Editor’s note: For a newer, updated version of this post, check it out here.
If you’ve wondered where many of those YouTube videos get their background music from, you’ve come to the right place. Music with Creative Commons licenses are music compositions written, produced and shared by people who do not charge anything when you use their music for your own use, commercially or non-commercially.
Basically, they make the music and keep ownership and copyright of it and you get the permission to use it for your videos, film or small multimedia productions, as long as you credit the creator properly.
There are many sites out there that house music with Creative Commons licenses, sites where you can download music for free (and legally). These sites make it very easy for you to use, all you have to do is pick an audio clip you like and save it as an MP3, and there you have it, your free music download.
Recommended Reading: 55 Great Websites To Download Free Sound Effects
Jamendo has more than 350,000 audio files on their database, which includes music in a few different languages and from different countries. Its advanced search will help you narrow down what you’re looking for on their large database.
There is also a ‘Radio’ option where you can listen to music like on a radio channel based on genre. By registering and logging in, you can save personal favourites to your account.
Freesound is a collaborative database for Creative Commons Licensed sounds. This database here is filled with sound effect such as ambient noises, synthesized sounds and sounds produced by musical instruments.
Browse, download and share sounds on Freesound; you can also upload your own audio clips to their database after registering for an account on the website.
Music on this site can be downloaded and shared with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Clips here focus on instrumental samples that are mainly used for remixes on DJ music. There is a wide variety of samples to choose from, which can be sorted by tags that describe the audio clips.
Kompoz is an online community that prides in collaboration between artists from all over the world. Artists post their clips on the website where anyone can download it and use it for their own productions. They can also add their own instruments or creative mix to the original clip and upload it on the website again.
As more people collaborate on the original clip and the clips after that, it will eventually become a creative collaboration of multiple musicians.
SoundCloud is a very popular website where famous artists share their new tracks to the world. There is a section under Creative Commons license where you can download other people’s tracks. You can stream the available clips and it takes just a simple click to get the MP3 file without any registration.
Note that some tracks however require you to ‘Like’ their Facebook page before you can download their clips.
On BeatPick, you have a music player kind of interface where you can listen to any song on a list. To download any song from the website, you’ll have to register for an acoount. Most of the clips are instrumental, with very little vocal input.
The clips also come with descriptions of what it sounds like, which can be useful to match to whatever the theme your clip is.
This is a website mostly used by indie artists who want a platform to sell their music to the public and have their works licensed under their name. You too can do the same, or download some of their free selection of music just by creating an account.
The full songs available on the website can be streamed to help you decide if you want to download it. Some of the artists also have songs in their native language not just English.
Musopen is a website where you can find free music from individual instruments in an orchestra: violins, cellos, violas, etc as well as a combination of instruments. It caters to the genre of quieter music like classical music or jazz.. Best of all, you can also download sheet music.
You can also browse music by sorting it by composer, instrument and even the period of time the music clip resembles.
You might recognize Vimeo as a place only for videos, but it also offers free music which you can use as long as you give credit to the original artist. After clicking download, your download will start and a pop-up window will appear with the details of the clip’s title, artist and website.
For example, when using a music for a YouTube video, you would use those details and place it at the credits of your video or video description.
ArtistServer has over 11,000 MP3 downloads by more than 10,000 artists and you can be one of those artists too when you sign up with them. They have clips of many genres for you to choose from which you can download for free.
It is also possible to preview the entire clip before making your selection and downloading it.
Audiofarm has a wide selection of genres to choose from, uploaded by ordinary people who want to share their music. You can easily download any song you like by clicking the download link – no registration needed.
The full song can even be played while browsing for one that fits your needs. By registering, you can upload music for other people to download.
If you’re a DJ or anyone else looking for some free beats and loops, iBeat has a wide database of clips which are free under Creative Commons licensing. The beats available come in a variety of genres such as rock beats, hip hop beats and even acoustic or electronic beats. No registration required.
CCTrax is a directory of free music. It has a database of Creative Commons license music for music lovers. Plenty of awesome sound track albums are available for free download here, like Alexander Saykov, Baumfreun, Stiver and more.
On JewelBeat, you search through free background music and sound effects with keywords. These free background music clips can be used for whatever video production you are making. The audio clips here are mostly instrumental and consist of short loops. Besides the free selection, there is also a $0.99 selection that you can choose from.
Clips found on Audionautix are released under Creative Commons license 3.0 – you can use the audio clips available even for commercial purposes so long as you credit the Audionautix website. Clips are named to what the artist feels it should resemble; you can preview the clip by clicking it and if you like it, right click the clip and select ‘save target/link as’ to save it to your desktop.
FMA stands for Free Music Archive which has a wide selectionof high-quality, legal audio downloads. It works like a music station where you browse for clips and if you like the clip, you can add it to your music player. You also can opt to download the full clip. You can use the music player and download the clips without registering for an account.
Purple planet is the creation of two people, Chris Martyn and Geoff Harvey, who let you use their music for free. You can use any of their audio clips on online videos so long as you link to their website at the description of the video. Their style of music falls under effects that accompany a horror, dramatic or mysterious scene.
Incompetech hosts a wide variety of royalty free music. You can browse their selection by genre or feel. "Feel" would include things like: Action, Relaxed, Intense or Humorous; you can select a combination of ‘Feels’ and it will check its database for selection matches. Clips can be played on the website and instantly downloaded as well.
Bump Foot originates from Japan and focuses mostly on techno, trance beats and electronic dance music. You can download the files and use it for your own non-commercial work as long as you give attribution to them or the featured artist.
There is no way to stream music as there are only download links avalable on the site. You don’t need to register for an account to start downloading.
- CASH Music – CASH Music is a non-profit organization that hosts digital tools for musicians and labels to share their music. The digital tool allows for uploads and downloads of songs and sharing is made easy.
- Josh Woodward – This work of a single person, this site features more than 180 songs that are free for download, sharing and use. Do give this generous man attribution if you use his clips in your productions.
- PacDV – This is a small database of free audio clips organised by mood or emotion such as: Warm, Loving, Serious or Lonely.
- SampleSwap – SampleSwap is also a forum for other musicians. When a clip is uploaded, the floor is upon for discussion about the clip, as well as a free download.
- DanoSongs – This is also a one-man wonder site. You get to use his wide variety of self-made clips, arranged by genre such as soundtrack, pop/rock band and even techno/electric.
- Public Domain 4U – This website has a wide selection of genres of free music you can download. The genre leads to another website which houses the album and description of the album. You can download your tracks there without registration.
- Orphan Songs – This website is created by Carl-Otto Johansson who is a musician who writes and records his own music. He uploads his two albums and a few tracks licensed under Creative Commons for public use.
- Sonnyboo – To use songs from this website, you have to credit the owner and writer of the songs, Peter John Ross. The song selection he has ranges from Jazz to Techno.
Note: Please do take a look at the license that each site carries to get a proper idea of which of the 6 Creative Commons licenses is in practice there. There are different limitations to each of the licenses, but they all require that you give credit to the original creator.