What is Stock Music? (Ultimate Guide)


Last Updated on November 23, 2021 by Vasco Lourenço

If you’re a musician or composer wanting to get started on stock music, or if you wish to know what is stock music, then you’re in the right place.

In this blog post, we’re going to dive in on the specifics of stock music, and I’m going to try and clear any misconceptions people might have about the subject. We’re going to see the difference between stock music and other types of music, and the best places to get it legally.

Being a musician myself, I’ve been selling music to stock music libraries for the past couple of years and actually making a living from it. So I know a thing or two about this market.

Let’s get started!

The power of music

girl blown away by the power of a speaker

George Lucas (Star Wars) once said that sound and music are 50% of the moviegoing experience. Music turns a movie from a mere memory to a thrilling experience.

A documentary that covers the suffering of the homeless becomes compelling when a haunting, downbeat piece marks the film’s critical moments.

Modern video games also need music. Roaming through a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by flesh-eating monsters seems more natural when ominous notes frame the background.

Radio and TV advertisements are too weak without the help of the right tune. Stories become alive with music.

Stock music is usually used as background music to enhance the video’s emotions. That’s why it’s crucial to choose the right music track when you’re creating your audiovisual project.

What is stock music?

Stock music (sometimes referred to as production music, royalty-free music, or even library music) is a less expensive alternative to popular or famous music in a production.

Getting permission to use a popular piece of music issued by a pop singer’s release in a video or film could cost a whole package.

The term itself is self-explanatory: stock music is in stock. The stock music library has music stocked on its website, as opposed to commissioned music that needs to be written as per request. It also contrasts with music composed first in an effort to perform.

Usually, library music is not performed live, as that is not its primary intent.

This type of music is written especially for audiovisual productions such as radio and television broadcasts, commercials, jingles, motion picture and video scores, soundtracks, websites, and gaming software products.

It’s also written in a way to make life easier for video editors, as the music can (and will be) chopped, cut, edited, and looped to fit and sync with the video. For this reason, stock music may sound repetitive or lack advanced musical ideas and composition.

Consequently, many musicians say stock music is cheap music. In my opinion, it depends. And I’m not going to dive deep into this discussion, as this is not the right place for it.

Just like stock videos and stock photography libraries, you can find almost any music style you can think of in a stock music library.

If you don't want to be granted additional license charges for the use of the same song, then stock music is the way to go.

Is stock music the same as production music?

Stock music and production music are the same thing. Only the terminology differs.

Both terms pertain to the same type of music: songs that were specifically written for use in audiovisual works like radio programs, podcasts, corporate videos, TV shows, films, video games, etc.

Likewise, stock music libraries and production music libraries are the same.

Is stock music the same as royalty-free music?

Royalty-free music is not a type of music; it’s a type of license that stock music libraries sell. Therefore, library music (stock music) can be sold with a royalty-free license. This means the customer can license music and use it several times without paying additional clearance fees.

The term royalty-free yields too much confusion, usually on the part of the customers. Check out my Royalty-Free Music Guide to learn more about the details of royalty-free music.

In a sentence, stock music is not royalty-free music, although sometimes it’s used interchangeably.

Custom music

two people in a music studio discussing creating custom music

Another way of adding music to your audiovisual productions is custom or personalized music.

Custom music, personalized music, or commissioned music, is created for one single purpose: to give you a unique and unrecognizable sound for your audiovisual project.

To do so you will have to contact a composer who will be in control of creating the music you want. Or you can come and work online with studios that do the work for you.

Keep in mind that custom music is relatively costly. Just as in every other industry, creating a personalized product involves a significant amount of time and economic resources.

Because the music track will be used only in one project, the composer cannot license it on stock music libraries. This increases the cost of the track.

If none of the tracks you hear in music libraries meets your needs, then commissioning a music track may be what you’re looking for.

Some libraries, like Audiocrowd, offer this service. You can choose one of their composers that you like and commission a song from them.

