Top 10 free music libraries for documentaries

Aspiring wildlife documentary film makers are always in search for those great soundtracks that can really set your production off. Whilst favs such as the Blood Diamond Soundtrack may be absolutely awesome, but if you are wanting to do anything more than showing your mates your film, then you have to be aware of and respect music licenses. Introducing creative commons licenses – a legal and ethical way that aspiring producers can acquire top quality music tracks for your documentaries.

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A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. Naturally, there are different levels of licenses, especially when it comes to commercial projects. But as long as you are aware of the terms of the CC license and respect those, then this is the best way to get your projects sounding professional absolutely free! There are several free music libraries online who operate under this CC license.

Here are my 10 top free music libraries:


SoundCloud is a great resource for people looking to share their music, podcasts, and more. So it’s no surprise that you can find a lot of decent Creative Commons recorded sounds as well. There are a few ways you can find CC tracks on SoundCloud. The easiest way to find quality sounds is by going to the moderated Creative Commons group, which has over 3,000 clips.


JewelBeat provides its users free-to-use music, which you can use in your online videos, ads, and more. The only requirement is crediting the site by adding a credit link to the website. You can also let them know, via Twitter or Facebook, where you used the music. There isn’t too much to choose from, and no way to search the site, but the complete lack of restrictions make it a good place to start if you’re looking for totally free music.


Jamendo boasts a library of over 400,000 tracks. Not all of them are licensed under Creative Commons, though. So, when selecting music from this site, be sure to choose only the tracks that are available to use for free. While you can’t filter your search results to show only CC-licensed results, any tracks that aren’t free will have a ‘pro’ button next to them so they’re easy to spot. The license for the tracks are listed at the bottom of the page. Be sure to scroll down to the very bottom to check exactly how you can use the audio.

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Audionautix features only music licensed under the Creative Commons 3.0 unported license. That means you are free to share and remix the audio, and use it commercially. One of Audionautix’s nice features is that they allow you to search for tracks not only by genre, but also by mood and tempo. This makes it much easier to stumble upon the perfect track for your work.


The Free Music Archive’s tagline is one that will appeal to anyone who’s on the hunt for decent Creative Commons music. “It’s not just free music; it’s good music.” As you search for music, by genre or curator, open up each track or album to see what kind of license its creator has shared it under. Genres include spoken, international, rock, hip-hop, electronic, and more.


FreeSound is on of the free music libraries allows its visitors to search music by tags. A huge tag cloud will give you a place to start if you’re not entirely sure. You’ll need to sign up for a free account to download audio files. As always, be sure to take a look at the exact license listed on the track’s page, so you know how you can use the audio.


Incompetech is a good place to find full-length Creative Commons tracks. Like Audionautix, you can search the library by genre or by mood (or feel as they call it). Music on this site is licensed under the Attribution 3.0 Unported license. This means you are free to share, remix and use commercially, as long as you credit the site. If you’d rather not credit the site, Incompetech allows you to pay a nominal fee to do so.


Another major Creative Commons library that is not to be missed is CCMixter. The site is packed with music that is free to download, sample and share. As is the case with all sites, you should take a close look at the license on each clip so that you adhere to the license restrictions — particularly as far as using the music in any sort of commercial way. To find out more, check out our in-depth review of CCMixter.


In its own words, Musopen is a “non-profit focused on improving access and exposure to music by creating free resources and educational materials. We provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions. Put simply, our mission is to set music free.” If you’re looking for a piece of classical music for your project, they provide recordings and the sheet music. You can browse by composer, performer, instrument, period, or form.


Finally, Audiofarm provides its visitors with Creative Commons tracks. In addition to finding music of various genres, you can also download voice recordings if that’s what you’re looking for. Voice recordings included on Audiofarm are voice acting, comedy, and news. This is another site where you need to check the license. Not all content shared on Audiofarm is licensed under Creative Commons.

With these free music libraries, you have a variety of awesome tracks to choose from. Enjoy!

Ryan Johnson Shark Scientist

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Ryan is a well known wildlife film maker and shark biologist located in MosselBay, South Africa. His work is highlighted as researcher, television host, camera operator and scientist on shark and marine documentaries for international broadcastors including National Geographic Network.

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