Finding Royalty Free Music

So we want to find music for our videos. Being apart of a University, we are a target for copyright lawsuits so we need to respect all copyrighted works and get the appropriate licenses. Let's explore what copyright is and what you should do to find music that you can use.

We are searching for two kinds of tracks

  • Public Domain music
  • Music protected by free licenses

What is Copyright?

Here's a great explanation of copyright. Please read through it to understand that every track has two copyrights.

A copyright owner is provided with five exclusive rights in their created work. The owner, as well as authorized third-parties, have the right to: (1) reproduce the work, (i.e., mechanical reproduction of the music for CDs, downloads, and vinyl); (2) distribute the work (i.e., stream or otherwise make the music publicly available); (3) prepare derivative works; (4) publicly perform the work (i.e., in a concert or on the radio); and, (5) publicly display the work. This means that the owner has the sole and exclusive right to publicly distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, or lease and to publicly perform or display the work, such as selling copies of a novel or publicly playing a musical recording at a restaurant.

So there is a copyright of the composition and a copyright on the specific recording itself. We are looking for either copyright free music, meaning the music is in the public domain and free to use by anyone. Just because a song is in the public domain doesn't mean all recordings of it are free to use. The actual recording of the some still retains a copyright on that work. While we can use public domain copyright free music it's not where we will primarily focus. Here are some sources of copyright free music:

Please feel free to add to this list of public domain music sources if you are on the media team! That brings us to the sources of music we really want to search for, royalty free music.

What is Royalty Free Music?

Royalty free music is still copyrighted music but it is music that we can use as long as we respect the demands of the copyright holder or the person that grants license to use their music. Please read this page to get a grasp of what royalty free music means.

The key take away is that royalty free doesn't mean you can just use it as you wish. You have to get explicit permission to use the track which often means you must pay to use the track. That may entail giving credit to the creator in the description of the video. 

What we are really searching for is music that is royalty free and the copyright owner is allowing us to use it for free under some stipulations. 

What to watch out for?

So some royalty free music sites will set explicit rules for what you can and cannot do with their music. For example bensound.com has free to use royalty free music but doesn't allow their music to be used in podcasts. Take a look at their rules on this track:



Note that this track CANNOT be used in podcasts. However, we could use this song in a video under a free creative commons license as long as we give them this credit in the description and the video credits. We make a point of actually placing the music credit into the actual video so that we don't fail to credit them if we share that video to Facebook or some other platform. Here's what their credit would look like in the description. It's often even better to include a direct link to where you got the music from.

"Music: www.bensound.com" or "Royalty Free Music from Bensound"

How to add Music to Our Library

Once you find a source of music we want to save it to the backup server with all the information needed to use that track.

  • Navigate to the Music Library folder
  • Create a containing folder for the website you're pulling music from ex. YYYYMMDD Audio Library - Music for Content Creators
  • Inside that folder you can download the actual audio files
  • Next to the audio file(s) create a text document to make a note of any license requirements 
    • If a song requires a specific credit then you must put that song in its own subfolder with the credit next to it
    • If there are a bunch of songs that are satisfied by the same credit you may just have one text file explaining that
  • Make sure you list the following for each song
    • What is the URL you got it from?
    • What kind of content can we use it on? 
    • What restrictions are there?
    • If a credit is required?
    • What the credit needs to be

Connecting to the Backup Server

All of our B-roll, photos, video projects, music, and footage get backed up to the shared media team backup server. To connect to it you need to be in the mygroup of the media team. If you aren't in the group you won't be able to connect to the server. Miles can add you to the group if you don't have access.

Assuming you have access to the mygroup you connect to the server by opening Finder on mac and hitting cmd+k. That will open this dialogue:


You need to enter this address and hit connect. 


In the next window it will ask for your credentials. You want to login as a registered user. You netbadge credentials are your credentials.

Username: computingid@virginia.edu

Password: your netbadge password

If you are off campus' wifi

Off of campus you must connect to the UVA network through a VPN to access our server. You can't connect to it directly. Follow UVAs instructions on how to setup the Cisco UVA AnyWhere VPN.


