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A guide to soundtracks and background music for video

Casettes a guide to video soundtracks


You’ve probably watched a scene or two from a silent movie or danced at a silent disco, but do you remember any silent video? Probably not. Silent videos are not really a thing especially when a video that is created for brand or marketing purposes, such as attracting new customers. To standout in an increasingly noisy world great videos need a great accompanying soundtrack or background music.


From the first note music in video can grab attention and evoke emotion in tandem with the opening frame, its role is to engage the audience’s ears as much as the visual content is made to attract eyes. Adding music to your video is often one of the final steps in the video post-production or editing stage, but that doesn’t mean it’s of little importance. In fact, it’s the opposite, music is the final flourish or piece of the video content puzzle that can bring all the elements of a great video together harmoniously.


Music copyright and licensing rules


In this article we’ll share how to select and find the perfect soundtrack or background music for your next video. Before we move on, we must be aware of the rules of adding music to videos. The first rule of adding music to your video is to have permission to use that piece of music in your video. It’s imperative that you do not violate any royalty or licensing rules as not only will your video be banned from wherever you are trying to publish it (E.g. YouTube) you are also highly likely to be sued by the copyright owner, music composer or artist.


How to choose the right music for your video


Think back to your video content brief: what do you want audiences to feel when they watch your video? The background music or soundtrack to your video should evoke that feeling in viewers too, in videos there should never be a disjointed experience between what the viewer sees and hears.


If your video has a voiceover choose music or instruments that complement the human voice, such as a bass or ambient music. Instruments like guitars or pianos can make it difficult to hear what is being said.


Decide the role of music in your video


To ensure you choose the right style of music to add to your video it’s important to decide what the role of the music is in the context of your video, this directly links to the type of video you have created for brand and your video marketing strategy. For example, music in explainer videos is quite subtle and focuses on maintaining attention with an even tempo whereas, music in TV adverts will often be quite dramatic to evoke emotion and garner a strong response.


Also, consider your video’s key message and the action you want the viewer to take. If you’re seeking donations for a charity then a low melancholy piece of music will be suitable but, if you’re promoting a time limited promotion or sale then you can build on the sense of urgency with a fast tempo piece of music at the end of your video. Always, make logical choices when sourcing music for video to avoid confusion about or distraction from your video’s core message.


Choose music your target audience will like


A guide to video soundtracks headphones


What kind of audience(s) are you trying to engage with your video? Do you know what kind of music they like, or the music genre they aspire to? This point is particularly important in marketing videos from brands with a specific or niche target audience, when creating video content the more you know about the audience the better as you’re more likely to create something they will like. Capture their attention by playing tones you know they love and get them nodding along or tapping their feet.


When the target audience is broader or predominantly corporate then we recommend you play it safe with your video music choice, try classical or ambient tones so you don’t distract from your core message or alienate viewers.


Get to know your music genres


Knowing which music genre to look for will save you time as you search for the perfect music for you video. We recommend that you decide on one or two genres’ before you start listening to background music tracks, here’s a few of the most popular music genres and the emotions they typically evoke in marketing videos.


  • Classical: Epic, sweeping, dramatic, victorious. 
  • Corporate: Motivational, inviting. 
  • Electronic: Intelligent, curious, innovative, industrial.
  • Hip Hop: Edgy, confident, disruptive. 
  • Piano: Dramatic, melancholy, human.
  • Rock: Bold, raw, independent.
  • Funk: Bright, positive, smooth.

Alternatively, try listing a few adjectives to describe the mood or tone of your video to get your background music search started down the right track.


Incorporate audio bookends into your video


An audio bookend is a snippet of music, less than five seconds, that indicates when a video is starting or stopping aka an intro or an outro. They can work really well in all types of brand videos, especially explainer videos or a series of, in this video format you can team the intro or outro with a short branded animation (E.g. logo and video title). However, incorporating animation isn’t essential, using volume control is also an effective way to draw attention to your video’s beginning or ending.


