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Sometimes, you just need a punch of energy in a video. Maybe you want to pick up the tempo of the project, or add some extra drama into a particular scene. Or maybe you’re working on a vlog about your favorite snowboarding slopes for winter travels.
Either way, rock isn’t just another music genre. It’s a guaranteed shot of adrenaline that can transform the momentum of a video, and that makes it a valuable tool (when used correctly).
Think about your favorite rock song and how it makes you feel. There’s a science behind why certain genres make us experience certain reactions. Now imagine how you could incorporate that style of music into your next project, and specifically what kind of energy it would instantly create.
Emotions are powerful. The concept of using audio to control the viewer’s experience is a well-known piece of filmmaking artistry, and it’s something that the best content creators constantly think about.
And when it comes to royalty free rock music, the use of the right music in your videos can be the difference between a decent foot-tapper or an edge-of-your-seat air guitar solo.
But to fully understand what that looks like (and specifically how rock music came to be such a core part of popular music), we’ll need to look back on where it all began.
The history of rock music is a pretty convoluted web. Between dozens (or even “hundreds”) of subgenres and genre fusions, rock has influenced generations of people and musicians in a way that you can only really compare with classical music.
You can date the birth rock music back to the late 1940s, sort of as a spinoff from the popular blues style. Most historians credit the birth of the genre to Alan Freed, a disc jockey who focused exclusively on upbeat songs for a younger audience. Basically, his style of music selection introduced R&B-style music to a wider, younger audience.
According to the records, Freed named this cross-genre style “rock and roll.” As with any other big change, there are a lot of counterpoints to this story. But if we overlook the Latin definitions of the words or the references to specific song titles, Freed seems to have given us the first curated setlist of music in this new genre.
And just like people argue about where the term came from, they also debate over what should be considered the first “rock and roll” album. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, “rock” didn’t quite exist on its own yet—the genre was still a derivative of blues, which was much more established and recognized.
Debates aside, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” was the first song that launched this budding new style into public awareness via Billboard’s Top charts. And that sudden buzz continued to widen its appeal in the 50s as a new wave of artists began making music.
Names like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly came onto the scene in the 50s, and their varying spins on the rock genre did two big things: First, they established the tradition of subgenres; Second, they used these variations to bring rock to different regions around the U.S., building a unique sound for a style of music that was still trying to define itself.
Now we get to the 1960s. While it might not be the heyday of rock and roll, it’s certainly the decade that established the music genre as a global phenomenon. Think about it. The 60s gave us the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Yardbirds (which included Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page), Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix.
That’s an incredible list, and it’s no surprise that all of these artists became legitimate household names. But their mainstream status did more than that: It also inspired the garage band teens around the world. And that led to a generation of rock and roll legends.
The British invasion unleashed rock music on a television-obsessed audience, and the first outdoor rock festivals set up some traditions that we still have around today. Those two facts became a transition point, a sort of “passing of the baton” if you will.
If you think about the Eagles, David Bowie, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen, you can see how the 60s fed into the 70s, weaving rock into blues, funk, and other preexisting genres. This list really makes sense with the one at the end of the last section.
But contrast that with the big names of the late 70s: Aerosmith, AC/DC, Queen, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin. These “rock gods” are still the biggest names in the genre 50 years later, and their sound couldn’t be more different from the likes of Bowie and Springsteen.
Rock is a big genre, and there’s room for a lot of different styles inside of it. But the 1970s definitely became the age of hard rock and heavy metal. That grungy sound influenced (and dominated) the culture of an entire generation of people around the world, becoming classic pieces of music history.
This was the Golden Age of rock and roll, the time that this style became intrinsic to popular music—and, in many ways, the identity of the U.S. as a whole.
You can chalk that up to a few things. Car radio had become a standard addition, which gave everyone access to their favorite music all the time. And cassette tape players started appearing in car dashboards starting in 1971.
When you think of the 70s, you probably think about muscle cars, hippies, and rock music. But the reality is that, between car radios and music festivals, rock and roll tied all three of those together. It really was a defining aspect of that entire decade, and that in itself propelled successful artists into stardom.
MTV launched in 1981, and VH1 followed it in 1984. Similar to the effects of the radio, these networks created an entertainment hub dedicated to music. And with rock and roll still drawing the biggest crowds, both genres became core pieces of MTV’s broadcast content.
While MTV and VH1 were out chasing viewers and ratings, a growing list of rock fusion styles led to what we now think of as “pop” music. It’s less a defined genre and more a collective, pulling together trending songs from just about any artist that people want to listen to.
