Home Editor Picks The best websites for royalty-free, public domain music | Digital Trends

The best websites for royalty-free, public domain music | Digital Trends

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The best websites for royalty-free, public domain music | Digital Trends


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Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Music is copyrighted until it isn’t. Eventually, titles enter the public domain, which means they are free to use and download for any purpose.

There are a lot of websites that showcase and provide access to public domain music, but to be clear, they differ from free music streaming services like SoundCloud, ReverbNation, and Free Music Archive, which offer music that is owned my artists, but offered up for your listening pleasure for free.

As for public domain music sites, we have a few favorites that we’re going to get into below, but first we’re going to give you a bit of context into what public domain music is. The distinction lies in that public domain music is yours to keep and use as you wish.

When does music become public domain?

In the U.S., most music created before January 1, 1978, has copyright protection for 95 years from the date of first publication. For music created after that date, the copyright exists for the songwriter’s life, plus 70 years. In simpler terms, music copyrights can last a very long time, but eventually, they expire, and the music enters the public domain. Here, then,  are seven public domain music sites .

Open Music Archive

The Open Music Archive website home page.
Open Music Archive

The Open Music Archive is a resource for musicians, researchers, and music enthusiasts. This initiative focuses on facilitating the sharing and liberation of music while navigating copyright regulations to breathe life into forgotten or lesser-known works.

At its essence, the Open Music Archive strives to gather, preserve, and openly distribute music recordings in the public domain. Beyond being a collection, this digital repository makes a statement about the accessibility of cultural treasures and advocates for the idea that music, a universal language, should be freely accessible to all.

Established by artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White, the Open Music Archive is a passion project for its creators. Their goal is to reintroduce the public to the sounds of yesteryear by creating an asset for learning, artistic expression, and progress. The Open Music Archive challenges views on ownership and copyright within the music realm by digitizing and providing music that no longer carries copyright constraints.

The Open Music Archive, a living entity in evolution, continues to grow each year as more recordings join the public domain. Visitors can delve into an array of genres, each one a testament to the rich history of music. The archive offers a unique opportunity for music enthusiasts to connect with the past via everything from jazz and blues melodies full of emotion to classical masterpieces that transcend time.

The assortment consists of more than songs; it also encompasses a range of recordings that provide a distinct glimpse into the sounds of bygone eras.

Visit the Open Music Archive

Freesound

The Freesound website home page.
Freesound

Freesound is a platform where creators worldwide can access an array of samples and sound effects without limitations. Established in 2005 by the Music Technology Group at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, this site goes beyond hosting clips by fostering an environment that promotes creativity and collaboration.

Within Freesound, you’ll discover a selection of sounds ranging from music to everyday noises like the rustle of autumn leaves, the bustling atmosphere of a city square, or the melodious chirping of exotic birds. It’s an expanding repository of experiences waiting to inspire new artistic endeavors.

The real strength of Freesound lies within its community, which comprises sound recordists, musicians, filmmakers, and sound designers, both amateurs and professionals. Users can share their samples, download sounds contributed by others, rate them, and provide feedback. This collaborative effort has resulted in a varied collection of sounds.

All the sounds available on Freesound are licensed under Creative Commons, which permit creators to incorporate them into educational or commercial projects. However, these licenses may stipulate requirements, such as attribution or restrictions.

Visit Freesound

Pixabay Music

Screenshot showing Pixabay Music website.
Pixabay

Pixabay is well-known for its collection of free-to-use images. It also has a hidden gem in the form of a music section not many know about. It offers a range of music tracks that can be used in various projects without charge.

What makes Pixabay Music unique is the variety it offers, with tracks spanning genres from electronic beats to calming classical melodies suitable for almost any type of project. The platform’s easy-to-use interface lets users search for music based on mood, genre, or song length, making it simple to discover a background tune.

A standout feature of Pixabay Music is its licensing system. All the music on the site is covered under the Pixabay License, so users don’t have to worry about copyright issues or giving credit to the creator. This opens up a world of possibilities for creators, from YouTubers and podcasters to businesses creating ads.