Other websites that offer custom music are:

What if none of my music was written specifically for sync licensing?

Even if your music wasn’t written with sync licensing in mind, you can or should send them to a stock music library. Many production libraries now accept recordings from musicians who weren’t written especially for sync licensing.

If your song has lyrics, you can upload a version without lyrics (an instrumental) which is a plus for the library.

Although some libraries only accept a certain type of music, for example, music that fits a particular background music type of sound, and some instrumentals of pop songs may also be accepted.

This way, you can add another stream of income to your songs.

What are stock music libraries?

Music libraries that offer this kind of music are usually called stock music libraries or production music libraries.

Stock Music Libraries = Production Music Libraries

The music offered is in stock at the library, and the customer could just browse the catalog here. The music is not personalized and it’s not made for a specific project. However, it is immediately available. The customer just has to choose from the thousands or millions of tracks the right one for his project.

With such an immensity of music recordings, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the right one.

What are the best stock music libraries?

There are many stock music libraries in the market today. Finding the right library with the right music track for your project can be a bit of a headache. However, knowing where to get good quality and diverse stock music can relieve that burden.

Some free stock music sites offer free tracks under a creative commons license. The YouTube Audio Library and Free Music Archive are two examples of that. Creative commons music is an easy way of licensing music for free, and the only thing you need to be careful about is paying attention to the licensing conditions.

Below, I selected four of the best stock music libraries for you to get started.

Audiojungle

Audiojungle Stock Music

Audiojungle is one of the most widely known stock music libraries. With over 1.700.00 tracks and sound effects, you can find almost any style you can think of.

Founded by the Australian company Envato, a giant digital marketplace that also offers video footage, website and graphic templates, stock photography, add-ons, and more, Audiojungle stands as one of the top preferred libraries for stock music composers.

Audiojungle music tracks are quality-checked and approved by a community of composers and authors on the platform. Thanks to their forum, it’s a vast community where customers can directly message the composers and where communication flows.

Don’t forget to check the license that applies to you before purchasing an item, as it dictates how you can use it.

Pond5

Pond5 Stock Music

Initially created to sell stock video footage, it later expanded its assets to music tracks, sound effects, photos, After Effects templates, illustrations, and more.

With about 1 million stock music tracks, rest assured you can get what you’re looking for, be it corporate videos, wedding videos, trailer music, or even children’s music.

Similar to Audiojungle, Pond5 offers single licenses in different tiers. But it also provides a monthly membership that enables you to 10 downloads a month from a selection of 153.000 music tracks and stock videos.

Envato Elements

Envato Elements

Envato Elements works with an unlimited download subscription. You get the whole package with no restrictions for a monthly fee of $16.50 (if billed yearly).

You can choose from more than 650.000 stock music tracks to more than 53 million photographs. Yes, you read that right! 53 million!

With unlimited downloads, composers earn less than if their audio tracks were purchased individually. At the same time, they have more chances of their tracks being downloaded, which increases commissions. In the end, it’s always a numbers game.

A YouTube content creator looking for a stock music library and other assets requiring a commercial license for his video marketing project might find Envato Elements very useful.

If you have projects that require investment on a monthly basis, you might consider a subscription library like Envato Elements. If not, stick with its older brother, Audiojungle.

PremiumBeat

PremiumBeat Stock Music

PremiumBeat is an exclusive stock music library offering high-end music productions. Its parent company, Shutterstock, is one of the biggest licensing libraries and has been providing stock images since 2003. The company grew and started to add footage, music, social media templates, and more, to its catalog.

PremiumBeat requires that its composers be exclusive, meaning they can’t upload the music to other libraries, as opposed to Audiojungle and Pond5 (although these also have an exclusive contract).

They only select artists they feel are top-notch premium composers and producers. This makes it very hard for beginners, but it also guarantees you’ll only get high-quality from them.

PremiumBeat offers two business models:

  • monthly subscription ($64.95/mo for 5 standard licenses)
  • single purchase with two types of licenses: standard license ($49) & premium license ($199)

If you want to find the perfect music and quality is your priority, PremiumBeat is a great choice.

