How to Choose Music for Your Video

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For me, one of the hardest parts when editing a video is determining what music to use. This process usually takes almost as long as the process of capturing and editing the footage combined! In this post, I want to breakdown a few things to consider when choosing your music as well as offer a few solutions that I have found helpful. I am by no means going to cover all the options in this post, just a few I have relied upon in the past.

When trying to determine how to approach your audio mix, there are three things you will need to consider including:

  1. Mood, Tempo & Pacing
  2. Functionality / Purpose
  3. Audience / Distribution Channels

I have found that many people don’t give enough credit to the power of music in their productions. I have watched many films where the music used completely goes against what appears visually on-screen. On the flip-side  I have also seen films that use the music as a crutch. Before choosing any track, it is key that the care and attention is taken.

One thing I need to point out that all recommendations are based on what I like and your experiences may be different with each of the platforms based on the style of music you like. This list is based on of how often I use each of the service as well as the average rating for each of the services.

1. Mood, Tempo & Pacing

When coming to an edit, I know many people who use the music as a crutch and base their visual edits on the type of song that they choose, without taking into account the story they are wanting to tell. I can openly admit to doing this during my 3 Minute Short film project but have since learned that it is key to not let the music be your crutch. Before choosing what song to use for your film, determine what the mood, tempo and pacing you are wanting. The music you select should complement these desires.

2. Functionality / Purpose

The function or purpose for music is to help supplement the images you have on-screen. These two work together to ‘hopefully’ create a connection for the viewer. When choosing a song, ask yourself, what role do you want the music / soundtrack to play in your film? What is the purpose of the music? When cutting a piece that has dialog, I tend to choose instrumentals as I do not want the lyrics of a song to take away from the story I want to tell.

3. Audience / Distribution Channels

One thing you will also need to determine is who your target audience is as well as what type of film the song will be used in. Not only will this effect the style of music you select but it also helps narrow down what music you can use when licensing. Some songs are either limited in the scope of licensing or cost a lot more when looking for licensing to larger markets such as broadcast or international distribution. The last thing you need to determine is what you distribution plan is. If your plan is for a larger audience, make sure that the licensing option selected will cover all your markets. You may need to contact some of the providers for custom pricing.

Licensing Platforms

When choosing music solutions, there are a few key elements that each of the options MUST have. In this post, I will breakdown user experience using the following points:

1. Quality of Content

First and foremost, the key to the success of any online licensing platform is quality of content. Not only is it frustrating to use a platform with a mix of good and bad but it is a waste of time. Although it is important to have a sizeable selection to ensure variety, it is also key that this content is filtered to ensure the selection does not become tainted. Taste plays a huge part in this so this field may vary depending on user.

2. Size / Variety of Collection

Being able to find music for any style of production is key. Although it is somewhat of a catch-22 to find a solution that has both a filtered selection of quality content as well as having a variety, it is imperative for a selection to have both.

3. Search Function

When searching for content, it is extremely frustrating when the search function does not allow the user to easily find the music they desire. By tagging the music effectively and by offering a few different ways to find content, it improves the user experience.

4. Custom Field Navigation

Any music licensing platform should have an advanced search function. One reason why I think many platforms fail is not effectively tagging their collections. Continued market research is imperative to see what type of music people like and finding out how they searched to find this content.

5. Playback Features

When searching for music, the way in which the tracks play will determine how long a user will use the platform. Music players that are integrated into the design will not only create a better user experience but also keep users around longer.

6. Response Time

How fast the content is populated is also important. I have found some solutions that take time to load both the results as well as the individual tracks – which is extremely frustrating.

7. Accuracy

Accuracy in tagging is also important. The relation between what you think you will hear and what you hear is based on how content is tagged. If a user searches for content and is unable to find what they are looking for, the user will not stick around.

8. Price-point

Determining a fair rate for music is always a challenge. With any form of art, the value placed on your art is based on what you feel it is worth. For this post, when I talk about price-point, I will be considering the RANGE of pricing options based on distribution, length and scope of licenses.

