Music is one of the most powerful catalysts for creating an emotional connection with your audience. If your viewer has a connection to your company or message, then they will be naturally drawn in to discover the details and deepen their relationship with your project or brand.

That said, here are ten practical tips for choosing the perfect music for video content:

1. Consider the role of music

Decide what role music will play in your video. Should the music support or drive the messaging? If you notice the music too much, it could be pulling away rather than adding to the overall impact. Determine if you are conveying broad information or if you are trying to impart technical details that your viewer will need to focus on without distraction; this will dictate what kind of music you should use.

If you’re trying to convey detailed technical info, you should choose a supportive underscore that doesn’t pull the attention of the viewer. If you’re trying to convey broad concepts, then look for foreground music that evokes more emotion.

Examples of good foreground music:

Examples of good background music:

2. Use intro and outro music as “bookends”

Consider giving music or sound design a featured role in the opening and or closing sections of your video, acting as a set of “video bookends”. This helps set your tone, hold your message together, and leaves your viewers with a feeling of completion. One way to do this is to pair music or sound design with an image for three to five seconds. Using “bookend” music, or simply turning up the volume of the music at certain points, can also be used to divide your video into chapters or segments.

Example of fresh mix use music:

3. Base your choice on reference music

Having reference music on hand can help you find what you’re looking for. For example, if you think that the intro to the new Jason Mraz song is the perfect vibe for your video, consider going to www.bedtracks.com, and using the Sonic Search tool. You can drag and drop an mp3, or copy and paste a Youtube/Vimeo/Sound Cloud url into the search bar on Bedtracks. After your reference track is analyzed, you’ll be directed to the search results page where your reference track will be sitting at the top of the list of similar tracks the Sonic Search tool has found.

Also, If you’re hiring a composer, it’s helpful to provide reference tracks with your creative brief to give them a clear sense of the mood, genre, and tone of what you’re looking for.

4. Know your budget

Depending on whether you’re hiring a composer to create original featured score, or paying for a license to use a track from a music library, a music budget can vary widely. You can pay between $10-$100 for library music for small business and personal use video (i.e. not broadcast or large company advertising), and approximately $300-$1000 for a quality composer to create an original score for a short video.

5. Consider hiring a composer

Consider hiring a composer when there are many mood changes in your video. Through custom score, composers can convey mixed moods and concepts that develop through the duration of a video. For a featured explainer video that talks about your brand and acts as an introduction to your company, allocating money in your budget to pay a composer to create original, more featured score will pay off. If you have a series of videos to create, musical cohesion throughout the videos is another worthwhile thing to consider, and a composer can help you create this strong musical branding.

6. Explore a music library

These days, many small and larger scale media producers choose to use a music library with detailed search functions to find music for their videos. Well-developed search functions allow you to filter your searches based on sonic density/sparseness, different genres, instrumentation, organic versus electronic score, and many other useful criteria. Music for a video with wall-to-wall voiceover where they mood is fairly consistent can easily come from a library because the music will play a less featured role. If you need more featured music, this is accessible via some online music licensing libraries. Libraries have different licensing agreements and price points available, depending on what the music is being used for.

Here is a list of some good libraries to consider:

7. Choose music that will speak to your audience

Consider demographics when choosing music for your video. Is your target market people that listen to music based on a cultural tribe they’re a part of (hiphop, indie rock, or electronic dance music, for example)? Will the choice of a certain genre speak straight to the heart of the viewer you are trying to reach? If you’re trying to reach a broad market, or many age ranges, look for music that is broadly appealing; you don’t want to alienate your audience with anything too genre-specific.

8. Utilize sonic frequency and tone

Studies in the realms of physics and neuroscience show that there are predictable physical and psychological responses humans have to music. Tone and frequency impact us in certain ways and should be considered when choosing music for your video. Are you finding, for example, that you have to turn down your music in order to hear the voiceover, so much so that it becomes indistinguishable? When your video contains a lot of voiceover, it’s wise to avoid choosing tracks with complex melodies played on instruments that use the same frequency spectrum (notes and tones) as the human voice – instruments including guitar, violin, cello, viola, and parts of the piano and keyboard instruments. If you want the quality and mood of these instruments, then use tracks that have simple melodies or repetitive chord progressions. This way, you will have more room to turn up the volume so the emotion in the music can be clearly conveyed. If you want to convey power and strength alongside a voiceover, try using instruments in the low frequencies (bass, for example).

