We live in a world where gray copyright laws cause rampant confusion, furious debate and even lawsuits between content creators in every field (but arguably more so in the music realm.)
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course; composers and performers alike have the right to be protected from unauthorized usage and copyright theft, especially when it impacts them financially while lining the pockets of others.
The Nicest Guy in Film Scoring (And Why You Should Know Him)
Sadly, a casualty of this are those filmmakers embarking on film making courses who do not have the funds to commission an original score and fall afoul of fair use laws while trying to cobble together music and sound effects for non-profit or ‘for the love’ projects. Worse, it has given rise to industry giants who have so much money that they can afford to swing the sledgehammer of copyright around entirely indiscriminately and without prejudice.
Leaving the politics to one side, it’s rare in this world to find someone willing to give so much without asking for nothing in return. One guy who is not only a versatile, talented and passionate composer but also an undeniable force for good in the community is Kevin MacLeod.
An Amateur Filmmaker’s Best Friend
Despite being prolific, MacLeod flies under the radar quite often and isn’t widely known to the public, but what he lacks in mainstream popularity is more than made up by the love he garners from a particular community: filmmakers who can’t afford music, and don’t want to rip off other people’s scores.
Whether you’re studying for an MFA in film and working on a budget or a content creator on YouTube (where his work has been met with considerable appreciation), you’re doing yourself a disservice not to check out his library of work.
Not only is his work of a professional grade, but allows anyone to use it. For free.
How free? Totally free. An excerpt from his FAQ:
To a film student looking for decent music, Kevin MacLeod is like an oasis in a desert filled with sites clogging up Google search results with offers of free music downloads that are usually watermarked, low bitrate or come with misleading royalty fees.
So What’s the Catch?
There isn’t one, which is doubly rare in this day and age. You may be wondering what the asterisk in the FAQ alludes to – simply, all he asks is for attribution.
Plenty of People Offer Free Music… Why Does That Make Him The “Nicest Guy in Film Scoring?”
MacLeod has only one mission in mind, and that is to provide music to those who have need them under a Creative Commons license (and, perhaps, to inspire others to do the same). Despite doing this for years and having thousands of people take advantage of these free music downloads, he has never tried to monetize his library; indeed, if he had he’d either be a very rich man, or just another starving artist. Instead, he makes his money through commission work and via donations (which he hardly pushes at all).
Further testament to his all-round ‘niceness’ goes further than offering something for free… he has even gone to great pains to pay back money he felt was given to him erroneously by a TV station who used his music…
… how’s that for nice?
So Why Isn’t He More Widely Celebrated?
Alongside being just plain… well, nice, he’s also very modest. In fact, he’d probably hate the fact that this celebratory post exists. It wasn’t easy trying to find his face online either (pictured below).
But one reason why his work hasn’t been naturally raised to the public or industry eye, despite thousands of YouTubers using his music, lies primarily in the variance of his library. With over a thousand free music downloads on his site – covering the gamut of genres, instrumentation and emotions – it’s not likely you’ll come across the same piece of music being used twice. This is in stark contrast to things like Carl Orff’s O Fortuna, or the majority of Holst’s Planet suit, which are the overused go-to for filmmakers in need of free music.
Even if you’ve never heard his name, chances are you’ve heard his music… just not very often.
Thank goodness there’s at least someone meeting the needs of small-to-no budget filmmakers and offering up quality, varied music at no cost.
And thank goodness he’s earning enough to continue doing so.
*As a point of distinction, Kevin’s music is not technically copyright-free – he legally owns the copyright of all his work as standard, but allows anyone to use it for any purpose as long as attribution is given. In addition, his music is neither covered nor represented by any Professional Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, RIAA, et al).
If you were looking for specifically copyright-free tracks, however, Kevin can also help you out there – check out freepd.com, which he also runs. Did we mention he’s a nice guy?