Music For Short Movies free

Where To Find Music For Short Movies (For Free)

After shooting your movie you will find yourself in post-production and thinking about how to pull all the scenes together into a cohesive whole. One of the most important aspects of post-production is the music you select or the music that is composed for your film. But what’s the right way to do it? how do you find the right music and where? what are the restrictions?

Without going into specific legal agreements for famous music which you are unlikely able to afford in your budget as a short film producer making a movie for the first or few times I would like to direct you to my favorite source of royalty free music. While I only discovered Kevin MacLeod in 2005 when I made my first movie, he has been going strong and making royalty free music and posting it on the Internet since the 90s. I can strongly say that almost everybody that has made a movie or other video production that needs music in the United States has discovered Kevin MacLeod’s material on numerous websites where he generously offers his work in exchange for an attribution (which we will talk about more specifically later).

Kevin MacLeod music downloads – Kevin MacLeod is the Mac Daddy of composers of for music for your movie. I started directing and producing over a decade ago and I used his music in my first movie.

Here are a few of Kevin MacLeod links:

BTW, people will get obsessed with his music. Read the comments on this video… his tunes get into a person’s head and that person will search for years to find the tune:

I also love that there are comments with scenarios that people imagine would match well with the music. This will give you a hint as to whether your scene has a tone that matches the tone of the music because the audience is right there, commenting on what it evokes in them. Useful!

Why You Can’t Just Use Your Favorite Song Off the Radio

New filmmakers sometimes place their favorite songs in their videos and movie productions because they don’t realize that that is a big No-No.

Years ago, the biggest penalty to a short film producer was that they could not get their movie into film festivals because the film festivals were not allowed to screen the movie without the release to the music. You might get away with it if the music is obscure, but if you threw a Dave Matthews song in (as I did… oops) and did not clear the rights, the film festival would reject the most fantastic project because they do not want to violate music copyright.

In my case, I made a spec music video to a Dave Matthews song because I was inspired and didn’t think it would be film festival material but after I edited it I decided to submit it and all festivals said that they would take it if I could get the music clearance. I could not get the clearance and it did not screen.

I was not intending it to go to festivals so I was not too disappointed, but I also cannot post it on YouTube for the same reason, so not too many have seen it. I guess I could have posted it on Vimeo or AWS (and maybe I will upload it and add a link to this post in the future), but I never got around to it because technically I would knowingly be violating copyright.  Two copyrights actually.

There is a copyright for the performance and a copyright for the composition of the song. They may or may not belong to the same party. For example, artists like The Beatles or Michael Jackson have had the rights to their music shift around to different parties for decades.  It gets confusing and can be expensive and a lot of work and usually involves a lawyer.

Therefore, I recommend indie filmmakers figure out other solutions for their music.

YouTube And Other Websites That Provide Royalty-Free Music

Of course, I’ve also sourced music from other composers and websites providing royalty free music.

Let’s take a look at that now.

In the midst of doing the 90-Day Challenge that I just finished on YouTube a few weeks ago, I found myself occasionally reaching for music to add to my videos.

The nice thing about producing specifically for YouTube is that they include royalty free music for free with a Creators Account, but what I discovered was that in addition to using YouTube music, you could also find the number of composers on YouTube showing off their music, hoping that independent filmmakers (like you) will use it.

It’s actually really helpful to find music on YouTube because not only do they provide audio samples of the music but they also offer some stock footage to go along with it to give you a sense of how the music could fit with your movie. To give you a sense of the “vibe”.

The stock footage will give you a sense of good scenes that match the music and if that scene matches “vibe” of your movie, you can see it in the YouTube clip.

YouTube Royalty-Free Music Links:

Audio Library:

YouTube Audio Library on Facebook:

Music for creators:

You’ll find links with more YouTube channels with free music for short films if you go to the YouTube links above.

Before we leave the section, I want to add that I often do Google searches for additional royalty-free music sites.

I’ve discovered many throughout the years on a basic search like “royalty free music for short movie”.

Since I’ve been doing this a while, I don’t have all the links I’ve used over the years, but here are just a few to get you started. I’m sure you’ll find your own, too. (Feel free to post them to the Facebook Group.)

Here are some other options:

This Section Is For Film School Students

When I was in an accredited film school, I had access to software that provided me with music for all of my movies.

This was so convenient and helped me to move quickly through this phase of post-production, so you might want to check with your school and find out what resources your school has if you’re in school.

But I have one note of caution…

Several years after producing my thesis I decided to post it on YouTube.

Because YouTube checks all the music in all of the videos on their website, they were able to detect I had a copywritten song and notify the artist about the use of their song in one of my did not have the rights to use that song.

This upset me because I DID have the rights to use of that song.

I was in school when I made that movie and therefore paid tuition. Part of my tuition went to post-production assets that were purchased by the school. Therefore, I DID indirectly pay for the software that allowed me to legally use the track of music in my movie that was being disputed by the artist.

After numerous time-consuming exchanges with the writer of the music, I finally got my movie back on YouTube with the original music.

But I found it disturbing but I might not have been able to come to such an agreement and might have had to hide my work because of an erroneous belief by the creator of the music.

This also happened a second time with one of my animated movies.

This was an animated student project that I directed and produced as an animation student, and I was forced to incorporated a student audio technician in the post-production process and so I did.

Again, when I posted the movie on YouTube, my movie was promptly taken down and I was told I did not have the rights to use the music in the movie.

