“Could you not just use that Pharrell ‘Happy’ song?”
Using video production royalty free music sites is usually a Pharrell-free zone.
New clients seeking a video can often be confused why video production royalty free music is needed at all, but once you’ve explained to them that using that famous song they love is going to be a) incredibly expensive, b) illegal if used without permission or even c) a rubbish idea anyway, it usually leads to the video editor trying to find a track on a royalty-free site to fit a video project’s goals. Which as any video maker knows, can be a tricky task.
As a full-time video production company we at Viva la Zoom spend an awful lot of time browsing and choosing the right music for our video projects, and while there are many royalty-free music sites available we find that we use three sites in particular more than any others; these are: The Music Bed, Song Freedom and Premium Beat. During our (not-so) very detailed analysis we’ll be looking at three main criteria when judging: music quality, variety of music, and how reasonable its pricing is.
Royalty-free music site review #1: Themusicbed.com
Looking at the Music Bed’s website for the first time it is like arriving in a Twin Peaks style parallel universe where everybody you thought was famous isn’t and in fact it’s the Cameron Ernsts, Marine Hineses and Dexter Britains of the world who are actually ruling the airwaves.
The website is slick with professional model-like photos of musicians (males are usually bearded and in the woods somewhere, while females are usually looking in a concerned manner off screen at something) and the music – the important part – actually has plenty of tracks that may surprise you that they aren’t actually ruling the airwaves.
A selection of Music Bed artist profile pictures. Some serious contemplation going on there.
Music Quality: 5*
The music here always sounds very contemporary and the quality control is excellent; I’ve never heard a track on there and thought it didn’t sound polished and professional, and importantly it doesn’t sound to me like ‘royalty-free music’.
Example tracks: Treeline at Night by A. Taylor
Perhaps linked to its seeming drive to be contemporary and modern there seems to be a slight leaning towards tracks which feature ukuleles and ‘whoah and oah’ backing vocals – the type of thing you’d see on an Amazon TV advert – or slow building Sigur Ros-esque cinematic soundtracks – the type of thing you’d see on a BBC Planet Earth trailer.
Although you can search for different genres and moods on the site I find it certainly excels in the modern and – dare I say it – generic mood-pop or cinematic builders.
Value for money: 3*
Like most things really you get what you pay for here. And in line with the majority of royalty-free music sites the pricing structure varies upon the use of the video. If you are making a personal project, a wedding video or slideshow (really?) then you pay $49 and the track is yours for the video. However, if you’re using the track for a promotional video (our expertise LINK) then the price depends upon the size of the organisation that you are making the film for: for 1-10 employees the price is $199 and for 100-250 employees the price goes to $499. If the company has more employees then an individual quote is needed. For royalty-free music this is on the expensive side of music for a promotional video.
It’s probably pretty clear by now that I have nothing but good things to say about the quality of music on themusicbed.com, however, it can be difficult to sell the prospect of paying £200+ for a piece of music for a promotional video to a client who possibly thought they could just give you an MP3 of Uptown Funk to edit their video too. Although fair to say The Music Bed are not alone in their pricing structure and other sites do indeed charge similar prices.
Summary: use The Music Bed if you value quality, don’t mind paying for it and want to help put food on the table of hungry hipsters.
Royalty-free music site review #2: Song Freedom
The first thing that you notice when you go to songfreedom.com is the list of artists available: Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, Jackson 5, Jason Mraz, One Republic, and the list goes on and on. However, – and this is a big however – if you are making a promotional film or similar and filter the tracks by license type ‘corporate/promo video’ you see all those mega selling famous names disappear and be replaced by Emily Hackett, Adi Goldstein and Dream City Orchestra. Which on paper (or screen) isn’t exactly as exciting as having a Marvin Gaye soundtrack for your video. It turns out these tracks are only really usable if you’re making a wedding video or a small personal project that no one will watch. Great. Or maybe that’s actually a blessing in disguise as often a really famous track can overpower a message in a promotional and corporate video and distract your viewer from what you’re actually trying to say in your video.
Song Freedom: watch the song choice disappear if you choose ‘promotional film’ as your search criteria.
Music Quality: 3.5*
Having the likes of ‘Walking in Memphis’, ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ mixed in with songs by relatively unknown musicians can be a challenge or a blessing. They can set quite high expectations which could be difficult to match. And while you’re probably not going to find anything near as iconic as the big hits on offer here the quality is again high.
Once you filter out the famous tracks on Song Freedom the first thing you notice is the song titles, which perhaps give a little indication of the main market at play here. Titles like ‘Take My Hand (The Wedding Song)’, ‘You and Me’, ‘The One I love’ and ‘Forever With You’ more than give a crafty wink to someone looking for music to put in a wedding video. There are plenty of other genres available on the site, but if soppy, romantic ballads are your thing, Song Freedom is your friend.
