March 31, 2014

TEM's Preferred Music Licensing Websites

Over the years, we've had people ask us what music licensing websites we use for our projects, so we thought we'd share our top favorites (see below, listed in alphabetical order).

Which site we use depends on various factors, including: our project budget, the theme of the project and style of music we are looking for, the size of a music library and how frequently it's updated. Sometimes we're just tired of a certain site and want to switch it up to keep things fresh.  Whenever possible, we license all the music from the same site so we can  negotiate a 'blanket license,' which keeps costs down. More often than not, it's tough to match every style of music we need, so we license tracks from multiple sites.

Although it's not always possible, we try to find appropriate music before we even start editing. So many editorial decisions, including pacing, shot selection and mood are heavily impacted by music. As a rule, use music intentionally and sparingly. Unless we're cutting a trailer, music does not run the entire length of a piece. If we have to use music to mask sections that drag, we prefer to improve the edit rather than use camouflage. (At the end of this post, find examples where music drove the mood and pace.)

Pricing depends on several factors:

- number of needledrops per track
- length of video
- type of clearance needed (ie 1 year vs in perpetuity, 1 country vs worldwide, web only vs broadcast, etc)
- number of tracks licensed (ie the more tracks licensed, the better the negotiated rate)
- are you or your client a non-profit (*with the proper documentation of 501(c)(3) status you can often qualify for a non-profit rate)

Here is a list of some of our favorite music licensing sites:

FirstCom Music
- Pros: (1) Easily searchable website that allows you to use keywords to do a "Quick Search" and/or an "Advanced Search" by using filters such as Music Styles, Moods, Instruments, Tempos, Country List, etc.  (2) A lot of the CDs and Tracks have "Alterate Versions & Edits" to choose from. (3) With click of the button, you can easily listen to other tracks from the same CD. (4) The music library is updated frequently.
-Cons: (1) No option of searching by 'Similar' or 'Related' tracks. (2) To listen to other tracks by the same artist you have to type in their name into the search engine (rather than just clicking on his/her name). (3) Prices can be higher than other websites.

Killer Tracks -- *Killer Tracks and FirstCom (described above) have very similar search engines.
Pros: (1) Like FirstCom, Killer Tracks also allows you to use keywords to do a 'Quick Search' and/or an "Advanced Search" by using various filters and subcategories and has the "Alterate Versions & Edits" option. (2) They have a wide variety of international music. (3) Their sales department is willing to negotiate rates.
Cons: (1) No option of searching by 'Similar' or 'Related' tracks. (2) To listen to other tracks by the same artist you have to type in their name into the 'search' engine (rather than just clicking on his/her name). (3) Their library doesn't seem to be as frequently updated as some of the other music websites.

Pump Audio -- Pump Audio (owned by Getty Images) was one of the very first sites we began using years ago here at TEM.
Pros: (1) You have the option to search by keywords and/or by various "genre."  (2) Use the "More Like This" button to find similar/related tracks. (3) You can listen to other tracks by the same artist with the click of a button. (4) Music library is updated frequently.  
Cons: (1)  Search results can sometimes be quite broad and all over the place. (2) Doesn't offer option for "Alternate Versions & Edits" --
Pros: (1) When you scroll your curser over a piece of music, it automatically begins playing. (2) Offers "Related Clips" and "More From this Artist" options.  (3) Very affordable.
Cons: (1) There is only a general keyword search function -- no filters or sub-category option. Note: We haven't used Pond5 as frequently as the other sites so we cannot comment on how often they update their library.

Syria's Lost Generation from Talking Eyes Media on Vimeo.

Photojournalisms from Talking Eyes Media on Vimeo.

Curse of the Black Gold - Trailer from Talking Eyes Media on Vimeo.