9. Integration

Both Vimeo and YouTube now have copyright flagging software. For Vimeo, this happens upon upload and you are able to clear the strike up while the video remains live. However, with YouTube, although some content gets flagged right away, some copyright claims are placed days after videos go live. I had this happen to a client video where the video was removed until the appeal was approved. This section will simply deal with past experiences we have had when trying to clear up and/or avoid copyright claims.

 

Top Recommendations

This years charts were EXTREMELY CLOSE for the top three spots. It was tough to pick a clear winner but like with most things, there needs to be a winner. Here is my top picks of 2015!

#1 – THE MUSIC BED

(Previously Ranked #1)

Here are some of my favourite selects.

My favourite solution is still The Music Bed. Although some of the charm of finding original content that no one is using is gone, they still offer an extensive library that grows on a daily basis. This was inevitable as the service is, in my opinion, the best out there so because of this, more people will use it. Using The Music Bed has cut down the amount of time I spend looking for music because the content on the site is virtually all USABLE!

In regards to the search functionality, The Music Bed provides a filtered search option that allows you to narrow down the type of song you are looking for.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.49.53 AM

Once you have filtered down your selection, the built-in music player allows you to continue to search while allowing the music to keep playing. When you are signed out you have access to 30 second previews but when you sign in, you are able to listen to the entire song. I often find myself on their website simply listening to the music, even when I am not looking for new tracks.

  1. Quality of Content – 5/5 (previous 5/5)
  2. Size / Variety of Collection – 5/5 (previous 5/5)
  3. Search Function – 5/5 (previous 4/5)
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 5/5 (previous 4/5)
  5. Playback Features – 5/5 (previous 5/5)
  6. Response Time – 5/5 (previous 4/5)
  7. Accuracy – 4/5 (previous 4/5)
  8. Price-point – 1/5 (previous 4/5)

What I really admire about this platform is the artist base in which they draw upon. Not only is it a solution for filmmakers, it also appears to be a solution for musicians to make money off of their work as well. Almost all songs have instrumental versions as well which is great when the lyrics don’t match the tone of your project. One of the biggest issues I have with this solution is that the selection is somewhat limited. Since I have started using this platform, their selection has grown substantially but the selection still has its limitations.

The prices range between $49-$399 with a wide-range of usage rights. They also offer broadcast licensing if desired.

Here are two films produced using The Music Bed songs.

#2 – MARMOSET MUSIC

(Previously Ranked #2)

Here are some of my favourite selects.

Since the last update, Marmoset (formerly With Etiquette) has made MAJOR improvements over their last iteration. They state that, “[w]hile we enjoy working on all kinds of inspired and creative endeavours, we spend most of our time crafting original music for story-driven mediums in the public eye”, which clearly shows that they are about supporting both the filmmaker and musician.

Another feature that is unique about this option is the way in which you search for content. They have taken a unique approach. To be honest, I love it and it seems to work great for finding usable content that fits my production needs.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 10.44.28 AM

Marmoset also does a great job integrating their player. It is extremely responsive and easy to navigate through content.

  1. Quality of Content – 5/5 (previous 4/5)
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 5/5 (previous 1/5)
  3. Search Function – 5/5 (previous 5/5)
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 5/5 (previous 1/5)
  5. Playback Features – 5/5 (previous 5/5)
  6. Response Time – 4/5 (previous 4/5)
  7. Accuracy – 4/5 (previous 4/5)
  8. Price-point – 3/5 (previous 5/5)

Price-wise, content ranges in price depending on your needs and is competitive but somewhat limited in application depending on the song. Like other options, custom pricing is available for broadcast and commercial content.

#3 – PREMIUMBEAT

(Previously Ranked #4)

Here are some of my favourite selects.

