When you are on a small budget as a student filmmaker, it can be difficult to find music or sound effects that are appropriate for your film. Often film soundtracks can be expensive, especially if you are looking to licence commercial songs.

This is because if you plan to use music in your film that you want to show publicly such as in film festivals or on Youtube, you need to make sure you have a proper licence for the music you use. This is different from paying to listen to the song yourself. So what are your options?

1. Unsigned Talent

Look around you, your cinematic composer might already be at your school. Ask around the music department to see if any music students are willing to help you out, or have a go at composing yourself through software such as Garageband, or even Premiere.

If you can’t get music made, you may be able to get a free licence to use a song from an unsigned artist. If an artist is unsigned it means you won’t need to get permission from the publisher who often owns the rights to the music. Write to the artist to ask permission to use the song in your film, just be clear on what the song will be used for.

triple j Unearthed is a site which houses thousands of songs by local, Australian artists. Each artist page has download links and easy links to contact the artist to get their permission.

Soundcloud is a large site filled with signed and unsigned artists. Do your research, as some people may upload material they don’t have the rights to. This site also has a creative commons section.

2. Royalty Free Tracks

Many places offer soundtracks that are “royalty free”. This often means that tracks are made available through a creative commons licence or similar that asks you to give attribution to the artist in the credits of your film. Check carefully what the terms are when using these tracks.

Youtube Audio Library: Youtube has it’s own audio library filled with music and sound effects to use for free.

Free Music Archive: A large library filled with creative commons or royalty free music.

ccMixter: Another website that deals exclusively with Creative Commons music.

Partners In Rhyme: Has a free royalty free music section.

NoCopyrightSounds: Youtube channel that has copyright free music

3. Paid Music

There are other sites that provide a greater and richer library of tracks but ask you to pay for the licence to use the track. This can be as much as $50 or more.

4. Commercial Music

If you are planning to only use the music for classroom or assessment use only, and don’t plan to share it on Youtube, social media or in a film competition, then the use of the music may be covered by an educational licence held by the school. You can check for more information.