How to Choose Music for Your Video – A Few Tips to Get You Started

For me, one of the hardest parts when editing a video is determining what music to use. This process usually takes almost as long as the process of capturing and editing the footage combined! In this post, I want to breakdown a few different things to consider when choosing your music as well as offer a few solutions that I have found helpful. I am by no means going to cover all the options in this post, just a few I have relied upon in the past.

When trying to determine how to approach your audio mix, there are three things you will need to consider including:

  1. Mood, Tempo & Pacing
  2. Functionality / Purpose
  3. Audience / Distribution Channels

I have found that many people don’t give enough credit to the power of music in their productions. I have watched many films where the music used completely goes against what appears visually on screen. On the flip-side  I have also seen films that use the music as a crutch. Before choosing any track, it is key that the care and attention is taken.

One thing I need to point out that all recommendations are based on what I like and your experiences may be different with each of the platforms based on the style of music you like. This list is based off of how often I use each of the service as well as the average rating for each of the services.

Mood, Tempo & Pacing

When coming to an edit, I know many people who use the music as a crutch and base their visual edits on the type of song that they choose, without taking into account the story they are wanting to tell. I can openly admit to doing this during my 3 Minute Short film project but have since learned that it is key to not let the music be your crutch. Before choosing what song to use for your film, determine what the mood, tempo and pacing you are wanting for your film. The music you select should compliment these desires. One advantage of knowing before hand the type of feeling you want for your film is that for almost all of the platforms below, you can search by these given fields – which will help narrow down your selection.

shutterstock_112570745Functionality / Purpose

The function or purpose for music in your fields is to help suplement the images you have on screen. These two work together to ‘hopefully’ create a connection for the viewer. When choosing a song, ask yourself, what role do you want the music / soundtrack to play in your film? What is the purpose of the music? When cutting a piece that has dialog, I tend to choose instrumentals as I do not want the lyrics of a song to
take away from the story I want to tell. I try
use the music to help supplement the story I am wanting to tell.

Audience / Distribution Channels

One thing you will also need to determine is who your target audience is. Not only will this effect the style of music you select but it also helps narrow down what music you can use when licensing. Some songs are either limited in the scope of licensing or cost a lot more when looking for licensing to larger markets such as broadcast or international distribution. The last thing you need to determine is what you distribution plan is. If your plan is for a larger audience, make sure that the licensing option selected will cover all your markets. Typically with all the licensing platforms below, you will need to contact the providers for custom pricing.

Licensing Platforms

When choosing music solutions, there are a few key elements that each of the options MUST have. In this post, I will breakdown user experience using the following points:

  1. Quality of Content
  2. Size / Variety of Collection
  3. Search Function
  4. Custom Field Navigation
  5. Playback Features
  6. Response Time
  7. Accuracy
  8. Price-point
Quality of Content

First and foremost, the key to the success of any online licensing platform is quality of content. Not only is it frustrating to use a platform with a mix of good and bad but it is a waste of time. Although it is important to have a sizeable selection to ensure variety, it is also key that this content is filtered to ensure the selection does not become tainted.

Size / Variety of Collection

Being able to find music for any style of production is key. Although it is somewhat of a catch22 to find a solution that has both a filtered selection of quality content as well as having a variety, it is imperative for a selection to have both.

Search Function

When searching for content, it is extremely frustrating when the search function does not allow the user to easily find the music they desire. By tagging the music effectively and by offering a few different ways to find content, it improves the user experience.

Custom Field Navigation

Any music licensing platform should have an advanced search function. One reason why I think many platforms fail is not effectively tagging their collections. Continued market research is imperative to see what type of music people  like and finding out how they searched to find this content.

Playback Features

When searching for music, the way in which the tracks play will determine how long a user will use the platform. Music players that are integrated into the design will not only create a better user experience but also keep users around longer.

Response Time

How fast the content is populated is also important. I have found some solutions that take time to load both the results as well as the individual tracks – which is extremely frustrating.


Accuracy in tagging is also important. The relation between what you think you will hear and what you hear is based on how content is tagged. If a user searches for content and is unable to find what they are looking for, the user will not stick around.


Determining a fair rate for music is always a challenge. With any form of art, the value placed on your art is based on what you feel it is worth. For this post, when I talk about price-point, I will be considering the RANGE of pricing options based on distribution, length and scope of licenses.

Top Recommendations

Please note that I am not paid by any of the following providers. However, I do have a relationship built with The Music Bed and support their website because I feel their service is superior compared to the other options that exist.

#1 – The Music Bed

My favorite and go to solution for almost every production I have done recently is The Music Bed. Using The Music Bed has cut down the amount of time I spend looking for music because the content on the site is virtually all USABLE!