Zencaster Tutorial

Website Set Up: Zencaster is a podcast specific audio recording site that allows you to conduct a remote interview. You want to make sure that the guest you are interviewing, knows that they have to be ideally in space with little background noise and have access to wifi or internet connection. Make sure you as the interviewer are in an area that doesn't have too much background noise as well. First, you sign into Zencaster on your laptop, and make an account that's free. After that you can "create new episode", so you click that button and then you name your recording so you can find it later. Once you press create, you can begin your episode. BUT before you invite your guest, you want to make sure that your microphone is set up.

Microphone Set Up: The Blue Yeti is preferable for remote interviews because all you have to do is plug it into your laptop with the USB cable. Next you go to your "home" page on Zencaster, and then go to settings which look like a purple wheel. If you are recording on a microphone (like the Blue Yeti) that you are plugging in - select the Yeti Stereo Microphone that pops up under audio input. Audio output is fine as the default. The other settings are fine to leave as is.

Screenshot of settings

Plug in headphones to your laptop to make sure that you can hear yourself through the Blue Yeti. Make sure that the red button on the blue yeti is glowing red and NOT blinking. If it is blinking then it is on mute.

picture of microphone

Using the microphone will make your audio sound very professional. So use the microphone unless there is no other option.

Inviting Guest: Once you have your microphone set up, you are now able to invite your guest! There is a button that says "invite". Clicking this will give you a link that you can send to the guest. Once sent, they will be able to click on the link to join you to talk over the website. Once they join you, you will be able to hear their voice and see their audio waveform moving up and down. You can talk for as long as you want before you start recording. 

Record: You MUST press record in order to start recording. Once you press record, you can go about conducting the podcast as you normally would. When you are done, press stop recording and then you will have two separate mp3 files that you can download. They are isolated recordings of both you the host, and the guest - which makes it a lot easier to edit if you accidentally talk over each other. Also, the two mp3 files both start and stop at the same time, so it will be extremely easy to sink up your interview in post production and start editing! You will also, always be able to find your old podcasts that you record on Zencaster through your account - so they will always be stored there. Happy podcasting :)


How to connect to the RAID server

You must be on a mac machine and have a UVA eservices netbadge login. The server is behind the UVA firewall so you will need the UVA anywhere VPN to access the server at all. 

  • Press Command + k in Finder to open the Connect to server prompt
  • To connect to the Shared Server, you must be on a mac machine.

  • Connect to smb://
Connect to server with smb


  • You'll be prompted to enter in your credentials. Login as a **Registered User** and enter you computing ID and password.

  • If you're on a personal computer you can check remember this password in keychain.

Connect to server with keychain


  • If the server doesn't appear in your finder sidebar you will need to go into preferences and make sure it is set to show connected servers

Connect to server


  • If you still don't have access, message miles on slack as it means you don't have an eservices account or that IT needs to give your eservices account access. Contact Mary Beth in IT if you know you have an eservices account. Contact Miles if you need to get an eservices account. 


Back It Up! How to Secure Your Video Data

As media content creators, the number one thing we all (should) fear is losing what we worked hours to capture and edit together. I'm sure those of you reading this recall at least one piece of data lost to the ether you'll never recover because it was not backed up. Going forwards for the rest of this year, you should make it your resolution to back up your data at each step in your video creation process. Why? So you don't log on one day unable to find any of your projects (as I recently have), with this look on your face:

An image of a shocked Pikachu

Initial Transfer: From Source to Designated Local Capture & Export Folders

At the Cooper Center's media office, we transfer our captured content into our local computers first. As seen below, we create a "Capture" folder for the original video sources taken from the SD cards used and an "Export" folder for the ingested mp4 versions of our initial sources. This ensures we can draw on them when editing in Premiere.

Capture and Export folder on local Mac computer

From Local to External Backup Drives

As many filmmakers know, backing your data up on an external drive saves you from the heartbreak of seeing data lost to a computer crash destroy your project. We avoid such disaster by saving our material on backup drives with identical naming structures to what we use in our local computer folders and local shared servers. Our Prelude projects, Premiere sequences, exports, and initial captures all get backed up on an external drive. This way, we can restore our work at any time.

Backup External Drive

The Ultimate Protection: Online Data Storage

 If all else fails, we have one final defense against losing data: online storage. While computers sometimes crash and external drives may be lost or stolen, online data can never simply be lost so easily. Hence, uploading each core component of your content creation process ensures you can recreate it at any moment later when needed. We upload our original source material, exports, Prelude projects, and Premiere sequences to do just that. By following this crucial step in addition to the ones above, you will have a robust system protecting your data.

Image of online data storage example