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, here are some websites where you can download royalty-free music and sound effects for use in your animations.

Soundsnap.com

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.

FlashKit

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.

Incompetech

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.

RoyaltyFreeMusic.com

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.

CCMixter

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.

Free-Loops.com

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.

SoundSource

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.

Rekkerd.org Loops

Comments: Collections of royalty-free music loops.

Limitations: None; donation requested but not required.

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.