Free Stock Music.

A lot of free stock music is available on the internet. Choose from thousands of tracks conveniently grouped into categories based on mood, tempo, specific instruments used and types of licenses. It appears to be a cheap and easy solution for TV commercials, movie trailers, corporate movies, and even movie opening titles. But the reality is that (poorly chosen) stock music often does not fit well with the images and atmosphere of a film. Where I talk about film in this piece, video production might be more appropriate. For the readability of this piece I use the name film.

A soundtrack is one of those movie-making tools that is often misunderstood and unappreciated and treated only as an addition to the footage. The reality is, it’s so important that it can make or break your movie – there are many examples of otherwise decent movies ruined by an inadequate or poorly produced soundtrack. Music is an integral part of the story that, in addition to the actors’ performance, can evoke emotions. That’s why you should think about music before filming.

But why often does stock music not work? Let me list some thoughts on this.

Unintentional association
In sonic branding, your goal as a brand should be to differentiate yourself from your competition. You achieve this with a distinctive tone of voice, recognizable logo and consistent content and your own sound. You can of course use the piano tune from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. Then everyone sees your commercial, but they think about the movie. They think of the atmosphere of the film and that directly influences how your commercial is picked up. If that’s the intention, perfect! But often that’s not what you want. You want to acquire a unique place in the memory of your target group.
So what you want to achieve is intended association and memory. Just like John Williams’ iconic shark theme from Jaws. You hear a few tones and you immediately think of sharks. That’s what you want to achieve, but with a more pleasant association than sharks probably.

No consistency

A lack of coherence in a score can give the impression that there is something about your film that is not quite right, and that your story lacks continuity. You don’t have to be a film expert or composer to sense this lack of cohesion.


Music can determine the atmosphere of the film. If not done properly you can change the whole context of your story. Music and sound are just as important as dialogue and visuals to tell a story (perhaps more important). Hans Zimmer is not only a good composer, he is a storyteller, but through music and sound.

Images have a rhythm (aka edit): movements are governed by the same principles as music – beat and tempo. Even speech has a rhythm. Usually I see that stock music has been used because the rhythm is not right. And I don’t mean rhythm in the literal sense as is the case with a video clip. I’m talking about the flow; the breathing (image) does not match the heartbeat (sound).

It’s not necessarily bad to use free stock music. But it is important to select your music carefully. When selecting music, you sometimes have to put your own taste in music aside. You select music for film, not because you like a track, but because it supports your film.