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Public Domain Music

02-15-2012, 09:19 PM
Joined: Nov 2010
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 87
Public Domain Music

Hey guys,

It has been a while. I got buried in a universal update and refactoring that lasted maaaaany months..

Anyhow, we're making a new game, and are far enough along now that we are starting to talk about music.

One option we are exploring is public domain music. Does anyone have any experience with that and know what is permissable to use commercially?

Last edited by u2elan; 02-15-2012 at 09:21 PM.
02-16-2012, 07:19 AM
Joined: Nov 2009
Location: Wellington
Posts: 938
Music rights generally fall into 2 categories, the author/composition rights and the artist/performance rights. So for any given track, you need to have obtained both of those (there may be specific publisher rights as well).

Generally you may find it tough to find modern public domain music unless the composer and artist elect it to be, and even classical compositions may be tough to find where the performance is old enough to the point the performance rights have lapsed (you could always perform the song yourself in that instance).

The key is to do your research on every instance of a track you intend to use so you don't get caught with copyright infringement liability.

02-16-2012, 07:55 AM
Joined: Jan 2010
Location: Munich
Posts: 1,137
Send a message via Skype™ to Nullroar
If you do a quick search for "Royalty free music" you can find tons of collections of every variety, with a lot of the tunes selling from $1-5 with no need to credit or anything.

Here's a relatively strong link to a few of the sites that someone compiled, along with more tips in the comments: http://www.seabreezecomputers.com/tips/freemusic.htm

Cheers and good luck!

I've placed geocached DRM-free USB copies of my newest game in various locations throughout Europe and Southeastern US. Email me if you find 'em for the free "explorer" cape.
02-17-2012, 06:43 PM
Joined: Feb 2012
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 9
My favorite site for inexpensive royalty free music and sound effects is:http://www.twistedtracks.com/

The quality is great and most songs are even already broken in with loops that are ready to use. Whether you're developing scary games, or funny games you'll find sound tracks and loops you can use. Most of the shorter music loops are $6 and whole song will run you $20 - $40 depending on the length.

I particularly like using this website while making game prototypes.

Best of Luck!
02-20-2012, 09:27 AM
I used this guy for my game's music. I couldn't be happier for 5.00. It is already formatted to loop and the owner is quick at email. I plan on using them for all of my games.

I hope this helps.
02-21-2012, 04:17 AM
@U2elan, could you clarify what you mean by public domain? As PikPok said even works that were composed before 1922 where the writer's intellectual property has expired will have performance rights attached to them e.g. Beethoven maybe dead but the LSO still pick up the licensing fee. BUT if you were to record them/mock them up yourself you would own all the rights. If by 'public domain' you mean free/very cheap to license/non-exclusive music you should be searching for 'royalty free' music as Null Roar pointed out.

However I would be careful about using royalty free sites even if they seem like an attractive option financially. To find high quality looped music that will stand the test of being heard again and again will be hard - generally sites selling music for $5 a pop are going to be sub standard compared with working with a pro composer. Furthermore the tracks you buy will be non-exclusive so the 'good ones' are likely to have been used in games already. More importantly the audio will be a key part of your game brand - sound can be as important as graphics. If you have random tracks composed by different people the game will sound inconsistent and your production values will suffer. A lot of gamers really place a high value in the soundtrack (the recent indie game music bundle is a great example of that) and having good music can be a great selling point for your game. It could even be good earner on the backend if you negotiate to keep 100% of the rights and sell the soundtrack on bandcamp.

I've written some articles here which may be of use to you to learn more about the composer route as well as some general info on copyright and pricing.

Royalty free/pre composed music may have its place but my personal view is that paying custom sound will always pay off in the longer term. You wouldn't consider using a stock graphic for your main character - music that is playing all the time is in just as much of a lead role.

Sorry about the rant Hope this helps.

02-21-2012, 05:41 AM
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Suffolk, England
Posts: 112
I have to say I agree. Yes I do have a vested interest as a composer, but I really think it is something worth investing as much time and money into as possible. Music and sounds can do so much for the game, try imagining a film without any music, I doubt it would have the same impact!
02-21-2012, 06:03 AM
Joined: Feb 2012
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 148
I was looking into public domain music for a trailer last week, and came up with the same answer as Pik Pok, so I've elected to avoid that route.

Instead I think might be picking a royalty free track up on http://www.jewelbeat.com/, and look at the other sites you guys have posted too (thanks!)

Note that it's only for a trailer. Our game does not have music. But if it did, I'm not sure bank tracks would be such a good option, as mentioned by Vince and Gavin. We are using bank sound FX though.

I make games.
Twitter: NicolasG_B
02-21-2012, 06:09 AM
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Suffolk, England
Posts: 112
I can see why people might want to use stock music for trailers, though even in that case it is good to get something original, especially if the trailer has certain edit cues the music needs to punctuate!
02-21-2012, 06:13 AM
Joined: Feb 2012
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 148
Originally Posted by Gavin Harrison View Post
I can see why people might want to use stock music for trailers, though even in that case it is good to get something original, especially if the trailer has certain edit cues the music needs to punctuate!
Yeah I agree, it really comes down to budget as we're just starting up. So I'll edit the trailer according to the music instead

I make games.
Twitter: NicolasG_B