The extensive library of music on Pixabay caters to creators, businesses, and educators who need high-quality tunes without dealing with licensing restrictions. The tracks can be used in a wide range of projects, providing ample creative freedom for everyone involved.

Visit Pixabay Music

Petrucci Music Library

IMSIP website screenshot.
IMSLP

The Petrucci Music Library, also known as the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), has revolutionized access to music scores. Named in honor of Ottaviano Petrucci, the Renaissance pioneer who was the first to print music using type, IMSLP is a resource for musicians, educators, and music lovers worldwide.

Established in 2006 by Edward W. Guo, a composer and New England Conservatory of Music graduate, IMSLP serves as an archive dedicated to gathering public domain music scores and those from composers eager to share their works with the world at no cost. The project operates on the belief that music should be within reach for everyone and aims to support music education by providing a comprehensive collection of musical compositions.

At the heart of IMSLP lies its extensive library, housing over 170,000 scores from around 25,000 composers. Offering a range of materials, including orchestral pieces, choral works, and solo performances, IMSLP provides unparalleled access to diverse musical scores. Users can explore this collection by filtering their searches based on composer names, time periods, genres, or nationalities, among other criteria.

In addition to sheet music collections, IMSLP has diversified its content to include recordings. This feature allows users to listen to performances of pieces while navigating through the scores. This functionality enhances the learning process, especially for students and teachers who can hear a work while analyzing its format and content.

Visit IMSLP

FreePD.com

FreePD.com website screenshot.
FreePD.com

FreePD.com is a valuable resource for creators worldwide that offers a wide range of royalty-free music. Whether you’re a filmmaker, podcaster, or developer, FreePD.com has something for you.

The website was created to provide high-quality music without the hassle of licensing fees and copyright restrictions. It features a diverse selection of music, from classical to modern electronic, and caters to various tastes and needs.

FreePD.com stands out for its genuinely free offerings. Unlike many other sites, no strings are attached, and no mandatory attribution or usage restrictions exist. You can freely use the music for commercial or non-commercial purposes without any charges or conditions.

The website’s library is not only free, but also extensive and diverse. Music is categorized into genres such as Cinematic, Electronic, and Classical, making it easy to find the right style. The site also regularly updates its library with fresh music, ensuring new material is always available for ongoing projects.

Visit FreePD.com

ChoralWiki

ChoralWiki website screenshot.
ChoralWiki

ChoralWiki, from the Choral Public Domain Library, is a treasure trove for music enthusiasts. It offers a selection of vocal scores for free. Since its establishment in 1998 and transition to a hub in 2005, ChoralWiki has become a resource for musicians, teachers, and fans worldwide. It fosters a community centered around sharing and appreciating music.

What sets ChoralWiki apart is its collection of organized choral music. The website categorizes pieces by composers, historical periods, languages, and vocal arrangements, making it easier for users to discover music that suits their preferences. Whether you’re interested in Renaissance polyphony or modern compositions, ChoralWiki offers free options.

Central to ChoralWikis offerings is its library of scores in formats like PDF and MIDI files. This diverse range ensures that performers and composers can access the resources for mastering pieces or preparing for performances.

Visit ChoralWiki

Musopen

Musopen website screenshot.
Musopen

Musopen is a platform that offers access to a wide range of classical music recordings, sheet music, and educational materials. The platform ensures that classical music is available to everyone regardless of their situation or where they live. By providing access to top-notch recordings and musical scores, Musopen aims to connect musicians with the general public, fostering an inclusive community where a passion for classical music can thrive.

Musopen’s collection features music spanning various centuries, including works by renowned composers like Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and others. What sets the platform apart is not the depth of its collection, but the quality of the resources it offers. Through high-quality recordings performed by acclaimed musicians and orchestras, Musopen vividly brings the world of music to life for contemporary listeners.

Visit Musopen

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