Value for money: 4*
Similar to the Music Bed, Song Freedom’s pricing structure depends on the type of project you are making and the size of the organisation for which you are making the video. I find that it’s a good idea to set a filter straight away for the type and size of project as well as your price range as tracks available and prices vary dramatically depending on these two factors. Typical pricing for a promotional film for an organisation of 1-20 people varies from $39.99 to $149.99 while these prices rise to $99.99 to $499.99 for organisations of 101-500 people. More than that and usually a bespoke quote is needed. As can be seen the upper limits of the price range seem on par with the Music Bed, however, Song Freedom does offer some lower cost options and being able to get professional royalty-free music for $39.99 is a great price and can be fantastic value.
In practice I find Song Freedom a bit like a jumble sale: there’s an awful lot of filtering and rummaging through involved, excitement and disappointment seem to come in equal measure and you always get a different price quoted than the person before and after you. That said, there are some good tracks here in a wide variety of genres but it does feel like you have to really work to find a useful track for your project.
Summary: use Song Freedom if you want to get excited about using Jackson 5’s ABC for your promotional video, but then realise you can’t and are happy to use a romantic pop ballad about a fictional wedding day instead.
Royalty-free music site review #3: Premium Beat
If The Music Bed is the organic food eating, lumberjack wearing hipster in the room and Song Freedom is the person who tells you that they’re friends with all the famous people but in fact is just friends with a Maroon 5 covers band, then Premium Beat is the firm handshaking, straight talking, party-is-strictly-for-the-weekends type of person. A set price for its music no matter what you use it for and while a lot of the tracks may scream ‘corporate video’ to some, it’s that straight no nonsense simplicity that keeps finding me return.
Example track: Glowing With Hope by Big Score Audio
Music Quality: 3.75*
While websites like The Music Bed try to show the human side of their music – the professional photoshoots, solo artist names etc. – Premium Beat tends to have more of a one-man-band or ‘studio’ sound and with artist names like Big Score Audio, Crescent Music and Aulx Studio the emphasis seems to be on music created with the purpose of being put to video productions, more than a frustrated singer/songwriter trying to write their breakthrough hit. However, this ‘studio’ sound has an unashamed and pragmatic approach which offers music that is easy to add to most projects and sounds like exactly what it is: music made by professional musicians to be put with moving images.
When first listening to the tracks available on the site it becomes quickly apparent that most of them are instrumental, and while there are actually plenty of tracks available with vocals it seems as though you have to actively search for these tracks by filtering for them. For most projects that we do we prefer to work with music without vocals so this is not a problem at all for us, but if you were looking for more of a ‘chart song’ sound then that might be harder to find here. That being said there is a large variety of genres available here and many of the tracks have plenty of dynamics which I find help a lot when editing to video: many tracks slowly build, some have sudden dynamic changes while there are also many subtle or minimalist soundtracks which can backup a wide variety of video projects.
One slight note on the variety is that I do think there is a ‘Premium Beat’ sound, that is that the music can often sound a little less ‘organic’ than music found on other sites. There seems to be fewer analogue instruments here and more electro or computer-based recordings, which can be good or bad depending on your tastes or needs.
Value for money: 5*
There is a real simplicity to both the website and the pricing structure that Premium Beat operate on. They offer tracks at a flat fee of $49 no matter what size the organisation is if the video is for online use only. Not only is this a competitive price but it also adds a simplicity to searching for the right music without the need to first filter out a load of options to find the right track and the right available track. If you are using the track on a video for non-web promotion e.g. television then the fee rises to $199 – significantly lower than the other sites mentioned here already.
Premium Beat’s pricing structure: upfront and simple.
If you’re working to tight deadlines and to tight budgets Premium Beat really is a great website to use, especially if you are looking for an instrumental track to compliment your video footage rather than be the star of your video.
Summary: use Premium Beat if you have a tight deadline and/or a tight budget and enjoy a slightly ‘clinical’ sound to your music.
So who wins?
Well, after spending so much time scientifically and empirically testing to find out which site is the best royalty-free music site and – despite there being a winner in our scoring category – I actually think the obvious and ultimate click-bait article conclusion is needed here: it really depends.
Like anything involved in video production which site is best for you depends on your project style, mood, audience and probably most importantly, budget. All three sites reviewed have great music available and have quite distinctive pros and cons when compared to the others. In practice for our company we find that we use Premium Beat more than the other sites as their pricing structure is more inline with our clients budgets and it is quick and easy to use as a website.
If you’d like to browse some of our projects which use video production Royalty Free music from all three sites our portfolio has many examples.
Interested in finding out our top tips for making a more effective video? Or want to know why we edit on Final Cut Pro X instead of Adobe Premiere Pro? Our Blog page has lots of articles which may interest you.