When you want to play music in your business, but you cannot cover the cost of licensing through a performing rights organization (PRO), finding public domain, royalty-free, or even Creative Commons published music can be a solution.
We’ve outlined the seven best sites to use for public domain music for your business.
Public Domain: How Do I Know a Song Is Free?
Public domain music is any music that is not covered by copyright law, meaning it is not owned by a performing rights organization (PRO).
PROs were created to help musicians, composers, and other musical artists make money from their work, as methods of recording and distributing music grew and changed. Copyright law for music protects an artist’s financial and ownership interests for between 50 and 70 years after the author’s death. After that, a musical composition is considered in the public domain.
Currently, any musical works published in 1925 or earlier are in the public domain, so it is free to you to use sheet music or find recordings of these songs and play them in your business. Many musical artists also release their work without copyright onto streaming services like SoundCloud or even onto YouTube, so you can find these and stream them.
Unfortunately, most music from 1925 or earlier is not very popular anymore, and it can sound quaint or dated. Orchestrations of some classical pieces can fall into copyright law, so you may not legally be able to use a specific recording of classical music in your business.
While there are many options for copyright-free modern musical compositions set up as playlists by the composer or musician on certain streaming services, finding one that you know will set the right mood in your business can be a frustrating endeavor.
Rather than wade through a search engine, here are some recommendations for finding great public domain music.
Top 7 Sites for Finding Public Domain, Royalty-Free, and Creative Commons Music
If you are a small business, you may not yet be able to pay fees to PROs to get the songs you want. Fortunately, there are some public domain options available as you grow your brand. Here are the seven best sites to help you find free music.
- Free Music Archive: One of the original sources of public domain music, this site helps you find options in all kinds of genres, including audio tracks like spoken word poetry. Many of their public domain songs are licensed for commercial use, so you can play them in your business. New songs under Creative Commons licensing are being added all the time.
- Free Soundtrack Music: Like the Free Music Archive, Free Soundtrack Music has more than 1,400 totally royalty-free musical recordings for you to use in your business. Some of these may require a small charge, but at least 20 percent are free to you.
- SoundCloud: Many new composers and musicians use online streaming services to build an audience before they ever get a recording deal, and one of the best ways to find these incredible talents is through SoundCloud. Most music uploaded to this service is published under Creative Commons, meaning you can find great artists or even whole genres of streaming music that are not the same old soothing classical everyone else plays.
- ccMixter: Like SoundCloud, ccMixter is a community site that accepts donations from artists under a Creative Commons license. You can sort using a filter “free for commercial use” to narrow down options of new music with and without lyrics, which can make your business seem trendy, casual, elevated, relaxing, or smart.
- FreePD: Public domain music on this site costs nothing and is completely free to use in any setting you wish. Download any song you want to use so you can make playlists for your business, or use these songs in your podcast or video project.
- International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP): There are nearly 500,000 scores and public domain music options available through IMSLP from all over the world. Categories are divided by global region, composer, period or genre, and other options, so you can find new music that is exactly what you want.
- YouTube Audio Library: One of the first online streaming services to become concerned with violating musical copyrights was YouTube, which now censors videos that feature songs without appropriate licensing. To better support video creators, YouTube now offers their free audio library, so you can find public domain and royalty-free songs to use legally through their service.
List of Public Domain Music. (2021). PD Info.
Public Domain Music – What Is It and Should You Use It? (January 2021). Artlist Blog.
13 Fantastic Places to Find Background Music for Your Video Content. Buffer.