How to Score Your Film: Music Licensing or Stock Music?

A new update makes a strong case for choosing music licensing over stock music.

Choosing music for your film can be an overwhelming task. While many filmmakers understandably wish this wasn't the case, there comes a time when you simply have to let go of temp music and launch yourself into a relentless search through libraries, reaching out to artists, paying them their dues, and hoping they only hit you with a one-time fee.

Before you start making those decisions, however, it's best to have a plan of action. Your first question should be, "stock music or music licensing?"

Stock Music

To be sure, there are benefits to both. Stock music, for example, is easily accessible in all types of styles—and most importantly, it’s cheap. For around $20-50, you can get a song for private or commercial purposes. The downside? It's stock music. Like any media item preceded by the term "stock," these are mostly generic-sounding productions with not much artistic emotion or passionate production value. Many times, if you do find a great song, you also have to consider that it has most likely been used thousands of times by other video makers.

Stock music is unique in that the rights belong wholly to a particular company, also known as a library. The library either selects pieces for purchase from artists or employs musicians to work on specific projects, receiving royalties whenever their music is used. This keeps the customer on the hook, forcing them to pay additional fees whenever they use the tracks they purchased.

Music Licensing

In contrast, traditional music licensing allows filmmakers to purchase rights to use genuine, artistic musical works from established musicians and composers. For the most part, the quality and feel are dramatically superior to most stock music The downside is you are going to pay dearly for it and the terms are far more restrictive.

In today’s filmmaking landscape, stock music has come to dominate the industry simply because the vast majority of films are low budget. Sadly, this has limited the available work for great musicians, decreasing the quality of the music you generally hear in video.

However, there are forward-thinking companies like Artlist that have used subscription models to get genuine composers back in the game and give affordable music access to filmmakers. This is a leading trend as the music licensing industry finds new ways to meet the advances of the filmmaking industry.

Artlist has integrated all the familiar tools that filmmakers use to find music, including powerful new filtering and search options, project organization, and much more, including:

  • 600+ new songs

  • 100+ new albums

  • Multi-tag selections

  • New curated categories

  • Duration filter

  • Search by genre

  • Create and share collections

If you act quickly, Artlist's subscription offer is $199 for unlimited access and use of the entire catalog. Unlike stock music, filmmakers need not worry about purchasing additional licenses to use the music in commercial projects. You get access to thousands of great songs, with no price tag after you subscribe—effectively solving the whole music budget issue. Subscribers to Artlist simply add music to their cart, hit the checkout button, and immediately receive the songs by email (or can access them directly in their Download History page on the site).

If you're looking to up the ante on your next project, it may be the perfect time to make the jump from stock music to music licensing.      

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Your Comment

1 Comment

I used to search all over the internet to find music for my videos. Once I found Soundstripe, I've never used any other site because Soundstripe has unlimited access to their entire library of high-quality songs for a small fee. It's worth it for the amount of time that I've saved in the long run and it's more affordable than any other comparable service. You can search by genre, mood, instrument, etc. and their customer service is top-notch. If you're interested, you can get a 10% discount off a yearly membership with promo code STRIPE10 at this link:

May 22, 2018 at 10:17AM

Ethan Loomis
Videographer, Loomis Video

There are literally thousands of professional composers out there who will score your film. For money, but it wouldn’t need to be a huge amount.
This article never actually says that.
If you like someone’s music, ask them to write for you. Even established composers do small projects. Most composers and bands need the money. Licensing existing music is not the same thing.

June 8, 2020 at 2:40PM