? Check out the webinar for video producers or read the special FAQ for video producers.
Image 1: Will Keightley / CC BY-SA
Image 2: Riza Nugraha / CC BY
Image 3: CHRIStophe Robert HERVOUËT / CC BY-NC-ND
Image 4: alonis / CC BY-SA
Cheyenne Hohman is the director of the Free Music Archive.
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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