When I recently wrote here at PVC an article entitled “Assure all Your Audio is Legal”, I really meant that as authors we should not only offer others a work that we know is legal in all aspects, we should also promise ourselves to follow the path of legality. In audio and other aspects.
To help you walk the path I mentionned in my article “Assure ALL Your Audio is Legal”, I promised then that I would share here at Pro Video Coalition some sources of audio, on the web, that offer free music and sounds – of different types – so no one as an excuse to say: I could not find what I needed. The sites mentioned also offer, in some cases, paid material, but for people just starting, this list of FREE music and sounds may be a good reference guide. The option to buy audio may present itself later, and then you already know where to go… because you've been there.
Music is, as I wrote, the easiest element for new videographers to work with when it comes to audio. As DSLRs are not good at capturing sound, I prefer, for the moment, to use music and generally remove the sound from the captured video. I've my sights on an audio recorder, but my motto continues to be “less gear, more fun” and some things just have to wait. Yes, I generally register sound (in camera) while filming, I do think it is important to have the original sound – even if noisy and of low quality – to help me define how to work with the different segments when editing. But at the editing stage I separate the audio from the video and introduce one or more music tracks in place. If I've a segment of the original sound I can use, I'll edit it, if needed, using Cyberlink's Audio Director 4, and insert it in a track, mixing it with the music.
As I've mentioned before, Incompetech, from Kevin MacLeod, is my number one site to look for music. The composer offers both FREE music and paid themes, from a wide choice of files that make it easy to find, within his offer, what is needed by different videographers or photographers creating slideshows. Give it a try and you'll become a regular visitor, even if only to listen to some music or read Kevin MacLeod's blog.
FREE Music Archive
One place I visit sometimes looking for music is the FREE Music Archive, which offers an extensive variety of authors and styles. The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by WFMU, the most renowned freeform radio station in America. Radio has always offered the public free access to new music. The Free Music Archive is a continuation of that purpose, designed for the age of the internet. Before using the archive, please read the complete FAQ about Legal Music available on the website.
Freesound aims to create a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, … released under Creative Commons licenses that allow their reuse. Freesound also aims to create an open database of sounds that can also be used for scientific research. Many audio research institutions have trouble finding correctly licensed audio to test their algorithms. Many have voiced this problem, but so far there hasn't been a solution.
Before using sounds from Freesound take some time to read the FAQ and check for each piece of audio what the conditions for use are, to avoid any problems.
SoundBible.com offers thousands of free sound effects, sound clips, and straight up sounds. These sounds can be used in a variety of sound projects, also for commercial uses. Again, read carefully the information on the website about the restrictions. SoundBible.com is a great source for copyright free sounds.
The Sounds of Nature Collection
Available at the Internet Archive, in the Community Audio section, The Sounds of Nature Collection is a massive collection of natural sounds: thunderstorms, rain-showers, ocean waves, rivers and streams, songbirds in the morning, swampland at sunset, etc. The artist/composer signs by the name of Gaia, and the material is available under a Creative Commons license: Attribution 3.0.
I don't want to finish this list, though, without mentioning a recent discovery that may interest some: it's a website where you can mix your own audio from a series of nature sounds, and download the resulting file. It may not be suitable for everybody, but it is an interesting concept that may solve the problems of many videographers wanting to use legal sounds and not having much knowledge of the way to mix multiple sources into a single track. Since I've found this website, I've also found some more that do something similar, but this seems, to me, to be the best working of them. Give it a try, checking NatureSoundsforMe
This list has no intention to offer you all the possible destinations when it comes to audio. I simply picked some of the places I know better and share them with the readers. If you Google for “Creative Commons music”, “free sounds” “free music” or many other combinations of words you'll get thousands of suggestions to explore. Just do it, create that work best for you and… play it nice!