Have you ever seen a movie scene where the leader of the bandit gang and the town sheriff face off in the center of town? Or when the estranged lovers finally rekindle what was once lost?
Do you remember the music that was playing during those scenes? Music in video is such a unique beast. It’s one of the most powerful, yet subtle, storytelling tools a creator can use.
As an editor at Oak + Rumble, I often find myself scrolling through endless amounts of tracks looking for that perfect tone-setting tune for my project, and I’ve learned a few things along the way!
What (Typically) Works & What Doesn’t
How do you find that perfect track? The most basic piece of advice I can offer right off the bat, is that most of the time, your song choice entirely depends on your unique vision and the type of content you’re producing.
What’s the content?
You, the creative, know the content of your project better than anyone else is going to.
A good rule of thumb is that the energy of the video should be matched in the music. Events, parties, and live music events shouldn’t be accompanied by soothing bells and choirs in the background. The same way that a leisurely interview shouldn’t be drowned out by shredding guitars and heavy metal.
Can I visualize it?
Lots of thought and deliberation should go into a song choice before you purchase it.
Something that I find extremely helpful is closing my eyes and visualizing my shots with the music playing in my headphones.
Try to imagine sequences, cuts, and transitions that will flow with the song and fit the aesthetic of your footage. Your brain is an incredible visual tool, use it to your advantage!
Does it support the message?
One of the first aspects of any project to solidify is the messaging. What are you looking to convey to your audience and how? Does the song support your message?
Do you want a happy, whistling tune over an interview subject reliving a tragic story? No, you probably don’t.
I mentioned earlier how, typically, music should match the tempo of the visuals on screen. The same goes for mood. Having a song that reflects the information being presented on screen is just as important and impactful for the viewer.
These days, there’s an incredible amount of resources for finding music specifically for video content.
With more and more people having access to cameras, editing software, and platforms for publishing their work, it’s only natural that the need for music has risen dramatically as well.
Great sites that come to mind right away are:
Artlist is a subscription-based music library with a huge variety of tracks to choose from. With an annual subscription, you gain access to countless options, all categorized by video theme, mood, genres and even by instruments.
Genres range from pop to world, electronic to jazz and everything in between, with each genre boasting incredible versatility. Convenience, quality and variety make Artlist a great value for the money.
PremiumBeat hosts a large database of songs running off a ‘one-time purchase’ system. The quality and customization options of PremiumBeat tracks is what really sets it apart from other similar resources.
Each song can be separated into isolated instrument tracks or ‘stems,’ allowing for any part of any song to be customized and tailored to fit your project. There are also several loop options for each song, providing looping sections from your track to use for as long as you need in your project.
This feature, coupled with great ‘Genre’ and ‘Mood’ searching mechanics, makes PremiumBeat a great resource for your project, commercial or not.
MusicBed is a great, flexible option for choosing tracks. Along with offering a huge library of tracks, MusicBed has also implemented an amazing browsing system. The ‘Attributes’ search menu allows you to search for any conceivable combination of genres, beats-per-minute, mood, instrument, length, vocals, artist and even by how intensely a song builds.
Once you find your track, you’ll discover that their payment methods are just as flexible, with several subscription-based and single-purchase plans for you to choose from.
Music, for me, is the most enjoyable part of any edit
It has so much weight but can also be as subtle as you want. It keeps the viewer's attention and can really drive home any message you’re looking to convey.
Next time you’re browsing for tracks, keep in mind the content, the flow, and the message. With these three things in mind, the perfect tune will jump out at you like moss on a Mississippi tree stump (or something).