“Where can I find music for my book trailer video?”

*This blog post is not intended as legal advice. No, seriously. It’s not. You do your own thing at your own risk. Always thoroughly research any website or service you intend to do business with.


I see this question posted several times a week on Twitter, Facebook, and various blogs on my feed: “Where can I find music for my book trailer?”

The simple answer is, you can find it just about anywhere, but it’s not free. Another simple answer would be you can find it but it’s not always free. Even simpler: Nothing is free.

Sure, it would be AMAZEBALLS to find free music tracks just lying on the ground like gumdrop flowers in WonkaLand, free for us to use however we want. I’d also like free rent, free groceries, and my own personal Michael Fassbender Replicant (no expiration date), but those aren’t happening either. Musicians have to earn a living like everyone else, and expecting them just to give you their stuff to because you say you need it is an entitled worldview. No, scratch that. It’s a dickbag worldview.

Don’t be a dickbag.

If you want to use a song for a fandom creation (vidding, fanvids, etc), this falls under a different category than commercial use. Just go to Newgrounds.com and click on the Audio tab. There are thousands of Creative Commons songs there completely free for noncommercial use. This means you have to give credit for the song (and a link to the artist’s website would be super nice too!) but you don’t have to contact them or pay them. It means you can’t include their song in another collection of songs or alter the song substantially. For example, changing the rhythm or creating a new mix from their song, but you can cut it to fit your video timeframe.

If you want to use a portion of a popular song by a famous artist for your fanvid – and you have previously purchased the song for personal use –  this may or may not fall under the Fair Use clause of copyright. Using only a portion of the track is more likely to place in the gray area of Fair Use, but using the entire song almost certainly infringes upon the artist’s copyright. Yet, there are possibly millions of these fan-made videos with famous song tracks on YouTube. Why haven’t they been taken down?

Sometimes they are. The general answer is that there simply aren’t enough resources to police every single song, TV show, or movie on the Internet, and the harder studios and recording labels crack down on fans sharing material among themselves, the more ill-will it generates between media/content provider and audience. Obviously, this is counterproductive to a consumer environment dependent on actual fans.

Another reason that fandom creations manage to fly under the radar of legality is because they don’t generate any income. The moment you introduce cash to a fandom equation, the demarcation lines move and corporations get protective. Without profits, corporations cease to exist.

A book trailer is meant to advertise a product: your book. Therefore you need a commercial license, not a Creative Commons. If you want to use a song from Newgrounds for commercial use, you’ll have to contact the artist personally and ask them for permission. They may or may not require a fee for this. If your website does not generate ad revenue, the license may be less. If you intend to load your book trailer onto YouTube.com or Vimeo, then it might depend on whether or not you’re being paid ad revenue from your channel traffic.

By now you’re nodding your head and thinking “Wow, this is complicated.” Well, so is writing a book. If you wanted easy, you should’ve chosen a different profession. Maybe lumberjack or weasel-herder.

You also may have to get past the natural enthusiasm of a fledgling musician who suddenly has an author contacting them about their song. It’s astonishing that some people still see dollar signs when they hear “author”, even though the reality of that image should be pennies tucked into our scuffed loafers with the run-down heels.

“An author contacted me about using my song for their advertising! I want $500 every time they play it!”  

Yeah.  No. Back to reality. Let’s talk about some sites that license music tracks.

Unless you really do have enough disposable cash to start a bonfire, I don’t recommend Greenlight . A random sampling – clicking around on their website and entering in the information that the average author would provide (online advertising, 1 year, under 2 minutes) – Greenlight arrived at prices between $8,000 and $45,000.

You may commence hyena laughter now.

Songfreedom listed a quoted price of $34.99 per track, but they had no price-quotes specifically for background music for video.  According to the FAQ on their website, authors would need to obtain a streaming license for this purpose, and there were no prices for streaming. It’s a bad sign when there’s no price.

Musopen claims to be a free music source and the five songs that I sampled from the website were attributed under a Creative Commons Public Domain license. For more information on what this is, go here . This could make Musopen a possible source for authors hunting for free music they can legally use commercially, but I had difficulty navigating their website and their Terms of Use page seemed to randomly close on me. In short, do some research before using songs from this site.

Jamendo.com also looked hopeful. While not free, their quoted prices for advertising licenses were in the feasible range for an author seriously looking to promote their book, between $90 and $270. It’s worth checking out.

Youlicense.com also showed potential, but they had no specific category for book trailers or product advertising, and their prices varied widely between services offered (from $6-$450). Basically, you need more info, and with so many other resources available, I’m not sure it’s worth your time.

Playtunes has a nifty interface and is a subscription-based service. Again, inexpensive and promising, and their stated conditions of use include “an audio or video production, website, app, computer game, slide-show, etc.”

While that doesn’t specifically mention “book trailer”, a reasonable interpretation would be video production. Their subscriptions begin at Free, where you buy credits at $10 a pop, with each track worth between 1 to 3 credits each.  Monthly unlimited downloads start at $129, which could make Playtunes a viable resource for publishers and videographers.

And that’s all I had time to research today. 🙂 Leave your own resources, links, and suggestions in the comments, and good luck finding your music.

About Kirby

Kirby Crow worked as an entertainment editor and ghostwriter for several years before happily giving it up to bake brownies, read yaoi, play video games, and write her own novels. Whenever she isn't slaying Orcs or flying a battleship for the glory of the Amarr Empire, she can be found in the kitchen, her vegetable garden, or busy writing her next book. Kirby is a winner of the EPIC Award (Best Horror Novel) and the Rainbow Award (Best LGBT Novel). She is the author of the bestselling "Scarlet and the White Wolf" series of fantasy novels.
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