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Listen to our Best YouTube Background Music

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The Creator’s Guide To YouTube Background Music

*Updated November 2021


It’s the 21st century, and the life of a content creator isn’t just limited to making funny videos. Creating good YouTube content — and building a solid group of subscribers — means you’ll have to think of ideas, make videos, edit that footage, and then interact with viewers.

In other words, there are a lot of moving pieces. And you have to evolve into a jack-of-all-trades just to handle all of it. That’s why it’s helpful to find ways to make your life easier.

Some vloggers look for DIY lighting options for their home studios. Filmmakers look for LUTs to save them time and effort on color grading. And anyone can use royalty free music to save hundreds of dollars on music for YouTube videos. (And yes, that dollar amount is per video!)

Soundstripe is a royalty free music platform that offers unlimited downloads and perpetual music licenses, so we’re going to focus on showing you how royalty free music for YouTube is cheaper, easier, and faster than traditional music licensing. We’ll also have a little fun and look at videos that really made the most of great background music.

But first, let’s look at why choosing the right royalty free background music for YouTube videos is important for YouTubers to keep in mind.

How To Choose The Right YouTube Background Music

Music and video go hand in hand. Culturally, we’re at a point where if something doesn’t have a video element, we probably aren’t going to pay attention to it. And most of the time we keep social media videos muted while we listen to music or watch TV.

But YouTube is different. It’s a platform dedicated to video, and that means people who spend a lot of time there are interested in getting an experience

Some viewers want a story, some want to have fun, and some want to be inspired. But whether they’re laughing at FailArmy YouTube videos, crying at tear-jerking news stories, or bingeing gaming Let’s Plays, they’re plugged in and focused on the content they watch.

Music can be a powerful thing, and when you combine that with relevant video, you start layering emotions together. It’s a way to connect with the audience, triggering certain responses or building certain atmospheres.

In other words, it’s how you transform a good YouTube video into a great one.

That’s why background songs are so important for videos. Choosing the right background or intro music won’t transform you into a YouTube star overnight, but it will give you tools to make your content better. 

Think of it as a way to do some extra storytelling. Music can bring a sense of mystery to a travel video, or add a playful tone to an embarrassing clip of a stunt gone wrong. It’s what generates excitement in movie trailers and draws us into educational whiteboard videos.

Of course, it’s possible to get that all wrong. “Terrible song choice” is a common mistake that YouTubers make, either because they didn’t have access to a library of songs for YouTube or because they didn’t appreciate how important music can be.

Think about it this way: The wrong song can come off as cliche or over-the-top, and that turns a serious video into something people laugh about later.

If you want to build and grow a successful channel (and attract a loyal audience), you need to make sure that everything you do adds to your content rather than distracts from it. That’s why you need to put some thought into choosing your YouTube royalty free music library.

(To help you make that decision, this blog post breaks down the key differences between a royalty free company like Soundstripe and YouTube Audio Library.)

But, no matter where you get your royalty free music, the question remains, “How do YouTubers find the right music?”

Well, remember those commercials about animal cruelty? You know, the ones with sad puppies and kittens looking alone and afraid? The footage is sad, but the use of “In The Arms Of An Angel” really heightens the pity we feel for the animals — the song choice helps us connect with them.



This particular example walks the line between “hit” and “miss.” The music borders on being melodramatic, but the video’s message (and most people’s feelings about animals) holds our attention.

But the reason it’s memorable so many years later is because the video is impactful and cringey all at once. That makes it a great object lesson on background music: It shows how even a song that seems “right” can distract from the video’s intended goal.

And now that you’ve got a primer and an idea of what not to do, let’s look at some examples of successful background music picks for YouTube videos.

YouTube Videos With Good Background Music

It would be easy to load this section up with a bunch of blockbuster movie trailers or adorable pet videos, but that feels like cutting corners. Instead, here are a few examples of videos (made by actual content creators) that use background music in YouTube videos really successfully.

When you think of YouTube music in sports clips or action videos, you probably imagine something with guitars and drums. You know, the kind of stuff that gets your blood pumping and adrenaline racing.

When you think of travel or nature videos, however, your gut instinct is probably to use royalty free music with a more serene and acoustic feel. 

But in the case of this example, the song choice definitely breaks any sort of expectation you might have.



This video fits into the almost cliched style that we’ve all come to appreciate on social media. Combining funny content with dramatic YouTube music might seem a little too ironic, but viewers almost expect that sort of heavy-handed humor.

Now contrast that with Dude Perfect. These guys know how to combine (somewhat nerdy) activities with great music. Each YouTube video generates its own excitement, combining an “Oh man will this work…?” uncertainty with background music that guides the audience through a kind of story.



One thing this channel does well is covering a variety of moods. Notice the transitions from high-tempo EDM to smooth jazz and back again — it adds humor and personality. Both of those things are staples of this (hugely successful and frequently viral) channel.

Explainer videos are another genre that benefits from smart background music. These YouTube videos are becoming increasingly common (Who doesn’t enjoy learning interesting facts these days?) and Kurzgesagt offers a diverse catalog of informative and animated shorts.

(For a more in-depth guide to finding music for YouTube videos and explainer videos, check out this blog post.)