In regards to the search functionality, The Music Bed provides a filtered search option that allows you to narrow down the type of song you are looking for.


Once you have filtered down your selection, the built in music player allows you to continue to search while allowing the music to keep playing. When you are signed out you have access to 30 second previews but when you sign in, you are able to listen to the entire song. I often find myself on their website simply listening to the music, even when I am not looking for new tracks.

  1. Quality of Content – 5/5
  2. Size / Variety of Collection – 3/5
  3. Search Function – 4/5
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 4/5
  5. Playback Features – 5/5
  6. Response Time – 4/5
  7. Accuracy – 4/5
  8. Pricepoint – 5/5

What I really admire about this platform is the artist base in which they draw upon. Not only is it a solution for filmmakers, it also appears to be a solution for musicians to make money off of their work as well. Almost all songs have instrumental versions as well which is great when the lyrics don’t match the tone of your project. One of the biggest issues I have with this solution is that the selection is somewhat limited. Since I have started using this platform, their selection has grown substantially but the selection still has it’s limitations.

The prices range between $49-$399 with a wide-range of usage rights. They also offer broadcast licensing if desired.

#2 – With Etiquette

Out of all the options listed in this post, the most limited selection is With Etiquette who draw upon a limited list of artists for their content. However, what is great about this solution is that each artist is featured as an entity of the site. They state that, “We’re artists and music lovers.  We smile often, enjoy a good breakfast on weekends, and secretly wish animals could talk human”, which clearly shows that they are about supporting both the filmmaker and musician. This site acts as more of a ‘portfolio’ for the artists than a music licensing site and is usually the second place I go to look for music.

Another feature that is unique about this option is the way in which you search for content. The first and most evident option is by artist and being that their selection is limited, it is extremely easy to find artists that you like. To group styles of songs together, they have also developed ‘The Wizard’ option which allows you to filter by the fields below. If you are still struggling to find what you are looking for, they have also created unique playlists based on moods. Props to this team because they have done a great job maximizing the content that they have on their site. One thing that is missing is an advanced search feature. At this point it isn’t extremely necessary in the model that they have created as long as the focus remains on the artists.


With Etiquette also does a great job integrating their player. It is extremely responsive and easy to navigate through content.

  1. Quality of Content – 4/5
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 1/5
  3. Search Function – 5/5
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 1/5
  5. Playback Features – 5/5
  6. Response Time – 4/5
  7. Accuracy – 4/5
  8. Pricepoint – 5/5

Price-wise, content ranges in price depending on your needs. Like other options, custom pricing is available for broadcast and commercial content.

#3 – Smartsound SonicFire Pro

Sonicfire Pro is the most dynamic option of the group. They have both a cloud service as well as a desktop client with integration between Adobe Premiere 5.5 / 6.0, Adobe After Effects, FCP 6 / 7 & Avid 1.0.

With this solution, you are able to customize your content based on your needs using the adaptive audio content. Each song has custom beginnings and ending depending on how long you want the song. You are able to customize the content even further using their ‘mood’ and ‘variation’ settings to change the tempo and pacing of the song. Currently, they have over 3,500 high quality tracks from professional artists and each of those tracks comes with lifetime customization.

Navigation of content is fairly robust. With the option to customize your search criteria, you are able to filter by two fields. Beyond this, you are able to also search by popular content as well as by album, category or series. If you are seriously considering this option, I recommend purchasing the desktop version as virtually all aspects of the product are enhanced, including the search function.


One of my biggest complaints about the program (both desktop and cloud) is that there is no scrubbing so you are not able to quickly filter through the song to see if it fits your needs unless you have purchased the track/album and are using the desktop app.

  1. Quality of Content – 3/5
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 3/5
  3. Search Function – 4/5
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 3/5
  5. Playback Features – 2/5
  6. Response Time – 4/5
  7. Accuracy – 4/5
  8. Pricepoint – 5/5 *Blanket Licences

In regards to price, you can take one of two paths. If you are wanting the dynamic link option, you will need to purchase the desktop version which currently costs $99. However, if you do not need the desktop, you can use the cloud program at no charge. Once you have decided if you want to use either the desktop or cloud version, you then have the option of buying individual songs or albums.

#4 – Premiumbeat

Premiumbeat is a great solution when looking for a broad range of styles. When I am looking for more specialized selections, I rely upon Premiumbeat whose selection is extremely diverse. They also have multiple versions of songs including options for looping. One of my biggest issues with this solution is that in order to listen to the music, they use a pop-out player which is extremely clumsy.