I contacted the post-production audio supervisor (the student I was forced to include in my project) and asked if this music was royalty-free. He said he got it from the library at our school.

So again, I went back to the creator of the music and said this was a school project and was from an audio library that was paid for by the school and therefore paid for by students (me).

And being a student who paid a lot of money to go to the school I, therefore, had the right to use the song.

Again, the composer allowed me to leave my video up on YouTube.

What’s scary about all of this is that despite the fact of not earning money from any of these movies, my directing and producing portfolio on YouTube could have been diminished because music from a music library, paid for by an accredited school was used.

My tuition which paid for that music was irrelevant to the situation and to the composer. I got to leave my movies on YouTube because of a whim of the composer, even though they had sold their music to the audio library my school purchased (with my tuition).

But if they felt like being jerks they could have said NO to me and my movies would have been permanently rejected by YouTube.

My only recourse was to threaten to contact my school and the audio software company if my right to show my movies on YouTube had been permanently rejected.

So just keep this in mind…

If you’re going to use the collection from your school, know the risks.

It’s a balance of convenience versus potential distant-future inconvenience or restrictions on showing or distributing any movies made while in film school.

Paid Sources (Such As Stock Music)

Have you ever started watching a video and said to yourself, “I have heard that song before?”  

That has happened to me, but it is even worse when the song you recognize is a song you have in one of your own movies.

(Actually, sometimes I think it is kind of funny and interesting to see how another person or organization used the music, but it makes me feel a bit unoriginal.)

But even though it doesn’t bother me that much, I think it is good to strive for uncommon music that is harder to attain by other filmmakers.

Sometimes a barrier to entry is cost… Even a nominal cost.

Enter the online stock music libraries…

So far, I have only used stock companies to acquire footage and photos, not audio, but there is a vast world out there that will provide you with great professional music for a nominal price.

By paying, you make it less likely that you will find your movie’s music in another movie.  And if you really want to pay, you could probably work out an exclusive deal with the composer, but I will get into that in a minute.

This is usually worth it if you have a bigger budget movie that is going to possibly get a traditional distribution deal.

My favorite stock company is Pond5.  (affiliate link):

 Pond 5

They let creators set their own price so you can find a range of prices, from very low to extremely high and everything in between. Don’t mistake low cost for low quality, though. Some sellers are inexplicably low in their pricing and some inexplicably high. So it is worth taking a look.

Here are some other ones:

SoundStripe (affiliate link)

Hire A Composer

Ok… so this one isn’t free and I’m guessing if you landed on this page that you are not looking to pay another person to work on your film.

But if you DO have that option, then you may want to look into getting a composer.  There are a couple of ways to do this.

The way that I have always opted for has been to call one of my musician friends and ask them to compose something for my movie.

They get a credit and I get custom music.

The problem that has sometimes arisen is that the musician/composer is not a composer for movies, so their track can miss the mark in terms of tone and beats.  What I mean by that is that the tone might be romantic and they do something more thrilleresque. And then what can you say? They composed it especially for you.

The other thing that could happen is that the music could just be some generic tune that has nothing to do with the action on screen (the dramatic beats to match the shifts in music) and that completely defeats the purpose of bringing in a composer.

I had a friend who was a musician and he created this electronic tune and it sort of had the feel, but did not support the action on screen at all (in terms of theatrical beats) and was so generic that I could have selected a free track from YouTube and that would have been just as good.

Additionally, I have heard that tune on other projects, so he either sold it on a stock company or he didn’t really write it but instead grabbed it from a royalty-free website like the ones mentioned above and claimed it was his own.  

Either way, that’s pretty bad, and again, completely defeats the whole reason to hire a composer. This was his first movie composing credit and he a great musician so I noted the limp-wristed effort.

If I scared you off from having a musician friend compose for you, then you can also approach a composer you find on one of the sites mentioned above in other sections.

I am going to guess that Kevin MacLeod garners a pretty hefty rate… His music has been in Martin Scorsese movies… So you might need a big budget for him.

But other lesser-known composers might be open to a low-budget-indie wage.

A Note About Creative Commons

If you are using the creative material you find on the Internet (photography, art, video footage and music), it would good to become acquainted with the Creative Commons website.

Here’s the page for sharing:

And here’s the page for using:

For example, I did a search for dolphins on the page above and got a page showing a bunch of options related to dolphins.

Like this Flickr page:

But also a website providing music called Jamendo.

Bingo! That might be the perfect music for my narrative movie about a soul-searching dolphin who wants to quit her dead-end job at a Florida entertainment park and travel the world.  🙂

You don’t have to use the Creative Commons site, but I am bringing your attention to the site to get you familiar with their licenses.

And an example of a license to use material:

Essentially you want to get material that is usable so that no one wants a cut of the billion dollar distribution deal you just got for your awesome, award-winning movie!


I hope this gives you a better idea of how to get music for your movie – free and paid!

I’m going to conclude with a reminder to credit the artists and their work.

This is not only a rule for Creative Commons, it is also a way of giving back to composers who have generously given you their work to use in your movie.

Even if they are paid you should credit them unless it is agreed upon beforehand that you won’t be crediting them. But I don’t see why you wouldn’t… Even the top composers with the highest pay get credits. Your movie should be no different.

Good luck with your search for the perfect music! I hope this post helps you in your search.

You will find that when you add the perfect music to your footage, your scenes will start to feel connected and that the emotion and tension and power in your storytelling will take on even more life.



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