A VERY close third is Premium Beat. Premium Beat is a great solution when looking for a broad range of styles and appplications. When I am looking for more specialized selections, I rely upon Premium Beat whose selection is extremely diverse. They also have multiple versions of songs including options for looping. Since their last iteration, they have now integrated a player inside your browser! MUCH better and convenient during searching.

Searching for music on Premium Beat is broken down into Genre, Mood, Artist and Collection. What I don’t like about this method is that you are unable to filter down by multiple criteria to find a more catered solution. They also do not have an advanced search option.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 10.48.02 AM

When using the site, I often use the ‘Most Popular Music‘ quick link to find artists / tagging breakdown for the pieces that I like and then search from there. Because the selection is so broad, this is a great way to be guided towards the type of music you are looking for if the initial search using the sites structure does not work.

  1. Quality of Content – 2/5 (previous 4/5)
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 4/5 (previous 5/5)
  3. Search Function – 4/5 (previous 2/5)
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 4/5 (previous 2/5)
  5. Playback Features – 5/5 (previous 1/5)
  6. Response Time – 4/5 (previous 4/5)
  7. Accuracy – 4/5 (previous 3/5)
  8. Pricepoint – 5/5 (previous 5/5)

Out of all the solutions, this one is one of the cheapest at all distribution levels. For the cheapest Standard License, rates vary from $39 to $59 and the Theatrical License from $289 to $309.

Here is a video I produced using Premium Beat.

#4 – SONGFREEDOM

(Previously Ranked #6)

Here are some of my favourite selects.

Songfreedom is a great solution if you are looking for music for your personal projects. There are many great options and the pricing is really great. However, if you are looking for a solution for any other type of production, this is where this platform is restricted. Using the $ filter in the navigation bar, I recommend selecting the Gold Commercial which will then give you a breakdown of what songs are available for commercial use.

Since the previous iteration, Songfreedom has done a great job in fixing their navigation mechanism and filtering. They have also fixed their player and make it easier when searching. When you have listened to a song, it flags it as listened to so you won’t get lost when searching.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.30.14 AM

The quality of content on this site is fairly good. They have done a good job developing a comprehensive library but again, many are only available for personal projects and not available for commercial licensing without contacting them for custom pricing.

  1. Quality of Content – 4/5 (previous 5/5)
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 2/5 (previous 1/5)
  3. Search Function – 4/5 (previous 1/5)
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 4/5 (previous 1/5)
  5. Playback Features – 5/5 (previous 3/5)
  6. Response Time – 3/5 (previous 4/5)
  7. Accuracy – 4/5 (previous 4/5)
  8. Price-point – 4/5 (previous 5/5) *Limited Licenses

Pricing is very reasonable for personal projects with rates starting at $9.99 and increase if using for corporate or commercial. There is no set rate for a song as each has their own pricing structure. One downfall is that if you are looking to use these songs for either corporate or commercial, not many songs are available for immediate purchase and you will have to call for custom pricing that starts at $2,000US.

#5 –  TRIPLE SCOOP MUSIC

(Previously Ranked #5)

*Unable to share playlists so I can’t share my top picks.

Triple Scoop Music is a good solution if you have time and patience to search for your song. There collection is large and has some great options but finding them is challenging. They claim that each song is hand-picked, with a selection of 10,000 songs and growing. Since the last time we worked with TSM, it doesn’t seem like much has been improved regarding user experience.

My biggest concern is the inability to filter by popular content. I have found myself at times being 60 songs deep before finding a song that somewhat fits the style I am looking for. I find that the way in which they use their theme function (how they categorize music by production type) is not helpful when searching.

Triple Scoup Music

This option also is lacking the advanced search option, which forces you to use their built-in browsing system. It is nice that you can do nested filtering but find their tagging to be inaccurate compared to other online solutions. I think the biggest challenge with this solution is that their collection is large and that they have not found an effective way to showcase their top content.

In order to playback your selections, they have a great built-in player that allows you to quickly scan through content.

