Creative Commons & Open Source Music Review

Anyone doing machinima is likely going to want music they can add to their work. Times being tough most are looking for free stuff. So, legitimate free music sites are must for a machinamist’s tool collection.

Dance by: Nuno Duarte - Flickr

Dance by: Nuno Duarte – Flickr

Having just made a video for which I needed music I was interested when I saw a post on SLUniverse. The site WebDistortion was pointed to on SLUniverse by Free Xue (reference) with its 2009 collection of legally free music sites: 14 awesome open source music sites for digital creatives. I took a look at those and updated URL’s and decided to give a quick synopsis of what I found.

I would not call the majority of the sites listed in the article ‘awesome’. So, I did some more searching and found more sites. In the process I found Nancy Messieh’s 2013 list of 14 CC Music sites. There are more sites I would rate awesome in that list. (see the last link in my lists).

The majority of the music I want needs to have a Creative Commons Attribution license. A significant portion of CC music is licensed attribution and non-commercial. That places it in a gray area if you publish on YouTube or a blog that pays you advertising revenue.

For those that do not know, Royalty Free music is most often music for which you license via a onetime or annual fee. In the music industry royalties are fees paid for each use of a song, each time it is played. So, for free use CC licensed music is way better. But, royalty free music often is by bigger name and more popular artists.

The 2009 list follows with my update. It was a surprisingly durable list when measured in Internet years.

  1. to Community Audio. The old URL works and there is NOT a new one. Community Audio is part of the Internet Archive sites. Sister sites are; Community Texts and Community Video. I found the audio site to have a massive collection of music. But, it is poor user interface makes it difficult to use.
  2. – Reasonably organized. It seems to require signup before you can hear any music.
  3. – A single artist’s music. I am not sure why they included this in the awesome sites list… Music is arranged by album. In my sampling of the site I found all the music included vocals a leaned toward what I call heavy metal, but I’m not that much into music other than casual listening and dancing.
  4. – Another single artist site.
  5. – The band Nine Inch Nails. 36 instrumental tracks. They are CC licensed. I didn’t find a tack listing.
  6. – I found music for my Necronom VI memory video on this site. It too is reasonably well organized and has a huge selection of artists and music.
  7. – This is now an information site about Public Domain music, the Creative Commons (CC) Licensing, and news of happening in the CC world. I don’t see any music there. But, they ist CC predominant sites here:
  8. – There is music here. You can search by all the usual attributes. They show 10 titles at a time in the results. Some of the music is purchase only, most seems to be CC Attribute. I found the site awkward to use.
  9. – This is another site you have to signup with before you can use it. I didn’t.
  10. – The initial page is a selection page; Genre, Mood, and Tempo. Nice feature. This appears to be a single artist’s site.
  11. – I am not at all sure about this site. It seems to be a collection of free public domain music that you can pay to download zip file collections of…
  12. – A collection of free CC and none CC pay-for music. Search lets you specify which you want. A good sized collection of music and artists. License restrictions are shown in the search results, handy.
  13. – Commercial, money making use, is restricted. You pay monthly licensing fees for using the music. Not what I consider an awesome free music site.
  14. – This is the sound effects site. Need a creepy sound or a door opening whose… this is the site. They have different levels of licensing so like most sites, you have to check the license on the piece you want to use.

The original of the list is from 2009. So, I suspect the sites have changed with time. Some of the URL’s did and I updated those. I also suspect in 2009 publishing CC music was less of a thing than it is now. So, I looked to see what is popular now.

Popular with Google just now in Royalty Free Music (in order of search ranking) are these top 5:

Popular with Google in Creative Common music:

The main thing I learned from this research is that most all the free music sites have tracks with various licensing restrictions. One has to check every track.

Also, providing attribution is not as simple as saying music by… A track name and artist name are usually the minimum you can get by with. The idea seems to be to provide enough information that an interested person could find the track and acquire a license to use it.

Some CC Attribution licenses include the requirement for a URL to the download site. So, one has to pay attention to each tracks license, which adds a lot of tedium to the music selection process. But, there are some great artists and tracks out there.

If you use a site that isn’t listed here or in either of the ’14 Sites’ articles, let me know. Thanks.

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