Apr 21, 2021
*Updated October 2021
Music makes a big impact on the way viewers experience your films, whether it's background music or front and center. So knowing how to add music to a video will make your job easier.
More importantly, it will add another important resource to your toolbelt — a tool you can use on just about every project you’ll ever work on.
But before you go off and start dropping your favorite songs into project timelines, there are a few important things we’ll need to cover first.
After all, making the perfect video is a big deal. Making that perfect video without worrying about copyright claims or licensing issues is basically a masterpiece-level accomplishment.
To help set you up for success, we’re going to specifically look at three processes:
A step by step guide from pre-production (starting to think about music direction) to post-production (adding music to your project). We'll get into the weeds a bit to make sure you've got everything you need.
It's something a lot of filmmakers and content creators ask about, so we'll look at whether this is even possible nowadays. (Spoiler: Don't get your hopes up about using even decent music without paying anything.)
More and more creators are making content on mobile devices, so we'll also give a guide to adding music when you're shooting and editing on your iPhone.
We’ll also provide some explanations of royalty free music and music licensing as a whole. Those things can be kind of confusing, but copyright law is pretty important for content creators, filmmakers, and marketers to protect themselves from.
Finding good, non copyright music or sound effects for your videos might seem intimidating. But all you really need to do is follow these 5 steps, which stretches all the way from brainstorming the project to exporting the finalized video from your editing software.
Let’s get to it.
Choosing the right music can make all the difference for your video. Whether it is quiet background music or driving electronic beats, music has the power to affect our emotions, create certain tones, or guide our experience (even in a visual medium).
The art of filmmaking is just as reliant on good audio as the visual pieces, and you really can’t afford to overlook the importance of music and sound design.
In fact, it can be helpful to think about music during the pre-production phase. You can write out the emotional beats you want to hit as part of the script, or call out specific songs and genres when you fill in your storyboard template.
Fast-forward to the post-production phase. You’ve completed shooting and now that you’re editing the project, you’re ready to add audio to video and mold the final film into the vision you can see in your head. To start, you’ll want to browse your go-to royalty free music library.
Now your initial reaction to this might be, “But why do I need royalty free music when I’ve got a whole library of songs on iTunes?” That’s a good question, and it’s something a lot of creators wonder.
The truth is that you don’t actually own that music, even if you paid for it. According to copyright laws, you purchased a copy of the song for personal use (listening at home, in the car, etc.). But personal use is a completely different process than licensing a song for use in a video project.
This is where royalty free music can help. If you licensed a song from a copyright holder, you will pay the licensing fee and also pay regular royalty fees for every person who watches your video. That chews into your profits, which is counterproductive for a filmmaker who’s trying to generate some income off this process.
And if you choose a royalty free music library like Soundstripe, you’ll get access to a collection of radio-quality songs that you can browse right now for free.
You’ve spent some time thinking about the kind of music you want, then browsed a few libraries. You chose the perfect song for your video...but you don’t really want to pay the licensing fee before adding the music to your project.
Let’s circle back around to something we talked about earlier. Copyright law is a pretty big deal, and it’s becoming more and more of a threat hanging over the heads of content creators. A single DMCA strike can damage your channel, your income, and even your reputation.
If you decide to ignore these warnings and use a song already on your computer, one of two three will happen. Either (1) you will receive a copyright claim, (2) you will receive a takedown notice, or (3) you’ll get a kindly worded email with the threat of being sued.
You still have a couple options if you get a claim or notice for breaking copyright law. You could pay to officially license the song (which could cost a few hundred dollars), allow the creator to monetize your video, or simply replace that song with something else.
But there’s always that risk of legal difficulties. The potential punishment of a $100,000 fine and 10 years in prison — in the most extreme cases — just isn’t worth the risk when you add music to a video.
And no, you can't just use the song as background music and hope no one will notice. Content ID and copyright lawyers won't give you a free pass for that.
