Video excellence - Made With Purpose

Choosing the right music for your online video is one of those things that you think should be easy. When you get round to looking for the right music for your video you realise it isn’t easy at all.


The main reasons it is challenging are that:


a) you are restricted in terms of what you can use for copyright and budget reasons
b) you need to find music that evokes the emotion in your audience that you are aiming for.


It is particularly difficult if you haven’t done it before! Here are some hints and tips about music for video on a creative level and also on a practical/legal level.

Businesses that don’t have to worry about the expense of using popular copyrighted music have an advantage. They can consider using music that their audiences are already familiar with and that has particular emotional connotations. Of course, there is some risk in the sense that they can’t guarantee how everyone in their audience feels about a particular song. However, if they go with majority opinion and look at how the song has sold, they won’t go far wrong.


Here are some examples of online videos that have used popular music brilliantly:



This video was named the best TV campaign in the world at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2012. The use of a Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay’s The Scientist underpins the emotional impact that the video has about the impact of farming and the importance of taking care of the environment.


John Lewis Christmas Advert 2012


The song is a breathy cover of the old classic, The Power of Love, which always works well with the UK public – especially at Christmas.


T-Mobile Welcome Home


This is my favourite. It pulls on a lot of classic songs that fulfill the theme, evoking lots of different emotions. At the same time you can’t help but be in awe at the full orchestral score, performed entirely without an instrument other than the human voice.


Choosing the right music for your online video

Your video is full of images which are also important for stimulating an emotional reaction. Your music needs to reinforce the emotional impact of your visuals. This video from Brainy Video gives examples of how you can change the emotion created by the same bit of footage by using two different types of music (skip to 6:10 for this bit in particular.)


Criteria for selecting music for web video

Music sharing sites are organized in categories. Music is also tagged. This is extremely useful for those of us searching for music. The Free Music Archive list by genre for example:


music in online videos

Emotional impact of using music in online videos

You want music that makes your audience feel a particular way. Generally, you want people to take an action after watching your video. Consider what emotional reaction is going to influence the viewer to take the action you have been hoping for.


Style/genre of the music

The product or service that your video is promoting will influence the styles of music you will consider for your video. If you aren’t sure what style you want, maybe consider what styles of music would be inappropriate for your video. An extreme example is that you probably wouldn’t want to use hip hop for a funeral related business video (I say ‘probably’ because of course, rules are made to be broken!).


Pace, flow and rhythm of the music in your web videos

It will depend at which point you come to choosing your music but you need to consider the pace of your edited video against the music you are considering. It may be the case that you want to edit to your music. In which case, you need to be aware of the pace of your music when you choose it and how you are going to cut your edit to the music. Use music as a tool to speed your pace up or slow it down when needed.


Length of song to use

Music can obviously be cut up like your footage but think about length when selecting the track. Not just the length of the whole song but also the length of the verse’s and chorus etc – you may want to use particular sections of the song.


Budget for your online video’s music

Your budget will influence where you can look for music for your video. If you have money to spend you will have more choice. However, if you don’t, there is a lot of great free/low cost music out there which can be used under Creative Commons licensing rules.


Legal limits to music usage in video

If you didn’t invent or compose a piece of music yourself it means someone else owns it and it is likely to be under copyright. The exception is when the owner of a piece of music has been dead for 70 years. If you use copyrighted music without permission you will be fined an amount that depends of the worth of the music in question.


Creative Commons rocks

It’s not all bad news though. Creative Commons facilitates the sharing and use of music through free legal tools. Creative Commons allows artists to share their work by giving permission to the public to use their work. It means they can specify which elements of their work they would like to share and the rules around this.


CC licensed music can be found on the following websites: ccmixter, Magnatune, BeatPink and AudioFarm.


One way to ensure you have the exact music you need and that you aren’t breaking the law is to commission original music for your videos. However, this also depends on your budget. If you pay for something to be written and recorded you won’t have to worry about any future legal ramifications and you will have original music that can be used in other contexts.


If you are new to using music in online video and choosing the right music, it is important to take the time to search the Internet and become familiar with what is out there. It is also useful to experiment with different music for your videos. You might not find the right track straight away and you also can’t judge if a track is the right one for your video without seeing it alongside the footage. Play around and try different things – it will help you be more creative and the result will be worth it.