You don’t know it yet, but you and your project need some non-copyrighted music in your lives. After all, the internet nowadays can be a real minefield, you think you’ve made your masterpiece: a real opus magnum. You hem and haw for days over whether to upload your creation onto the often brutal and critical realms of the internet; fame may just be within your grasp. Perhaps you’ve made a dramatic travel vlog featuring the greatest adventure imaginable or maybe cat videos are more your thing. Finally, you summon the courage to hit upload and you wait for the comments to roll in until, that is, you get an email. Your content has been removed due to copyright law infringement… turns out you needed some non-copyrighted music. Talk about adding stress to a project, am I right?
Well, I’ve got you. Below is a list of sources where you can obtain non-copyrighted music, meaning you’ll never have to face that nightmare again. I’m going to discuss the good, the bad, and the musical of each site. You can decide which can help you fulfill that life-long dream of creating a hilarious compilation of fails without being a fail yourself.
1. Non-Copyrighted Music from Incompetech
Incompetech is a personal favourite of mine. It has a pretty vast library of non-copyrighted music that covers a variety of different genres. You can view the tracks in alphabetical order or they’ve been organised into subcategories such as oddities and video classica, the latter of which contains some rather excellent video game themes and 8-bit style tracks.
The music FAQ section of the site explains how and if you need to credit the creator of the track. All of the music available on the site is free and non-copyrighted. In some situations you can purchase a license for the music instead of simply crediting the owners.
Each track has a little blurb explaining what instruments are used, if there’s any big musical changes within the track and, of course, you can stream the tracks then and there to get a feel for them. This is really an excellent little site to find non-copyrighted music.
Unfortunately the greatest strength of this site is also one of its biggest weaknesses. The catalogue is huge and you may spend a lot of time trawling through tracks before you find the perfect tune. You may spend a bit of time falling down a musical rabbit hole but with such a big collection I guarantee you that what you’re looking for is on there. Somewhere.
2. Non-Copyrighted Music from Audionautix
Audionautix belongs to the rather brilliant Jason Shaw. He has composed rather a lot of non-copyrighted music over the years as well as inviting guest composers to add pieces. If you can’t find what you’re looking for then drop him a message as he sometimes composes new pieces according to demand. If you’re feeling extra fancy for a fee he will write you an exclusive piece.
The collection is well organised and has a good search function that should get you to what you’re after without fuss: you can choose not just genre but also the mood you want. The downside is that he doesn’t have quite as large a library as some other sites. Interestingly, YouTube has some sort of agreement with him wherein they have recognised his non-copyrighted music and so even if people do complain and cry infringement, YouTube will ignore them. Just be sure you credit Mr. Shaw in your latest and greatest creation.
3. Non-Copyrighted Music from YouTube
I’m not going to delve too deeply into this one as it’s a pretty general suggestion. If one searches ‘non-copyrighted music’ on YouTube then you will bring up a whole host of channels and videos.
Some of the more popular channels include ‘NCS’ and ‘YouTubers music – No Copyright Music’. There is so much out there on YouTube but that can make it harder when you’re looking for a really specific sound. I think this is the sort of searching you should do in your downtime to compile tracks for a future project or if you’re looking to be inspired.
If Soundcloud is more your thing, you’ll find a lot of the more prolific non-copyrighted music channels are also set up on there where you can contact them about downloading music.
4. Non-Copyrighted Music from The Free Music Archive
The Free Music Archive is directed by the WFMU. This site is lovely because of the real community feel to it, someone has put a lot of effort into its appearance: it looks less likely to give you a virus.
There is a ginormous amount of non-copyrighted music on here, over 32,000 tracks posted under the rock genre alone. You could be trawling for something specific forever and some songs are of very questionable audio quality. As a result, I’m unsure how well curated the library is (although that can be forgiven considering its enormity).
You can search by genre and many artists have profiles. There you can donate directly to them as well as find tour dates and links to buy albums. The website is currently trying to raise funds for its upkeep so if they’ve done you a real solid maybe buy a t-shirt and help them out.
5. Non-Copyrighted Music from Newgrounds
You’re probably aware of the Newgrounds site, especially if like me, you enjoy questionable flash games. The audio section of the site has quite a lot of non-copyrighted music available but only for certain genres. The categories listed down the side of the site include ‘easy listening’, ‘Electronic’, ‘hip hop’ and ‘metal’ as well as the rather ambiguously titled ‘other’. Primarily, these tracks are meant for video games. So if that is your thing then this might well be your mecca.
6. Dan-O Songs
Dan-O has a simple site, he might not have the biggest non-copyrighted music catalogue on the internet but I feel that his songs are of exceptional standard. This is both in terms of music and sound quality. His tracks aren’t free, you can pay $10 a song or buy a $50 package to use his all 77 of his tracks royalty free. You can try before you buy and see how things fit into your project. It is worth noting Dan is willing to write pieces specifically for your project but he does desire a budget of $750 (Far, far beyond my budget there, Dan).
7. Free soundtrack music
Free Soundtrack Music runs a slightly more complicated system: some tracks are entirely free so long as you credit the composer, other tracks require you to purchase and you use ‘download credits’. It’s $3.50 for one credit or you can buy in bundles for a discount. I said it would be non-copyrighted music, not totally free music.
Each track has a 20 second preview and by creating an account you can gain access to a big old non-copyrighted music library organised into genres and sub-genres that would definitely make searching effective. This could be a real gem if you have a dedicated musical budget for your project.
8. Public Domain 4 U
Public Domain 4 U compiles songs whose copyrights have expired. This website is clearly a labour of love for the blogger who runs it. The only inconvenience is having to follow links for downloads. Generally speaking, most of the music is available through Archive for free downloads.
The Top 10 page of the site is quite nice and shows the most played non-copyrighted music on the website from the last month. I really like the posts which explain the history of songs. This website isn’t just about non-copyrighted music, it’s about an appreciation of historical songs that have withstood the test of time.
Musopen is a rather comprehensive collection of classical music. It’ll bring just the right touch of drama to your artistic endeavours! The site offers not just the tracks but also free sheet music and free text books.
One advantage to this website is that recordings are rated using a star system. This indicates the quality of the recording as well as the quality of the playing. Each artist has their own little biography so you can learn more about classical artists whilst browsing.
The site is really nicely laid out and is very easy to use. Remember it is only classical music on this site. You don’t have to pay but I’m sure a donation would be appreciated.
Where would the internet be without Reddit? No seriously, there is a subreddit for pretty much everything and non-copyrighted music is no exception. You can use the search bar to limit your search to the subreddit. This will help you find the right genre although it seems many users are uploading electronic music. There’s no real organisation here. You will have to do some scrolling but 9 times out of 10 Reddit will have your back. That is, if you’re willing to put in the effort.
I know how important it is to find the perfect track for your baby – be it a video game, a film, YouTube video or remix. All of these websites combined will absolutely have you covered. You should have non-copyrighted music coming in piles. I hope to be seeing your masterpiece shared on Facebook soon without any pesky infringement issues. Viva la non-copyrighted music revolution!