Choosing Music for Your Video

Chris and Dan share how they select background music for videos, and how song structure affects the flow of your video.

January 2, 2019

Chris Lavigne

Creative

Dan Mills

Creative

In your video, background music plays a rather underrated role. This small consideration is a powerful way to establish pacing, drive your video forward, and create emotion around your message. In fact, background music has helped us strengthen our brand and maintain a consistent level of quality across all of our video content at Wistia. However, choosing the right track for your video can get pretty tricky. Luckily, you don’t need to be a professional musician to have an ear for what works. Here are some tips that can help you pick the perfect song for your video project.

Help evoke a specific emotion

How do you want your audience to feel when they watch your video? Should they be excited about your new product launch? Warm and fuzzy from your customer testimonial? On the verge of laughing from your candid in-office culture clip? All of these feelings have styles of music that will help evoke a specific emotion. As Wes Hughes, an award-winning composer and saxophonist said in this post, “ … Music helps guide the audience towards what is important to the story and helps invite them into an experience where they can feel empathy and an emotional connection…”

If you don’t know where to look for solid tunes to set the mood, we know of a few places where you can start. Music licensing libraries like Marmoset and Tunefruit have emotionally based meta-tags on their tracks like “empowering,” “playful” and “peaceful.” This feature is super helpful for finding a background track that elevates the emotional message of your video.

Here’s a pro tip for you: A great way to shop for songs is to split your screen up and try some out! In one window, play your video without music. In another, test out some songs. You’ll find a match made in heaven in no time.

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Song form vs. video form

While you might pick a pop song that is stylistically and emotionally the right fit for your video, the transitions probably won’t jive with your video’s narrative structure. Most pop songs you hear on the radio have a pretty standard structure consisting of 4–5 parts (verse, pre-chorus, chorus, another verse, another chorus, bridge, and a massive double chorus to bring it home!).

We recommend looping (repeating) sections of the song to better fit the flow of your video. When it comes to background music, you can repeat things more than you think. Don’t be afraid to loop the verse, cut the bridge, cut the last chorus, etc.

Keep in mind that using music from popular artists and even up-and-coming artists may require more than just the click of a download button. Lots of times, the artist wants approval that you’re using their song and how you’re using it. They may give you more reasonable rates for use or simply asking to be included in the credits.

The caveat here is if they’re on any sort of label, they either need to contact their label or you need to do so in order to use the recording. To research this information, you can use sites set up for publishing royalties like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, or in some cases, use sites like Amazon to see what label is putting the music out and find the rights and permission contact that way. Needless to say, to ensure you’re following copyright law, it’s important to cover all of your bases. We help you cure the headache of music licensing in this post here.

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Avoid corny digital instruments

If you’re looking for an organic-sounding song with acoustic instruments like acoustic guitar, piano, or indie rock drums, make sure you find a track that has the real thing. Although some high end samples sound amazing, digital versions of acoustic instruments often make a recording (and ultimately your video) feel corny and dated.

Let’s say you’re looking for a song that kind of sounds like Mumford and Sons… put on your headphones and listen to some Mumford and Sons! Open up “Little Lion Boy” in one window, and your music site in another, then compare and contrast the sonic qualities between the recordings. It won’t take long before you can tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the corny.

For any serious musicians out there doing video marketing, we can also speak to the creative process behind our free background music. Curious to know about the gear that helps us create our custom music? This post has all the software, hardware, and instrument pointers you’re searching for. From groovy to rootsy and melodic to mellow, we’ve even released some free music you can find in Wistia’s Music Collection for you to create emotion around your video’s message.

Keep background music in the background

In a lot of cases, the most successful background music is the music that you didn’t even know was there. If someone’s talking on screen, don’t let the music get in the way! Watch out for songs that have sonic elements that compete with the human voice. Vocals and group whoa-ing definitely fall into this category, but poppy piano melodies and even whistling are also elements that will compete with the human voice.

Volume is another factor not to be overlooked. If the volume is too high, the music will overpower the spoken narrative of your video. This… is no good. If background music is too low, it can paradoxically draw attention to itself by making the viewer strain to hear it. The goal of background music is to invisibly assist your video, not create a distraction.

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Mixing the music volume in your video takes practice, and there’s no exact formula for what level the music should be relative to the voice. It’s all about training your ears to feel when the music is sitting just right in the mix. We cover everything about getting the volume perfect for video background music in this post.

Jazz up your videos

If you want to drive the pace of your video, direct the mindset and emotions of your audience, and even hide audio blips and tough edits, knowing how to choose music for your video will come in handy. Music is a key part of how a video is perceived. So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to enhance the power of your video and create stronger connections with your audience.

Download the free tracks

This is going to be a lot easier if you have some songs to play with, so as we previously mentioned, Wistia has made a bunch of music tracks available for you to use for free! Each of the songs has very different emotional and sonic qualities. Maybe one of them will work perfectly in your next video, or maybe none of them will. You decide!

January 2, 2019

Chris Lavigne

Creative

Dan Mills

Creative

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