An example of a great soundtrack in video advertising


We’ve all found ourselves humming a tune or singing a song from an advert or video we watched earlier that day, or even last week. Great music, or annoying music, sticks in our minds. Sometimes advertisers get it just right when they select the soundtrack for their TV advert and the positive association between the song and brand can last for many years. Whenever a customer hears that song they may think of the brand and vice versa, although the artist may soon tire of it.


One of the most iconic TV adverts with music is by Cadbury with a gorilla playing the drums in Phil Collins’ song ‘In the air tonight’. This advert was named the best of year in 2007 and is still one of the most notable examples of great TV advertising that went viral, in 2015 it was named the nations most beloved TV ad. We love it. 





Obviously, a global brand like Cadbury will have a huge advertising budget for production, music royalties etc but it is possible to source or create great music for videos on much smaller budgets and even for free – we discuss this later in this article


An example of great background music in video advertising


Fresh Cut created a TV advert for 24/7 blinds and to complement the bright, fun, and aspirational look and feel of the advert we added a quirky, upbeat piece of background music. The pace of the music matches that of the featured scenes which showcase the brand’s product range and eclectic customers. Importantly, the background music doesn’t detract from the warm, positive tones of the voiceover instead, it enhances the tone of the message to create an all around engaging video advert for TV and web.




Where to find quality background music for video


There are many websites and online archives where you can source background music or sound effects for video and the cost of music for video varies widely. It’s possible to source music for free, and you can, of course, pay to feature songs from global artists or even have a composer create a bespoke piece of music just for your brand. The latter is very common for major brands who want a piece of music or jingle to be associated with their brand for a long period of time.


3 top websites for royalty free music


Knowing how to source good music for video online will save you heaps of time during post-production. Here are three royalty free music websites we recommend for their intuitive search functionality and extensive collections of great background music. On each of these sites you pay a small fee for the license of the track and you state where and how you intend to use the music, this is known as paid licensing. Royalty free music means you don’t pay a percentage commission to the music producer or owner based on how many people saw your video.


  • Premium Beat: Shutterstock’s extensive music library is very easy to use; users can search by genre or mood or use the intuitive search filters. All music is royalty free, exclusive to Premium Beat and the licensing is straightforward to understand.
  • Audio Jungle: Find your perfect video track in this community of musicians and sound engineers created by Envato. With almost 1millions songs to choose from and prices from $1 this royalty free music library is great for smaller budgets.
  • Hooksounds: This is a fantastic, easy to use online music library with simple licensing terms. Hooksounds is a highly curated collection of exclusive royalty free music, produced by hand-picked artists.

Free background music for videos


There are two key types of music archives where you can find free music for videos; free music archives and public domain music archives. The latter is typically classical music where copyright or ownership rights have expired, therefore these musical works are now part of the public domain and can be freely used with no fees or royalties payable to anyone.


We recommend the following free music archive and public domain music websites:


  • Free Music Archive: Visit their The Music for Video portal for free music featuring artists who wish to participate in the open sharing of their works under the Creative Commons licensing framework. This music is for online media projects only.
  • Musopen: this online music catalogue provides recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions. This organisation is on a mission is to set music free.
  • IMSLP: an extensive online database of classical music from thousands of composers, search by composer, nationality and time period to find your perfect piece of background music.
  • PD Info: find your perfect video soundtrack in this huge database of public domain songs and music published before 1922.

5 steps to finding music for video


Now that you know what style or music you’re looking for and where to find great background music it’s time to begin your search. Here are 5 steps to finding the perfect video soundtrack online:


  1. Google ‘royalty free music’ or visit one of our recommended websites above
  2. Search for music by genre, mood or tone
  3. Listen to previews of tracks and save or shortlist your favourites
  4. Check the licensing fees fit your budget and covers your usage plans
  5. Purchase and download the track and abide by the licensing agreement

Let’s create a standout video


Prefer to work with creative video experts to create a standout video with a fantastic soundtrack for your brand? Let’s work together! Fresh Cut are a leading video production company helping brands tell their stories on TV and online since 2006. With studios in Leeds, Manchester and London we are proud to work with brands and budgets of all sizes. Take a look inside our fantastic portfolio of creative video content and get in touch with our talented team to discuss your next video project.