Soundtracking across the universe

For the past two weeks I have been hard at work editing 2 student films that I shot during a recent workshop. The films address the issue of bullying and to give the films emotional impact I need a soundtrack. It has to be music which is appropriate to the tone of the films. It must be dramatic, with good production qualities, no background hiss and It has to an instrumental piece - I don't want any song vocals clashing with my dialogue. Now where can I find this elusive musical composition?

The most important question is do I have a budget for a soundtrack? If a budget is available there are many subscription based stock music websites vying for your cash. Some are huge and some have just a handful of tracks and the production quality varies wildly. Last year I used gettys audio library for a project. Their tracks are well produced but the archive is a sprawling labyrinth and it's quite a slog using their search engine to locate a piece of music that matches your soundtrack needs. Of course then you have to fork out quite a bit of cash to use the tracks.

If you have no budget then don't worry there are options available. YouTube have recently launched a collection of copyright free tracks some of which are quite good! I will be using two of them in aforementioned anti-bullying films. You can find the library here if you want to take a look. The library has been organized using a number of search terms such as mood, duration and instrument. There isn't a huge selection of songs yet but there is enough to cover most genres of film. Its free so there are no copyright issues and it is a really useful tool.

You can have a listen to one of the songs that I used as a theme in the bullying films. It was available free of charge on the YouTube audio library.

If you already own or are lucky enough to be able to afford an Apple Mac then you will probably all ready have garage band software. Garage band has a built in library of ready made tracks with a good range of genres spanning from horror themes to action to 70s cop music. All tracks have good production qualities and there is also a library of useful sound effects and background noises like traffic, machinery hums, applause, punches, kicks and gunshots. All this music is copyright free and can be used in your videos just as long as you don't try to claim ownership of the music.

If you know your way around garage band you can also create a custom sound track using the built in library of loops. It takes a little time to learn the software but it's not difficult and is a worthwhile skill for any video producer. You can tailor custom tracks that match the exact duration and tone of your video. I have composed simple musical scores to accompany some of my own videos in the past. Anything you create is copyright free which means you can use it on your videos and on any websites without worry.

Here a couple of videos that featuring a custom soundtrack that I created using Garage band software. These tracks are probably not going to win any awards. However they are functional, appropriate to the tone of the videos and most importantly they are copyright free.

Another excellent source of soundtrack material are audio platforms such as soundcloud and bandcamp. There are thousands of undiscovered and emerging band and artists. You may find a song that is perfect for your soundtrack. Just remember these tracks are copyrighted and a lot of time, money and hard work went into their production. Email the Artist and explain what you want to use the track for and they may well be willing to let you borrow the song to use on your video in exchange for a credit or for a small fee. Or they may not. Musicians can be temperamental!

If you put a lot of hard work into creating your video and you hope to post it to YouTube or Vimeo you may be tempted to put a well recognized piece of copyrighted music as a soundtrack. This will instantly give your video a recognizable boost but it might also lead to your video being banned in several countries for copyright infringement. It also means you won't be able to take the credit for your own work.

If you really love your film make sure you own every part of it including the music!