How To Find High-quality Music on a Low-end Budget

Finding music for an indie movie can be complicated and costly, or it can be simple and affordable. Since most filmmakers have a tight timeline and an even tighter budget, we know which one you need.

According to No Film School, new independent filmmakers often have a budget between $10,000 and $25,000. With this budget, you couldn’t afford a single song from an artist signed to a record label. Those licensing fees often start in the thousands and can approach six figures.

Fortunately, there are two other options for finding music for an indie movie: hiring a composer or using royalty-free music. Here, we’ll explain the advantages and the costs of each.

Finding Music for an Indie Movie: Hiring a Composer

Hiring a composer means he or she will create music specifically for your film. Sound thrilling? Sound terrifying? When you’ve poured your soul and your savings into your film, your feelings might swing either way.

There are plenty of ways to find a composer for your film. Music schools, Fiverr, ASCAP, and stock music libraries are a few places to look. The challenge isn’t finding a composer. It’s finding someone who can collaborate with you. A composer should understand your vision – and make it better. Check with your filmmaker friends about composers they’ve worked with successfully.

Cost of Hiring a Composer

The factors that affect the cost of hiring a composer aren’t rocket science. The more music you need, the more you’ll pay. Composers with more experience can command more. And songs used during the opening or closing credits will – almost always – cost more.

Clueless about what type of cost to expect? There’s a significant range, but costs could range from $100 per minute of music to  $2,500 per minute. It’s your responsibility to negotiate the fee with the composer. You’ll also need to negotiate who retains the publisher’s rights. Make sure these terms are spelled out in writing.

Advantages of Hiring a Composer for Your Indie Film

  • Some of the most iconic pieces of music were written specifically for film (Jaws, anyone?). A composer will tailor-make a song to suit your project.
  • Using one composer for multiple parts of the movie provides cohesion.
  • A composer is often the first outsider to see a cut of your film, and they can provide useful feedback. Be open to musical choices you hadn’t considered.
  • Filmmaking runs more smoothly with professionals you know and respect. It’s useful to add a composer to your network of professional contacts.

Finding Music for an Indie Movie: Using Royalty-free Music

Royalty-free music is – without question – the simplest way to source tunes for your indie film. The composers have already granted permission for their music to be used in films (though it’s still wise to check the fine print). And finding songs is as easy as entering search criteria into a stock music library.

Cost of Using Royalty-free Music

According to Filmmaker Magazine, you should allocate 5 to 10 percent of your budget to music. Let’s run some numbers. Let’s say your total budget is $20,000. This means your music budget could fall in the range of $1,000 to $2,000

Royalty-free music will ring in dramatically and undeniably more affordable (did we emphasize that enough?). In fact, a royalty-free song could cost less than $10. This can free up much-needed cash for other elements of your film.

Advantages of Using Royalty-free Music in Your Indie Film

  • Royalty-free music is professional and high-quality. Some of these composers have also created music for box office titles.
  • There’s lots of selection. Songs are available in a variety of moods, lengths, and instrumentation types. You can choose tracks with or without vocals.
  • The songs are recorded and ready to be added to your movie. You hear exactly what you’re going to get, which is important when your timeline is tight.
  • Royalty-free music is super affordable.
  • The music licensing is already complete. Instead of being bogged down with legal stuff, you can focus on the creative elements of your film.

Music Options for Every Filmmaker’s Budget

Finding music for an indie movie doesn’t mean you’ll need to compromise your vision. Today, great options exist for every budget. Whether you hire a composer or use royalty-free music, the music you use will be a powerful part of your storytelling. And as people who love great stories, we can’t wait to hear yours.