If you’re still waiting to hear how to add audio to a video, you may be disappointed. Because this is by far the easiest part of the entire process: Take the song file, drag it into your video editor of choice, and pat yourself on the back.
Yup, it really is that simple. And most file types will integrate seamlessly, so the only thing you have to worry about is placing and trimming the song to fit the scene or clip, and whether you want it as background music or something that takes center stage.
Here’s what that looks like if you break it all down into specific steps:
Hey, we told you it was easy to add audio to video projects.
The good news is that licensing music for video doesn’t just add a punch of energy or emotion to your projects — it also gives you peace of mind. You can stop worrying about copyright strikes or DMCA takedowns and just focus on making the sort of content you love.
If there was any complicated part of this step, it’s the concept of audio mixing. You should never have to do the work of an audio engineer (assuming you’re getting songs from a library with high quality songs), but you may have to adjust the levels or trim out parts of the song to match the tone you’ve envisioned for the project.
Still, if you did Step #1 and decided to add music during your pre-production process, you’ve got a clear idea in place. Even if your plan adjusts during post-production, you still know where each song goes and what kind of emotion or ambiance you want to build towards.
The benefit of finding a good royalty free library is that you can double-dip, triple-dip, etc. And if you use a platform like Soundstripe, you can even download something like a Premiere Pro plugin to make it even easier to browse and add audio to video projects without having to leave your timeline.
That’s pretty much what it all comes down to. Understanding how to add music to a video isn’t particularly difficult, but there are a few nuances to the process that many creators overlook.
As a creator, you’re going to continually need to find music; following these steps will become as much a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth.
But a royalty free music service makes that task easier and cheaper. So when you need to add music to your next video — or maybe a current project — think back to this checklist and save yourself from wasting time and resources.
We already talked about the risks when you add music you haven’t licensed. The damage to your brand or channel’s reputation is a big one, but it’s the financial risks that really sting. Having a video taken down is bad; having it demonetized (or resulting in a lawsuit) is much, much worse.
The unfortunate truth is that, 99% of the time, there’s no way to add music to a video without paying something. The closest you can get to “free music” is by finding songs in the public domain (usually something very old) or using a Creative Commons license (which usually requires a lot of fine print to avoid legal trouble).
And even if you do find a song you can use for free, chances are good that you’ll be less than satisfied with the quality. “You get what you pay for” might be a cultural idiom, but there’s more than a little truth behind the saying.
The alternative to that is hiring a musician to write some background music or paying an artist to use one of their songs. And while that sort of content can be incredible, it’s also incredibly expensive — the sort of thing you’d need to sell your car to actually be able to pay for.
So the question becomes less about “how to add music to a video for free” and more so “how to add music to a video for cheap.” Because you can definitely find radio-quality music that a normal person can actually afford.
The challenge then becomes knowing where to look. And since we just spent a few minutes breaking down how valuable royalty free music libraries are, hopefully you can put those pieces together before you start to add audio files.
Royalty free music doesn’t just give you convenient access to amazing music at an affordable price. It’s also a gift that just keeps on giving — Soundstripe adds around 50 new tracks every single week, so as long as you’re making videos, you’ll have new music to check out.
If you’ve ever wondered how to add music to a video on iPhones, you’re in luck: We recently wrote about the process of editing a video on an iPhone.
The truth is that you don't need a bunch of fancy tools to do it, although most apps let you tweak your camera settings and iPhone video accessories can make the job easier for you.
But in terms of adding music to video, it's all pretty straightforward. That's because Soundstripe makes it unbelievably easy to drop stock media into a project timeline as part of your editing process.
To add music to a video on iPhones, you’ve got four simple steps to follow. (And by “simple,” we’re talking “so easy your grandma could do it in under a minute.”)
Just like that, you’re good to go with a fantastic song (or other piece of stock media). And assuming you licensed it from a legitimate source, your project will be copyright protected for all eternity.
Interested in reading more top resources and getting our best filmmaking tips and tricks? Here are a couple of our most popular articles from across the Soundstripe blog: