This is an excerpt from my book The Indian Indie Film (or Make Your Film for rest of the world). It was written from the experience of making my debut feature film on an iPhone for ₹5 lakhs ($7,000). Now available as an eBook on Amazon.
While we were making our debut feature film, Munnariv, we had hired a composer to do its music. As the dates got closer, without any warning or delivering any music, he quit on us. Being already late for a festival submission, we had no time to find another composer. We were left with no option but to make music without a composer. SoundCloud and Arlist were the first two we looked at.
Royalty Free Music
I have used royalty free music in my short films before. I’ve often relied on websites like SoundCloud to find music that are licensed under Creative Common (CC) licenses. These are tracks that you can use for free. Be sure to searching for CC licence to use commercially. Only these can be sold along with your film.
The downside is that the Royalty Free Music in SoundCloud, and other sites as well, are only average in quality. Just search and listen to some. You will hear what I mean. It is a lot to wade through. If you have the time and patience you can gems in them.
The next option is to use a more curated website. The people composing music are also humans and need to make a living. Hence the good ones tend to put their music on websites that pay them some form of fee. Also we did not have the time to surf though a lot of junk. Hence this was the route we chose to go with Munnariv. In particular the website artlist.io.
One of the most useful features of Artlist is their search filters. You can search by the mood you are looking for, its theme, genre or any instruments you particularly need. In addition to these, you can also filter it down further by searching for the exact duration that that music needs to be in your film.
Whenever you download a song, you can also download the license file along with it. You will need these when you sell your film. Even after your subscription ends, you still own the license to the music. Important points you need to be careful on.
Their licensing model is a one year subscription of $199 or approximately ₹14,500. It might seem a lot but I loved the collection of music, the easy search filters, and it was worth the time it saved me.
Moreover we are still using Artlist to download songs for the videos that we are making and for ads and promos that our partner firm is making. Not a bad deal. Use this referral link https://artlist.io/Ashik-491959 and get an additional 2 months.
A limitation of Artlist is that you cannot download more than 40 tracks in a day. The first time I was this, it was irritating. I was short on time and I needed as much music as possible. But soon I realised I was not even using all the 40 tracks I downloaded. Hence I started curating using their folders and downloading only the songs that I was sure I needed.
Another limitation, not only of music from Artlist but in using any precomposed music, is that the music might not always begin and end on cue of your film. You might have to work this out with your sound engineer. We cut and pasted pieces of the music, shortened or extended it, used it from the middle or faded out in between, used louder sounds to distract the audience from the transition and so on.
We even reedited some portions of the film to make it on cue with the music. This made the music feel as if it was composed for the film.
Alternatives to Artlist are websites like Premiumbeat, Epidemic Sound. I have not used any of these and hence cannot recommend. Please do your own research.
Around 80-90% of all music you hear in Munnariv is from Artlist. The remaining was created using a software called Filmstro, which we’ll look at tomorrow.