If you’re like most people, you focus on visuals and gear when you think about making a video. How should you set up the scene? What kind of lighting will you need? Which cameras should you use?

These factors are critical for your video to be successful. However, there’s something else just as important but — perhaps because it’s invisible — often overlooked: music.

Studies show that adding music to videos can make them more memorable, attention-grabbing, and lucrative. With so many benefits, adding music to your videos should be a no brainer.

But that begs the question — what kind of music should you add? To help you answer that, here are five important questions to consider when searching for the right music.

1. Is the music copyright-cleared?

If you intend to share your video on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or really any other major platform, the song you use should be copyright-cleared. What does that mean?

Basically, a video with copyright-cleared background music won’t get flagged for copyright infringement. That’s important because if your video gets flagged, any of the following penalties could occur:

  • You won’t be able to monetize your video
  • Ads will be displayed on your video
  • Your video will be removed
  • Your account may be shut down, if you violate this rule repeatedly

So how do you avoid these unpleasantries? Simply make sure the music you’re using has been approved for use on sites like YouTube. There are a few ways you can do this.

If you already have a song in mind, you can search for it in YouTube’s music database to find out whether you can actually use it — and, if so, under what conditions. For example, you might be allowed to use a particular song only in videos you don’t monetize.

Another option is to start with a song you already know is safe based on the music license. A quick web search for “royalty-free music” will return many websites with libraries of copyright-cleared songs. By licensing music from one of these sites, you’ll prevent any potential copyright claim problems.

But if you don’t have the budget to purchase a license, you can also download music from YouTube’s library of free songs. If you’re planning to upload the video to Facebook or Instagram only, you may want to check out Facebook’s free music library as well.

2. Does the music fit the video?

Once you’ve found a copyright-cleared track you like, the next step is to determine whether it fits your project.

I’m not referring to length here (because customizing music for your video isn’t too difficult). Instead, I’m talking about musical fit: when the music supports continuity in your video.

Here are some examples of good musical fit:

  • Slide guitar- and harmonica-heavy songs in Westerns
  • Tense and unsettling tracks in Horror flicks
  • Fast-paced, electronic music in tech promo videos
  • Quirky, happy-go-lucky tunes in Romantic Comedies
  • Dramatic and suspenseful songs in action movie trailers

An example of poor musical fit, on the other hand, would be a using a disco song in a commercial for a funeral services business. Serious visuals combined with exciting music would send conflicting messages.

So, does the song you’re using relate in some way to what’s shown on screen? If not, you should reconsider your music choice. Because dissonance can create a jarring experience for your viewers.

Our brains like consistency. So if what we hear carries a different meaning or tone than what we simultaneously see, we may feel confused or negative emotions toward the video. A mismatch can damage brand perception, which is likely the opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve with your video.

Key takeaway? You want your video’s music to complement the footage — not distract from it.

3. Will your audience find the music relevant?

To truly resonate, your video — just like any other type of content — must be tailored to your target audience. In the same way that you might tweak your script or cast to cater to a specific group of people, you should select a song that the majority of your viewers will enjoy.

Many Apple commercials, for example, feature electronic and pop music tracks, likely so that younger consumers will identify more with the ads. The AARP, by comparison, often uses the kind of music that most Baby Boomers grew up listening to.

In short, your music choice should be a reflection of your intended audience.

4. Does the music feature singing?

There are pros and cons of using instrumental music versus music with vocals.

Music with vocals can make a video harder to follow as they distract from the main soundtrack. Let’s say you intend to use a song simply as a background track behind a voiceover. If you use a song with singing, the vocals in the song will compete with the voice, distracting the viewer.

Also, while instrumental music can convey emotion and meaning on its own, lyrics carry explicit meaning. This can complicate your message if the song’s lyrics aren’t relevant to the video.

5. Does the music support your goal?

“Music intensifies pictures and colors words. It enriches the key messages and stimulates the listener, and often adds a form of energy available through no other source. Music may well be the single most stimulating component of advertising.” – Sidney Hecker

Certain kinds of music can change your viewer’s mood and convey sentiments. Consider what mood you want to leave your listener with. How do you want to motivate action? What are you trying to achieve with your video?

The music you use in your video can and should help you reach it. Here are a few insightful study findings to keep in mind as you search for the right track:

As you can see, there are a number of proven ways to influence your audience with music.

How to Add Music to Your Video

If you don’t have a preferred video editing program, I recommend using Kapwing’s free, simple tool for combining video and soundtracks and adding music to video. Creators can merge your video and audio files (including sound effects) in just three simple steps.

**Screenshot of Kapwing’s Add Music to Video tool**

You can use Kapwing’s free tool to add background music, sound effects, or any other audio element.

Add music to video easily »

About the Author

Logan Nickleson is the founder of Music for Makers — a website that offers authentic, affordable royalty-free music for you to use in your videos.