Smart background music does a lot to set YouTube videos apart. One thing you’ll notice is that all three of these examples delivered compelling content. And the song choices played a role without distracting from what the video’s creator wanted you to focus on.

In fact, none of these videos are especially unique, but they’re all memorable in one way or another. (You could argue that Dude Perfect’s videos are one-of-a-kind, but they’re far from the only “trick shot” channel out there.) Song choice plays a big role in our perception of that.

Choosing Background Music For Film Projects

We haven’t gotten too specific with what makes “good background music” because no two videos are identical. But there are some factors — namely how they address “viewer expectation” — that will stay consistent in any situation.

Audiences expect certain things from certain genres, and it’s the filmmakers’ job to work around that. It’s a responsibility that could be an annoying obstacle, but the most successful creatives find ways to go above and beyond that expectation.

They do that by using music as a way to enhance the experience.



Conceptually, this film is a masterful piece of storytelling, but the use of royalty free background music is perfect. It echoes what you’d expect from an Ennio Morricone score, and each song helps build tension just as much as a Western “standoff” (told in storyboard form).

The music choices tell a story just as clearly as something you’d see in a big-budget Hollywood production. And in some ways, it isn’t hard to imagine a world where this film relied only on the visual elements and the music.

But that’s only half of the story. It’s also possible to flip expectations with your choice in background music. And if it’s done well, the scene can deliver an emotional punch that surprises viewers.

These are the scenes that become unforgettable pieces of cinematic history. Take a look at the opening of Apocalypse Now:



The first moment seems almost serene, and the song choice starts relaxed and calm. But when things transition to a montage highlighting the horrors of war, everything takes on an edgy and dark tone.

Another excellent example of shocking viewers is the end of Gangs of New York. Most of us know Howard Shore’s fantastic work from The Lord of the Rings. But when it comes to Gangs of New York, Shore decided to merge his compositions with Irish folk music and pop songs.



Somehow the decision to use a U2 song works...even if it sounds like a bizarre choice on paper. Playing “The Hands That Built America” behind a simulated timelapse helps us visualize the evolution of the movie’s focal point, which has become almost like a supporting character.

This sort of approach is definitely a risk, and it often goes wrong. But if you can find a way to toe that line and surprise your viewers, chances are good that people will remember the experience.

Of course, the same applies to any sort of video. Taking time to think about the best royalty free music for YouTube can go a long way in helping your video deliver the tone, message, or idea that inspired you to make it in the first place.

Using Background Music for YouTube Videos

Of course, the next complication in front of you is finding good music for YouTube videos and then adding it to your project. And not just one or two songs — a legitimate catalog of high-quality royalty free background music.

Royalty free music is a valuable resource for any filmmaker or vlogger. If you aren’t already familiar with music licensing (and the dangers of copyright claims on YouTube), we’ll go over the basics here. It’s an important topic that you can’t afford to ignore as a content creator.

youtube background music mp3 and wav files

In order to use a song in a video, podcast, or even something like a cafe, you’ll need to purchase a music license. This agreement is basically permission from the artist to use his/her song; it also protects you from any legal penalties for trying to monetize another artist’s work.

However, it’s worth noting that a song doesn’t belong to just one person. In most cases, a song can have up to a dozen copyright holders, including the songwriter, recording artist, lyricist, and even people from the record label. 

With so many cooks in the kitchen, it’s easy to see how a licensing fee can quickly jump up into the hundreds or thousands of dollars. And the process can take weeks or months, depending on the number of people you’ll have to contact and get agreement from.

To make things worse, that whole explanation is how you secure a single song. And licenses only cover one project.

Then you’ll also have royalty payments, which means sharing profits with the copyright holders. You’ll send monthly or quarterly payments to everyone with a stake in the song’s success. Because, in their eyes, that song played a role in any revenue your video generates.

If that sounds like a complicated nightmare, don’t worry — we agree. So do a lot of other filmmakers, musicians, and content creators.

But this is where royalty free music comes in to save the day. If you’re interested in saving money when licensing good music for YouTube videos (or other video projects) and finding songs more easily, this next topic is for you.

Where to Get Royalty-Free Music Music for YouTube Videos

When you purchase royalty free music for YouTube videos and other projects, you are paying a company for a license and royalties, but all at once. Music artists submit songs to different royalty free libraries, and those partnerships help reduce the licensing costs to make your life easier.

Here at Soundstripe, we weren’t happy with the traditional licensing model. And frankly, we thought royalty free music should be a creative tool for content creators rather than something they’re forced into.

That’s why we use a subscription model for our service. It functions like Netflix or Disney+, where you pay a regular fee (charged monthly or yearly). That subscription gives you unlimited access to our entire library of high-quality songs to use in your personal and commercial projects.

No licensing fees per song. No royalty payments. Unlimited downloads. You pick your subscription, create an account, and start finding your new go-to background music for YouTube videos. And because we only license music from artists we employ, you’ll never have to worry about copyright claims or cease and desist orders on your YouTube videos.

Further reading

If you want a more detailed breakdown of what "royalty free" really means for you — as someone who needs to license music for YouTube or other media often — here's a resource worth checking out next. And if you'd like to check out additional popular articles from the Soundstripe blog, here's a few suggestions:

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