Below is a chart that can act as a simple guide to considering the emotional impact of instrumentation and frequency. Keep in mind that the quality of the chords being played (minor vs major, etc.), must also match the desired mood.
Using frequency and tone

9. Pacing

Choosing a track with consistent rhythm will allow you to work with stops and starts to highlight important points. Sometimes a great way to accent an image or a message is to actually pull out the music for that moment and then re-introduce the music right after. Be careful not to overuse this technique though, as it will lose its efficacy.

Example of good pacing in a video:

a story for tomorrow. from gnarly bay productions, Inc. on Vimeo.

10. Public doman music and utilizing sonic cultural equity

Are you looking for a track that is culturally recognizable, but you don’t have the budget to license the Star Wars theme? Consider the host of recognizable compositions that fall into the public domain. Public domain compositions are created by a composer who has been deceased long enough that the intellectual property becomes public domain. Using this public domain music does not require an expensive license fee or royalty. In most countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention (an international agreement governing copyright of literary and artistic works), copyright term is based on the life of the author, and extends to 50 or 70 years beyond their death. After this period, the work enters the public domain.

Here is a good source site to search the world of public domain compositions: IMSLP Petrucci Music Library

And here’s a good source for public domain compositions with high quality production available at a reasonable price: Partners In Rhyme

Have fun selecting the perfect track and let me know if you have any questions about sound design!

Oliver Johnson

  • RhetoriqMedia

    That was a great and informative article full of useful resources that I’m sure will prove helpful for myself and my team. Definitely bookmarking! Thanks! (P.S.: After checking out bedtracks.com, that track upload feature is absolutely phenomenal!)

    • Thank you for the kind words 🙂 glad you found it useful. We love it too! Makes the searching process waaay more efficient.

  • DidieMarsel

    Background music HERE!!!
    http://audiojungle.net/item/corporate-uplifting/15558570
    Have a nice day!

  • I agree you should use music that fits the message of your video. Usually happy and “bouncy” music does well, at least that’s what I see in many marketing videos. Something that conveys a good feeling. Doesn’t have to be expensive to get good background music for marketing videos. For example, I make music for videos that I allow anyone who makes videos to use, monetized or not monetized, I have the same price on all the songs (except bundles). Some people are trying to get started, and expensive music licenses isn’t really helpful for those who don’t have much money to invest in.

    I got tired of expensive licenses or complicated ones when I was making videos my self, and I didn’t really want to use free ones that were already overused in my option. Some of them are still good though. There’s rare free pieces that never gets old to listen to.
    But yeah when it comes to marketing videos, as long as it’s for videos then my music can be used in as many videos as you’d like.
    In case of interest, here’s the site: http://www.ispeakwaves.com

  • JerseyCat

    A great source for royalty free music is
    http://www.freemusicpublicdomain.com

    • Kimbe MacMaster

      Thanks for the recommendation! Is this music available for commercial use as well? Say, for example, in B2B marketing?

  • Mathieu Calvo

    Great article, soon another great place to find royalty-free music : http://www.hexatracks.com.

    Music composed by artificial intelligence able to compose tracks according to the specific needs of your video.

    Do not hesitate to join waitlist on hexatracks.com and get 1 hour of free music.

    • Kimbe MacMaster

      Sounds interesting, Mathieu! How does Hexa Tracks compose tracks with ai? And what are the “specific needs” of the video that it takes into account?

      • Mathieu Calvo

        By specific needs I mean for exmple if you need an introduction of 20 sec, epic then a sequence of 30 sec dramatic with climax, then an end calm with only piano of 10 seconds, AI will compose according to this structure and will manage musical transitions.

        This is just an example and after there will be more parameters as instruments, bpm, etc

        AI is acting as an human composer would do.

        • Kimbe MacMaster

          Oh neat! That sounds super interesting!!

          • Mathieu Calvo

            Thank you ! I invite you to join waitlist on hexatracks.com, only email address is asked, then you’ll get 1 hour of free music and be notified of news about it.

  • антон кочергин

    Here you can find a lot of audio tracks for your media projects! https://audiojungle.net/user/fugu_vibes/portfolio