Lesson nine: Selecting Music for your Project

Music really takes the experience of watching a film to the next level. I am very purposeful when selecting music. Before you purchase a song, be sure to consider how it will affect the mood of your project and if it complements the visual aspects. Do you want an instrumental piece? Or a lyrical song? If you have a lot of native audio in your film that you want to highlight, consider an instrumental piece or one with few words so the voices of your subjects will not have to compete with the song lyrics. If you do not have a lot of inspiring audio, then you can increase the emotion and richness of a film with the right lyrical song. Also consider how long your song should be. Most often, I create my video project loosely or at least have a sense of how long it will be judging by my number and length of clips, and then I find a song that meets those needs more or less and most importantly, one that complements the mood and tone of my project. 

But other times, I have a song in mind and I create a film for that song. Watch this example of a pre-selected song where I filmed for the emotion in the music.:

I prefer to use songs that captivate me within the first 20 seconds and therefore are likely to do the same for my viewers, inviting them into my film to stay awhile. Be sure to listen for the duration of a song when you preview it. How does it ebb and flow? Will it complement your project or compete with it? Will the emotion and mood of the song reflect that of your project? Be very purposeful in this step, and be patient because sometimes it takes a while to find the right song.  

The cost of licensing music can really vary. On average I pay about $50-$80 per song for client films, and less for personal projects because I try to source those from the less expensive databases. But that is like shopping at Marshall’s...you have to really sort through the underwhelming stuff to find the gems. I really can’t emphasize enough how much music can influence your film. Don’t create a professional project and then slap on an uninspiring song or one you simply didn’t consider thoughtfully (unless money is really an issue--then by all means, do whatever you can within your music budget)...it will do nothing for your work and leaving you feeling like something is missing. Likewise, an amazing song can make such a difference and enrich your film with so much emotion and feeling. You’ll understand what I mean the first time you find “THE SONG” and set it to your film.    

Watch this video that shows how I ‘audition’ my song tracks before choosing the right one, and how I organize potential songs:

When purchasing a license, in most cases personal use is the license for you. The exception is when creating a brand film whose purpose is to promote a business. That generally requires a commercial license, so always pay attention to the terms of each license. Some licensing sources that I recommend are:

and there are also subscription programs that cut cost significantly, such as www.soundstripe.com and www.audioblocks.com and www.art-list.io/

Tip: For screening and selecting music: I like to keep a favorites list in each music database so I can continuously add inspiring songs to my running list of favorites while I am listening. That way I always have some songs I like that I can refer to for future projects. Another tip is to ask the music licensing sites for suggestions. Give them as many details as possible about your project or what kind of song you have in mind. Most sites will respond to you with some song recommendations. If you would like to know the name of a song you are listening to on the radio or in another film, you can use the Shazam app to identify it.