  1. Quality of Content – 3/5 (previous 3/5)
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 5/5 (previous 5/5)
  3. Search Function – 2/5 (previous 3/5)
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 2/5 (previous 2/5)
  5. Playback Features – 4/5 (previous 4/5)
  6. Response Time – 3/5 (previous 3/5)
  7. Accuracy – 2/5 (previous 2/5)
  8. Price-point – 4/5 (previous 4/5)

Pricing of this solution is great for personal projects which is currently $60. However, this license is limiting and for most productions, you will need to contact them for custom pricing. There is no indication on price range for these other projects.

#6 – AUDIO NETWORK

(Previously Not Ranked)

*Top picks TBD.

New this year to the list is Audio Network. Audio Network has many great option but the two major issues with this platform is curating and the search-ability. Finding quality content is a huge pain but when you do find this content, pricing is competitive depending on your needs. If you are looking for solutions for corporate or commercial, the pricing increases pretty quickly at $700 a song.

  1. Quality of Content – 2/5 (previous N/A)
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 2/5 (previous N/A)
  3. Search Function – 1/5 (previous N/A)
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 2/5 (previous N/A)
  5. Playback Features – 5/5 (previous N/A)
  6. Response Time – 4/5 (previous N/A)
  7. Accuracy – 3/5 (previous N/A)
  8. Price-point – 3/5 (previous N/A)

Worth a look but when you have time to search and have a good budget to work with.

#7 – VIMEO MUSIC STORE / SMARTSOUND SONICFIRE PRO

(Vimeo Previously Ranked #7) (Smartsound Previously Ranked #3)

Since last year, the most interesting development is the new relationship between Vimeo and Smartsound Sonicfire Pro. Both made the list last year in their own spot. This year, I have put the two together as you are now able to purchase Sonicfire content through the Vimeo music store. At first, I was very interested in how this would develop. I’ve now spent some time with the platform and the reason they are at #7 is for MANY reasons – enough to make them almost miss the list.

Similar to last year, the Vimeo store is STILL EXTREMELY tough to filter through rendering it virtually unusable. Playback is also very poor with no ability to jump forward when listening to the songs. The one plus to the platform is the cost.

The Vimeo Music Store

Adding the Smartsound library adds many options to the library but Smartsound’s curating isn’t great and the rate in which they add quality content is rather disappointing. The current library is huge but a majority isn’t great and without a proper search mechanism or ability to jump forward in songs, the platform isn’t worth your time yet.

  1. Quality of Content – 1/5 (previous 2/5)
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 5/5 (previous 3/5)
  3. Search Function – 1/5 (previous 4/5)
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 3/5 (previous 2/5)
  5. Playback Features – 1/5 (previous 1/5)
  6. Response Time – 3/5 (previous 3/5)
  7. Accuracy – 2/5 (previous 2/5)
  8. Price-point – 5/5 (previous 5/5) *Limited Licenses

The pricing of these songs are the cheapest of the lot but the scope of the license is limiting.

Since last year, I have completely stopped using Sonicfire as the library hasn’t evolved with the platform. I have kept an eye on the album pack releases but have yet to find any new albums that catch my eye.

Here are a few shorts produced using Sonicfire Pro music.

Conclusion

It is clear that I have a distinct style and draw upon resources based on these needs. The solutions I have provided above are simply based off my experiences. I would easily recommend any of the above options but clearly have my favourites. In regards to selecting music, my biggest word of advice is to not let the music guide the type of film you are creating – rather use it as something to compliment the story you are trying to tell.

This year was a tough year as there are so many great options. Whether you choose The Music Bed, Marmoset Music or Premiumbeat, you won’t be disappointed.

Have you had success with other platforms? Feel free to comment below with your recommendations!

This post is continually evolving on a yearly basis. Here were the ratings last year:

  1. The Music Bed
  2. Marmoset Music (Formerly With Etiquette)
  3. Smartsound Sonicfire Pro
  4. Premium Beat
  5. Triple Scoop Music
  6. Song Freedom
  7. Vimeo Music Store

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