Choosing the best music for your drone videos without getting into trouble

If you’ve tried making a video with a drone, then you’ve surely encountered the issue of finding the right music to use.  Videos made with a drone almost always need background music due to the noise produced by propellers, and the music you choose can make or break a video.  It’s very important that you find the right (and legal) music to use when making videos.

​First and foremost, when selecting music to be used, know exactly what is legal to use for the situation you’re using it in.  Here, I’ll focus on the two most common uses:

  • Education and recreation
  • commercial, for profit videos.

When making a video either for fun or for an educational purpose, you will have plenty of options when selecting music.  Under YouTube’s fair use policy, most videos used for purely nonprofit purposes are able to use any music, copyrighted or not copyrighted, provided that they give credit to the song’s artist in the description of the video.  This policy also states that “Borrowing small bits of material from an original work is more likely to be considered fair use than borrowing large portions.”  A good example of following YouTube’s fair use policy can be found here, where I used about half of a copyrighted song to cover the length of my video, and gave credit to the artist in the video’s description.

This obviously will only work when uploading videos to YouTube, but I highly recommend you do so if you would like to use copyrighted material in your videos.

Using videos and copyrighted material for profit is a different story.  Without being granted explicit permission from a song’s artist, it is illegal to use a copyrighted song for monetary or other personal gain.  There are, however, two types of music that ARE legal for you to use:  Royalty free and Public Domain music.

Public domain music is likely the safest bet for you to use, although often not ideal due to its nature.  This music consists of any piece made prior to 1922.  A list can be found here at the Public Domain Information Project.

Royalty free music is only slightly different.  This music can be from any year, and is simply made by an artist who wishes to allow their works to be used freely without their explicit prior consent.  A very good custom – searchable list of royalty free music is maintained by Kevin MacLeod at Incompetech.com. This will never be a full list, as new songs are being made every day, but it is something I have been able to use to great effect.

Now that the different legal uses of music have been covered, there only remains to actually choose a song for the background of a video.  This is possibly the most important part of video editing because, as mentioned before, using the right or wrong song can make or break a video.  Using a song inappropriate for the situation results in the video being disagreeable to watch, so it is important you choose the right song.  The video embedded above is a slow drift across to showcase the progress being made on a renovation.  As such, selecting a fast paced or energetic piece would have been inappropriate, and I adjusted the song accordingly.  The fact that I filmed this in full sunlight also steered the final song toward a happy, but ambient piece.

When it comes down to it, selecting the final track is mostly common sense.  Know the theme, location and pace of your video and you should have no problem selecting an appropriate song for it.

There are plenty of resources to use if you would like to know more about fair use of music on the internet:

Editor’s Note: Drone Film School would like to welcome Arthur Tisseront as our newest faculty member.  Welcome to the team Arthur!

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