People think of video as primarily a visual medium, so music sometimes gets treated like an afterthought – something to be tacked on at the end of production. But if a video doesn’t have any background music, something about it feels… Empty. You’ve gotta fill that empty space, and stock music is the most affordable way to go.
The best videos work by creating a connection with their audience. They create a mood, evoke an emotional response, and hold the viewer’s attention. That’s why, no matter what kind of video you’re making, music matters.
So how do you find the right music for your video?
Consider Royaltry Free Stock Music
Popular music can be pretty expensive, so 'royaltry free stock music' is usually the best way to go. Stock music used to come packaged on DVDs, and there wasn’t really a lot to choose from, but today things are different. Home recording has gotten a lot more accessible over the past few years, and musicians are able to sell their music online in a scalable and efficient manner. Websites like Audiojungle.net and PremiumBeat.com have literally hundreds of thousands of songs produced by independent artists, and each is tagged and categorized with keywords like “motivational”, “cheeful”, and “epic”. How convenient!
Quality can still vary within stock music, so you'll want to listen closely to the instrumentation (or lack thereof). Music made in a studio with microphones and real instruments may cost more than music made on a computer with digital instruments, and some stock music websites position themselves as being higher quality than others. Whatever you do, don’t use music made with digital instruments that are trying to sound like studio-recorded instruments - they always sounds fake and cheap.
Don’t just choose the first track you hear; your musical accompaniment should fit the look and feel of your video, and that means you’ll need to sort through many different options. Ask yourself what kind of adjectives fit the mood of your video. Inspirational? Slapstick? Lighthearted? Sad? These words will help you to do a keyword search in stock music websites.
Once you find a track that fits the mood of your video, don’t get too attached. Music is highly personal, so test it out with a few people before paying for the license. Luckily, stock music providers will let you try to the music with an 'audio watermark' before you finalize your purchase, so you can try ‘em before you buy ‘em.
Read more: 5 Reasons to Use Stock Music in Your Video
What to Listen for When Choosing Stock Music
Once you have a few tracks in mind, listen to them carefully, and critically. Think about the different elements of music, and what each of them connotes for the listener:
Rhythm is the foundation of music, so start here. Rhythm doesn’t necessarily mean percussion; it refers to the tempo – the speed or pace of the song. Of course, up-tempo rhythm conveys a feeling of movement, action, urgency. A slower tempo is naturally more relaxed. How do you want your viewer to feel when they receive your message?
Harmony refers to the structure and composition of notes in the song. Some chords (combinations of notes) are consonant – they sound pleasant and nice. Others are dissonant – they sound obtuse or “wrong” (think jazz). Everybody intuitively understands the emotions that arise from different kinds of harmony, so let your own emotional reactions be your guide. Close your eyes, listen, and reflect on how you feel when you listen.
Instrumentation matters because we associate different instruments with different cultures and traditions. A four-piece quartet connotes class and sophistication; a screaming electric guitar connotes counter-culture and rebellion. Be careful what kind of imagery you associate with your video.
Quality refers to the actual sound of the instruments (both digital and acoustic). Ask yourself: is that a saxophone? Or a cheap digital recreation of a saxophone? As a general rule, avoid digital instruments that try to imitate an acoustic aesthetic. Simply put, they’re tacky.
Don't Make it Personal
Music is an extremely personal thing. What one person loves, the next person can’t stand – it’s the reason there’s a nearly endless supply of music being created.
When selecting music for video, we need to set aside those personal preferences and prejudices, and think instead about the types of people that you're trying to reach with your message. What types of music would they listen to? What sorts of tracks best represent your brand?
Take Your Time
Whatever you do, don’t rush the music selection process. There are literally millions of tracks online waiting to be licensed, and the perfect one is out there waiting to be discovered. All it takes is a bit of time, a critical ear, and decent pair of headphones.