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Contrary to popular belief, country music is more than just acoustic guitars, cowboy hats, and songs about old lovers. It’s also not the same thing as bluegrass, with its banjos and fiddles (although there is quite a bit of shared DNA between the two).
However, both of these genres work well as background music for videos.
Humans love and even crave stories. We seek out music for the same reason. The two go hand in hand, tying our emotions and imaginations together. And there is something about country music’s rustic sound and acoustic melodies that capture the “folk music” of our ancestors.
In other words, you can use royalty free country music to craft an emotionally charged story. But you’ll need to know what this genre means — and why it works — before you drop Blake Shelton’s “Nobody But You” into your project timeline and expect it to work for you.
Country has its roots in bluegrass, and bluegrass has its roots in folk music. While we traditionally think of country music as the sound of the American South, you can see similarities to folk music from all around the world.
A key element of folk music is a focus on acoustic instruments. often things that are regional, and possibly even homemade. You could say the same thing of the rustic sound (mainly in the melodies) and the reliance on traditional songs, hymns, and poems.
Folk music ties itself into a cultural heritage, but some aspects of that are shared across regions. Think about the fiddles of Gaelic music, Germanic music, and even some Russian or Eastern European music. All of that constitutes as “folk music,” with a focus on off-beat sounds, an almost jazzy improvisation, and generally a faster pace.
Sounds a heck of a lot like bluegrass music, right?
That sound quality fed directly into country music’s origins in North America. A vast majority of Appalachian settlers were English, Scottish, and Irish, and these immigrants brought their folk songs with them across the Atlantic Ocean.
But the migration didn’t stop in the American South. Eventually those settlers traveled west, and they took their music with them once again. Western music focused more on acoustic guitars (rather than the big bluegrass ensembles) which helped American folk music branch out into new styles and subgenres.
For what it’s worth, the word “bluegrass” is believed to be an homage to the Blue Grass Boysband, a popular group from the 40s and 50s that helped commercialize country music. But you can also think of the word “bluegrass” as a combination of “blues” (for its somber themes) and “grassroots” (as another word for the genre’s folk music heritage).
Two key things contributed to the spread of country music: the rise of radio stations in the 1920s, and also the relocation of Southern families to industrial cities during the Great Depression and World War II.
This 20-year period carried American folk music across the nation, prompting a name change from the controversial “hillbilly music” to the more accessible “country and western music.”
A growth in interest led to higher production values for country music albums, which had a snowball effect. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, artists like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, and Buck Owens practically exploded onto the scene. Suddenly country music was something everyone knew.
While the Appalachians (and specifically Nashville) remained at the heart of country music, the genre’s success opened a lot of doors. Upcoming artists could push their songs into mainstream markets while also exploring new progressive styles.
Rock music took over the industry in the 70s, and the rebellious electric guitar caught on in the country scene too. Artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings blended those two genres together, and their obsession with the guitar paved the way for a lot of current country music stars.
Like any other music style, country music has “grown up” a lot in the past decade or two. The genre has gone from stereotypical twang to consistently join the pop music ranks, from crossover hits to Billboard-topping artists like Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Zac Brown Band, and of course Taylor Swift.
And that idea of blurring genre lines is only becoming more prominent. (Looking at you, Lil Nas X.)
Oddly enough, the evolution of country music runs a parallel course to Taylor Swift’s career. Before she was a global superstar in every sense of the word, Swift was a country singer/songwriter.
The slow ballads, solo acoustic guitars, and familiar themes were all present on her early albums, and quickly established her on the country music scene. But in the past decade, Swift began to take pieces from pop music. And while she eventually transitioned away from country music, many of her ideas stuck around after her.
Like other pioneers before her, Swift’s genre-infusions gave other country musicians new ways to approach their art. But more than that, her success shows that there are benefits to “modernize” country music to target a wider audience without losing the genre’s DNA.
So, what can country music bring to a video’s audio track that a pop song can’t?
On one hand, country music has all the benefits of modern pop — the fast tempo, rhythmic focus, and smaller instrumentation. But on the other hand, you get that kind of rustic, acoustic sound that ties back to the folk songs generations gone by relied on to pass down stories and history.
Finding the right background music for a video project can be difficult, even if you know the exact genre and style you want. And music copyright laws only add to the confusion. In addition to planning, shooting, and editing a video, you’re also stuck tracking down copyright holders and negotiating a licensing agreement.
If something goes wrong, your video could get taken down. Or you might accidentally breach copyright, which can come with tens of thousands of dollars in fine.
That’s where royalty free music platforms come in to make your life easier. By signing up for a subscription to a library like Soundstripe, you’ll get unlimited access to thousands of radio-quality songs — including royalty free country music — for all of your production needs.
Yup, you read that right: Unlimited access, meaning you’ll only pay for your subscription. There are no hidden fees, whether you want 15 songs or 1,500 songs.
And when it comes to getting the perfect song to compliment your videos, having a great catalog matters a lot. Especially when that catalog includes a guarantee that your projects will be protected from copyright infringement claims forever.