Royalty-Free Music and Sound Effects Resources for Animators

Copyright in music is a major issue these days. We’ve discussed protecting your copyrighted art and animations, but as animators we also have to stop to think about others’ copyrighted material in our works. Unless we produce and record all of our own audio tracks and sound effects, we will be using someone else’s copyrighted material – with or without permission, and with or without paying. Using even five seconds of copyrighted audio without permission (whether that permission is granted or bought), even for a non-commercial project, can have severe repercussions should the owner of that audio take issue with your use of it.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a small list of websites where you can download royalty-free music and sound effects for use in your animations.
Comments: Thousands of free sound effects and loops, with tagged browsing.
Limitations: Free for commercial and non-commercial use, but must comply with their terms of use (attribution optional, but no reselling unless part of a complete work). See the copyright/legal section at the bottom of the FAQ for more information.

Comments: Great collection of music loops meant specifically for use in Flash audio.
Limitations: Check the site’s Creative Commons license for attribution requirements.

Comments: Among other things, FlashKit offers a large collection of audio loops and effects for use in Flash movies.
Limitations: Read the usage guidelines for the different usage rights for various tracks.

Comments: Browse by feel or genre. Music only.
Limitations: Music must be credited in your work. Author (Kevin Macloed) requests a $5 donation to support the site, but not required.

Common Content
Comments: Searchable catalog of work licensed under Creative Commons; includes images and movies as well.
Limitations: Check details on each audio download for licensing and attribution requirements under Creative Commons.
Comments: Music, loops, beats, sound effects, even ringtones.
Limitations: Only the sound clips on the page provided are free. Everything else on the site is paid.

Comments: A site containing remixes licensed under Creative Commons. It can be a little confusing to figure out how to download in MP3 format, but you’ll get there.
Limitations: Check the Creative Commons license associated with each track before you use it. According to the FAQ, most of the music on the site is free and legal for any use, anywhere, but you’re advised to check individual tracks for different licensing and restrictions.
Comments: A wide variety of downloadable loops and audio clips.
Limitations: Site says “free for personal use only” at the very bottom. May be restrictions for commercial use.

Comments: Sounds, effects, and music samples. Check the upper right hand corner to switch the language to English if you get lost.
Limitations: Check Creative Commons licensing for attribution requirements; some rights reserved.

NewGrounds Audio
Comments: Anything from midi loops to wav remixes to voice audio clips – some good, some downright awful.
Limitations: Check each track for licensing and attribution requirements. Be aware that users on Newgrounds may create remixes/loops without permission of the original copyright holder. Loops
Comments: Collections of royalty-free music loops.
Limitations: None; donation requested but not required.

Comments: Over 1200 searchable, royalty-free sound effects in MP3 and RealPlayer format. If you keep clicking your language and wondering why you’re not getting anywhere, look for the little button at the bottom that says “Got the right language? Click here!”
Limitations: Check Creative Commons licensing for attribution requirements.
Comments: Downloadable packet of free sound effects.
Limitations: May require e-mail registration before use.

Keep in mind that all of these sites are free or at least have some free content; there are many other paid sites that allow you to purchase royalty-free and stock music for unlimited use in your productions.