Choosing the Right Song
One of the most difficult stages of post-production is finding the right song to go with your video. Often, you start editing and then go, "Wait, where am I going to find music for this?" As if finding the right song wasn't frustrating enough by itself, then there's the whole licensing bit. But if you do it right, music will drastically up the production value and the emotional impact of your story. And you can do it legally.
This is everything you need to know about selecting the right song, where to find it, and how to license it.
1. Aim for Feeling
In a video, the song in the background largely informs the audience how they should feel.
My friend and filmmaker, Bryant Bural, once wrote, "A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video lets you feel it." That hits the nail on the head. The benefit, the whole point of a video, is that it can easily impart experiences and emotion to the viewer they didn't have before. You can make the audience care about things they didn't even know existed. Emotion is your most effective tool in filmmaking, and everything in the production should be directed to amplify the desired feeling.
Music is a MAJOR way to do that. It can make or break your narrative.
This video explains (and shows) the importance of music as an emotional tool of the scene. The song largely informs the audience about how they should feel.
For this reason, getting the song right is a priority.
In my experience, I've seen a lot of directors and editors treat music as an afterthought. But if you want to come out with a professional video that makes the audience feel something, spend the time (and sometimes money) required to get the right song.
2. Select the Unknown
This is the most frustrating guiding principle, but it really pays off. Don't select a well known or popular song. Use a great song that is under the mainstream radar.
I know, I know. I couldn't possibly sound more hipster. But it's actually advantageous for you. Using unknown music makes your project that much more original. People love when they experience something new and fresh.
For you guys who love film soundtracks, this means no more John Williams or Hans Zimmer in your videos. For both legal and beneficial reasons, I'm going to have to cut you off.
Since music carries so much emotional weight, a familiar song (or worse, an over played song) can majorly distract from the emotion you thought you were getting by using it. I'm thinking of like, every student ministry video here.
By introducing your audience to a song they've never heard before, it will feel like the song was made just for your video, adding even more production value to your finished product.
If you use a song that no one has really heard before, anytime they hear the song later, they're going to think of your video again.
Sometimes you don't even have to seek out something totally unfamiliar. If you can license a good cover to a well known song, that can be just as powerful as something totally new.
3. Seek Out the Best
"Yes, but Jared," you say through the screen, "where am I supposed to find an original song that doesn't sound completely terrible?"
This is a question I struggled with for years. Thankfully, these days, there are some great resources for filmmakers. Here are just a few that I have found helpful, though there are many, many more places to find music for your videos.
Probably the best tool right now is The Musicbed. It's a large library of high quality music for filmmakers to license, and it's really good. Both lyrical and instrumental. They have great tools for filtering their library of 6500 songs to one that fits your story. I use Musicbed for the majority of my videos. The downside is that none of it is free - you do have to pay to license each song. Per song, the most affordable it'll be is $79.
In terms of the size of their library, no one beats Audiojungle. They have over 300,000 songs you can license, starting at just $1. Unlike Musicbed, they also have micro-songs for things like intros and logos - songs that are only a few seconds long. They have some really great stuff and while finding the right song isn't quite as easy as the Musicbed, it's pretty good. I've really liked using it.
If you're wanting something with a creative commons license, check out Dexter Britain. He's a classical film score kind of composer in the UK, and a lot of his stuff can be used for free. I've selected him specifically because it's a really great start for those beginning to experiment with using musical score in a legal way.
Creative Commons, by the way, basically means you can download it for free, but you have to attribute the creator and you can't use it commercially.
Vimeo Music store
Music Licensing & Creative Commons
The Vimeo Music Store is a curated library of other licensing services, and it's pretty good. The benefits are the size of it's library (about 4500 songs as of today) and the price for personal projects. Much of the library can be downloaded for free with Creative Commons licensing, and you can get a license for personal projects for just $2. The downside is, like most of Vimeo (still), searching for what you want is rough. It has a terrible filtering system. And the songs are no where near as good as those on the Musicbed. Still good though, especially for free (or almost free).
4. Constantly Discover New Music
The worst part about all this is actually discovering the right song. A great way to help is to constantly seek out and save high quality music. The Musicbed, for instance, allows you to make custom wishlists. I have one called "Wedding videos," one called "Hype," another called "Deeply emotional," and so on. As I find music I like, I add them to one of these wishlists and when I need a song in those categories, I've already got a bunch of options.
However you do it, seek out new music more often than you need it. Catalogue songs you really like for use later on. You'll be glad you did.
Maybe this is new for you, but here's the truth - if your video is going to be shown anywhere, including in a church service, on social media, or your own website, you need to license the music in it. From a legal standpoint, that's the law. From an ethical standpoint, that's just being a good person. Composers and artists have worked hard on these songs, and many of them depend on music licensing for their livelihood. As an artist, I'm sure you can understand that.
If you use creative commons (which remember, not everyone offers), don't forget to attribute it!
Those are my tips for choosing the right song for your video. It can be tedious and sometimes expensive, but totally worth it. What resources or tips have you found to be helpful for you? Comment below!