Searching for music on Premiumbeat is broken down into Genre, Mood, Artist and Collection. What I don’t like about this method is that you are unable to filter down by multiple criteria to find a more catered solution. They also do not have an advanced search option.


When using the site, I often use the ‘Most Popular Music‘ quick link to find artists / tagging breakdown for the pieces that I like and then search from there. Because the selection is so broad, this is a great way to be guided towards the type of music you are looking for if the initial search using the sites structure does not work.

  1. Quality of Content – 4/5
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 5/5
  3. Search Function – 2/5
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 2/5
  5. Playback Features – 1/5
  6. Response Time – 4/5
  7. Accuracy – 3/5
  8. Pricepoint – 5/5

Out of all the solutions, this one is one of the cheapest at all distribution levels. For the cheapest Standard License, rates vary from $39 to $59 and the Theatrical License from $289 to $309.

#5 – Triple Scoop Music

Triple Scoop Music is a good solution if you have time and patience to search for your song. There collection is large and has some great options but finding them is challenging. They claim that each song is hand-picked, with a selection of 10,000 songs and growing.

My biggest concern is the inability to filter by popular content. I have found myself at times being 60 songs deep before finding a song that somewhat fits the style I am looking for. I find that the way in which they use their theme function (how they categorize music by production type) is not helpful when searching.


This option also is lacking the advanced search option, which forces you to use their built in browsing system. It is nice that you can do nested filtering but find their tagging to be inaccurate compared to other online solutions. I think the biggest challenge with this solution is that their collection is large and that they have not found an effective way to showcase their top content.

In order to playback your selections, they have a great built in player that allows you to quickly scan through content.

  1. Quality of Content – 3/5
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 5/5
  3. Search Function – 3/5
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 2/5
  5. Playback Features – 4/5
  6. Response Time – 3/5
  7. Accuracy – 2/5
  8. Pricepoint – 4/5

Pricing of this solution is great for personal projects which is currently $60. However, this license is limiting and for most productions, you will need to contact them for custom pricing. There is no indication on price range for these other projects.

#6 – Songfreedom

Songfreedom is a great solution if you are looking for music for your personal projects. However, if you are looking for a solution for any other type of production, I would probably steer clear of this options as the licensing rates increase drastically for all other productions.

Out of all the options, SongFreedom has one of the worst search engines. It is extremely difficult to navigate to desired content using their system. They do have an advanced search option but I have rendered it virtually useless. However, the quality of content on this site is fairly good. They have done a good job developing a comprehensive library but again, without an effective search function, it is difficult to quickly find quality songs that fit the style of your film.


In regards to the player, it is very responsive but unlike other solutions, such as The Music Bed, you are unable to continue your search beyond the current page you are on while listening to the music.

  1. Quality of Content – 5/5
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 1/5
  3. Search Function – 1/5
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 1/5
  5. Playback Features – 3/5
  6. Response Time – 4/5
  7. Accuracy – 4/5
  8. Pricepoint – 5/5 *Limited Licenses

Pricing is very reasonable for personal projects at $35. However, their licensing is very limiting and if you are looking for anything outside of a personal project, such as a corporate film or independent production with a wider distribution plan, the rates increase drastically.

#7 – Vimeo Music Store

Although I have spent very little time using the Vimeo Music Store, I still wanted to add it to the list because of the price point and how the content is filtered.

Vimeo has some great options but like some of the other solutions, there selection is very hit and miss.

One of the features that was nice about this service was the ability to favorite tracks for future use. When you find a song you like, simply click the star beside it and it saves your selection to ‘My Saved Tracks’. However, upon revisiting the site to call upon some of my saved selections, the entire list of favorited tracks were gone.

As for the search function, I like that you are able to select multiple tags to help filter the content. Out of all the options in this list, this search mechanism is one of my favorite.


One major limiting factor for this option is that there is no scrubbing inside their player so you are forced to listen through much more of the song before being able to determine if the song will work for your film. This oversight has kept me away from relying on for music.

  1. Quality of Content – 2/5
  2. Size / Variety of Content – 3/5
  3. Search Function – 4/5
  4. Custom Field Navigation – 2/5
  5. Playback Features – 1/5
  6. Response Time – 3/5
  7. Accuracy – 2/5
  8. Pricepoint – 5/5 *Limited Licenses

The pricing of these songs are the cheapest of the lot but the scope of the license is limiting.


It is clear that I have a distinct style and draw upon resources based on these needs. The solutions I have provided above are simply based off my experiences. I would easily recommend any of the above options but clearly have my favorites. In regards to selecting music, my biggest word of advice is to not let the music guide the type of film you are creating – rather use it as something to compliment the story you are trying to tell.

Have you had success with other platforms? Feel free to comment below with your recommendations!