How Stock Music Composers Get Paid

With the royalty-free model, you only pay a one-time upfront fee and that’s all. There are no additional clearance fees.

This is not possible if you want to license a song from a famous artist. That’s why royalty-free stock music is very convenient for content creators.

Composers get a commission from each sale. Since each music library has its own policy and licensing agreements, so not every library has the same commission structure.

While stock music can be licensed royalty-free, some composers choose to register their tracks with performance rights organizations (PRO), or performing rights societies. If their music happens to be used in a broadcast TV or Radio commercial (as long as the broadcasting company filled out a cue sheet), these PROs will then collect royalties and pay the musician accordingly.

Bear in mind that these fees are not paid by the customer, for example, an advertising agency. They are paid by the broadcasting companies.

Another way a composer can receive money is by registering their audio track with Content ID. Content ID is a fingerprinting system used by YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, to check if there are any issues with a track not being used legally.

If a content creator uploads a video to YouTube in which he has legally purchased a music track protected with Content ID, YouTube issues a copyright claim. The content creator can then dispute it showing the license, allowing him to monetize his video.

If no license is presented, advertising will start showing during the video, and royalties are then paid to the composer.

Stock Music FAQs

Here are some of the most common questions regarding stock music.

Is stock music a genre?

Stock music is not a genre. It only means the music track is available in stock at the library.

Stock music is generally used as background music for many audiovisual projects like radio and TV commercials, podcasts, video games, jingles, etc. And different projects require different musical styles.

In fact, you can find all genres in stock music. From classical to pop, jazz to hip hop, metal to fanfares, stock music has a myriad of genres that you can choose from.

Is stock music free to use?

Major stock music libraries like Audiojungle, Pond5, PremiumBeat, and many more, offer stock music for a license fee. However, you can also find free stock music on some websites, but they usually compel you to credit the author.

For example, YouTube Audio Library is free to use, but you won’t find as much diversity as in paid libraries. Besides, you must credit the author to use some tracks.

I offer my music for free on my YouTube channel in exchange for a link back to my channel. Besides, while people can use it for free, they can’t monetize it, as it is protected with Content ID (the videos receive copyright claims). To monetize their creations with my music (and not crediting me), they must purchase a license. (It’s just business, after all.)

You can convert YouTube videos to mp3 with 4K Download. They have a free version that allows you to do almost anything within the app.

What is royalty-free stock music?

Royalty-free stock music is music sold with a royalty-free license on a stock music library.

This license grants you the right to use the track unlimited times without paying any more fees. However, different types of royalty-free licenses exist. Usually, they’re defined by the library itself.

Basically, a royalty-free stock music track has unlimited use.

You can learn more about royalty-free licenses in my article What is Royalty-Free Music.

Stock music is not copyright-free music.

Every time a composer creates a piece of music, he automatically owns the copyright to his work. Even if the music is sold as royalty-free stock music, he is still entitled to performance royalties or mechanical royalties, in case the music ends up being performed in TV shows or as background music in a DVD.

A piece of music only becomes copyright-free when it enters the public domain, usually 70 years after the composers’ death. However, its recordings may not be copyright-free.

On the other hand, the composer may relinquish his copyright by giving notice in the prescribed form to the Registrar of Copyrights, according to the Copyright Act of 1957. In my humble opinion, I believe no one is doing that these days.

Some might say that copyright-free music doesn’t exist, but as you can see, it all depends on the perspective through which you look at it.

Conclusion

Stock music is music created for use in certain projects, especially audiovisual.

The internet is constantly growing, and stock music libraries are always increasing. While some may offer free music, I believe the most recommended option is the paid solution as you won’t have future issues involving copyright.

Usually, paid tracks will offer the originality and quality you need for your project. We all know that quality costs money.

Now it is up to you to know where to get the best stock music for your project. Let me know in the comments down below what’s your favorite stock music library and why.

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