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Stock Music 101

Stock Music for Student Filmmakers

Steven Howsley | August 14, 2020

Breaking Down the Best Stock Music Resources for Students

If you’re studying video production at a college or university, then you know how important music can be in film. While custom music scores are usually ideal, students may not always have the time or resources available to work with a skilled composer. Insert stock music.

What’s Stock Music?

Stock music (or royalty free music) is the most common music alternative to hiring a composer. In short, stock music licenses allow filmmakers to sync an existing music track to their project without running the risk of copyright violations or heavy royalties. There are countless stock music websites available online, with pricing and archives most typically geared toward the commercial filmmaker.

So what about students? Great question. To help make your hunt for great music easier, we’ve curated a list of our favorite free and premium stock music resources for students below:

Premium Options:

Let’s be honest, a lot of the free stock music out there isn’t great. Not only that, most of the free sites available look like they were built in 2006 and are not the easiest to navigate. Premium libraries of royalty-free music usually offer a curated list of music to choose from, making things easier by filtering out a lot of junk. They also tend to do a better job of organizing the music, reducing your overall search time. As a film student, the priority is always about getting the most bang for your buck and premium music sites can be very expensive. For that reason, we’ve narrowed things down to our top 3 picks:


Unlimited Music
Educational, Online Portfolio, and Festival/Contest Coverage
Pricing: 50% off at $6 per month for Students or a flat fee for Universities

Okay — this name might sound familiar… probably because it’s us. We may be a little bias, but after searching high and low around the stock music marketplace there really isn’t anything cut out for students specifically. Our licenses cover entire film schools on a yearly basis, bringing our cost per student down to the single digits for most programs.



Single Track Licenses
Commercial Coverage (Details vary)
Starting at $49 / Track

Premium Beat, a Shutterstock subsidiary, has an exceptional amount of highly curated stock music. Their platform is neat because all of the music is 100% exclusive to their platform and the tracks usually come with traditional commercial length (15s, 30s, 60s) and loop versions. This site is really good if you need some high-end commercial or cinematic music without breaking the bank.


#3 – POND5.COM

Single Track Licenses
Commercial Coverage (Details vary)
Starting at about ~$20 / Track (Pricing varies)

Pond5 is an excellent resource for specific styles of music because of their massive archive. Because they don’t curate any of the music that is uploaded to the platform, there are literally hundreds of thousands of tracks available. The downside? There are hundreds of thousands of tracks available. Finding a great track on Pond5 might take some serious digging, but could be worth it if the track makes your scene pop.


Free Options

College is expensive. Life is expensive. We get it, nobody really wants to pay for anything if they don’t have to (we certainly don’t). The reality is that there are a handful of free stock music options that might get the job done. The other reality is that most of these sites have questionable music, tricky interfaces, or strict license terms (sometimes all three). Before you go on the inevitable quest to find the best free stock music site for your project, why don’t you take a look at our favorite picks here.


Unlimited Music
Creative Commons Licenses Available

Kevin MacLeod is the composer and mastermind behind Incompetech. This amazing guy has made a career off of stock music and chances are you have even heard one of his tracks before. What makes him so popular? He gives most of his music away for free, with creative commons licenses. He also makes graph paper.



Unlimited Music
Creative Commons Licenses Available

We’re not going to lie, the design of this site is rough. The music on the other hand is actually not that bad once you dig into it for a bit. Check it out!



Unlimited Music
Creative Commons Licenses Available definitely stands apart when it comes to quality. The site is not too bad to use and offers students creative commons licenses for educational usage. We would recommend digging into their license details though, you’ll basically need to pay for something if you plan on showing your work publicly (event, contest, festival, etc.).

Written by Steven Howsley


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