Musical Content Without a Price Tag

You just created a website for your business, but as you browse through it you find that the content is slowly lulling you to sleep.  You ask yourself, “What can I add that will spice up this page a bit?” Then it hits you – music! But then reality sinks in.  You already invested your entire budget into the construction of the website and you almost let your dream die.

I’m here to encourage you to revitalize that dream and get to work creating a “sound” (pun intended) website. If you are looking to add audio content to your website, there are options these days for acquiring original music and/or sound bites without busting the budget.

There are a number of websites that offer royalty-free audio available for commercial use through what is known as Creative Commons licensing. No, by royalty-free I am not referring to music that is not ruled by a King and Queen. What I am talking about is music that comes without a price tag.

Creative Commons is a relatively new area of copyright law in which the creators of the content allow the public to share No Derivative Workmaterial, make copies, and even employ original content on websites, in videos and other media platforms for free.

When acquiring audio through CC licensing, it is important to check the individual CC license for the audio you wish to use, as not all licenses allow for unrestricted commercial use, and some allow for only personal use. There are also those that allow for commercial use only when a donation is made or a one-time fee is paid.

It goes without saying that most licenses do not allow the end user to resale the content. More importantly, if you will be editing the audio in order to make it synch with images or video, it is important to check to make sure that you are not using music that has a No Derivative Works license, as these licenses are set up so that you cannot alter the sound clip in any way. And, finally, credit must be given to the composer on your website, as well as a mention of the type of CC license through which the music is made available.

Keeping these things in mind, here are a couple of websites where you can download royalty-free CC licensed music files to get you started:

  • Free Music Archive includes a lot of helpful information on Creative Commons Licensing and how to get started.
  • Music and sound clips are organized according to genre of music, including blues, jazz, country, spoken word, etc.
  • Includes a portal entitled “Music for Video,” which includes tracks offered by artists who have set up licenses to specifically allow their tracks to be used in videos.
  • Includes detailed information on participating artists.

  • Opsound is an open ended smorgasbord of sounds and sound clips. According to information provided on their website, Opsound provides “field recordings, ambiences, incomplete improvisations, monologues & dialogues, unfinished experiments, detached soundtracks, vocal solos, strange noises, bedroom laptop, microsound, generative, glitch dub, idm, minimal techno, blip hop, hip hop, turntablist, downtempo, uptempo, reggae, ragga, raga, roots, breakbeat, basement punk, garage band, indy, shoegazer, psychedelia, noise, song, be-bop, free jazz, modern composition, avant-anything, etc. Sound files can be complete pieces of music, or elements intended be combined into something new.” Woo, hold on, let me catch my breath!
  • Files on the Opsound website use a Creative Commons license known as Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, which grants the end user all rights to reuse the sound files so long as the user credits the composer, and allows others to re-use the files in like manner.
  • Sound clips on Opsound are categorized conveniently according to genre, artist, and even according to subject matter under the menu Tags, with categories such as “birthday,” “Dracula,” or “rain.”

But perhaps the best place to start an exploration of CC sites is at, where you can find an extensive list of sites and a thorough explanation of all the legal ins and outs of Creative Commons licensing. Have fun!

Jef Chandler – Content Writer/Fact Checker


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