Hip hop came onto the scene in a big way during the 80s, led by the likes of Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy. And that doesn’t even include the more R&B-focused acts like Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston.
Sure, we still got Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, and Nirvana, but their success is usually grouped in with the more “traditional” rock groups from the 1970s. And when you think about the synths-obsessed bands (like Journey) and the new wave artists (like the Talking Heads), it’s not surprising to hear that genre diversity basically ended rock’s Golden Age.
The end of one thing is the start of another, however. Old school rock might be dead, but that made room for all of its “child” genres to grow and evolve—something that became a defining character of rock music in the 1990s.
Punk rock and alt-rock became defining parts of most people’s childhood (at least if you’re a Millennial), and we can’t possibly talk about rock in the 90s without calling out Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, the Spice Girls, and *NSYNC.
That kind of pop music might seem like a completely different thing than Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but there are still clear ties back to rock music roots. And those ties just go to show that the heyday or rock and roll might have come to an end, but the genre’s influence is something that will be felt—or heard—in every Billboard hit for as long as new music is being written.
In 1977, Muddy Waters released a song titled “The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll.” And really, when we try to break down rock music into component parts, that Muddy Waters hit gives us a great starting point.
The core of any good rock song is a driving beat. Steady rhythms and percussion delivered that kind of dance music vibe that teenagers wanted, but the blues guitar gave it an edge. That particular combination resonated with a wider audience than any existing genre could manage on its own.
Another leading characteristic of rock and roll is a “less is more” instrumentation. Before rock came on the scene, the most popular music was big band. Rock, on the other hand, pulled out the brass section and back-up singers and freed up the stage for a handful of musicians to fill the air with their unique style.
Guitar obviously became the leading voice in rock music. New techniques emerged, driven by the widespread use of the electric guitar. That meant rock could be as loud and distorted as possible, adding to the concept of rock as the rebellious child of the music genres family.
(Business Insider explored the decades-long feud between the Gibson and Fender guitar brands. The war between Orville Gibson and Leo Fender is incredible, and that feud shaped the sound of rock and roll from the 1950s all the way up to 2020.)
Edginess became a sort of brand for rock and roll, a cultural shift in how people dressed and talked and perceived the world. Everyone wanted to be a guitarist, or start a band in their garage. People tried to copy their favorite artist’s hairstyle, fashion sense, etc.
In other words, rock and roll became a musical rite of passage.
And even as modern rock subgenres lean away from screaming guitars, big hair, and drumstick-smashing solos, no true rock song can escape three distinct elements: a focus on rhythm, a driving beat, and minimalist instrumentation.
Rock music is the “killer app” for content creators. It’s a straightforward genre that’s easy to understand, easy to enjoy, and easy to relate to. More importantly, it’s something that lets you — as a content creator — add in music that can generate an immediate shift in energy and mood.
But you can’t just take your favorite song, drop it into your project timeline, and upload the video to the web. That’s a recipe for a DMCA-shaped disaster as legal teams come to slap you with a copyright claim.
A key step in finding music for your projects is understanding how copyright works. Or at least music licensing — if you license a song from the right place, you’ll have the legal protection to use that music in a video and keep whatever revenue it generates for you.
However, licensing a Metallica song isn’t as easy as you think. The artist certainly wants you to use their music, but you’ll have to go through a record label (and other loopholes) before you can even start to negotiate an agreement for a song license.
But let’s say you really want to use “Enter Sandman” in that video that’s been stuck in editing limbo for the past month. You’re positive that Metallica’s hit will give that project the perfect amount of head-banging swagger it needs.
For starters, you’ll need to get a licensing agreement.
That document will need the signature of every single copyright holder, from the songwriter to performing artists to folks at the record label. If someone can claim partial ownership of the song, you won’t be able to use that song until they all agree to a license for your specific project.
In addition to several weeks or months of trading emails and phone calls, you’ll also need to drop a bucket of cash. (And for something like “Enter Sandman,” you’ll be looking at tens of thousands of dollars.) Again, that’s for a single-use license.
This is why royalty free rock music has become such an asset to filmmakers.
Companies like Soundstripe provide royalty free rock music (and any other genre) as a way to get content creators the music they need easily and affordably. A subscription to Soundstripe provides unlimited access to a library that includes thousands of songs.
Your subscription also takes the back-and-forth negotiations out of the process. Find a great song, tell us about your project, and download the song for your project immediately.
Royalty free rock music really is that easy with Soundstripe.