Don’t get me wrong. Incompetech is a great site. A really great site. Honestly, I think Kevin MacLeod is a great fellow for writing so much high-quality music…and then sharing it with the creative community. For absolutely nothing.
People don’t get enough props for sharing free creative stuff for nothing.
The problem with being such a great fellow with such great creative content with such a great big site and a great community following is that the music gets used.
After you play through some RPG Maker games (and a few visual novels, if you’re into that kind of thing) you start hearing the same music over and over again. When this happens, it’s usually because either a) someone ripped a Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger soundtrack to use in their game or b) they used music from Incompetech.
It isn’t that it gets old, per se. It’s just that I’ve already associated that music with other stuff in my head and it kinda breaks immersion for me. And yet, it isn’t in everyone’s budget to just run out and hire a musician. (I’m just lucky enough to have a good friend who writes music for me. I understand that this is a rare and fortunate thing for me.)
And then there’s the option of ripping music from well-known games. Aside from people already having it associated with classic games in their heads as well, there’s a very real issue of copyrights.
You guys are my friends. Friends don’t let friends break copyright laws.
So let’s get some great, lesser-known Creative Commons music instead. (Just remember to pay attention to the terms.)
Free Game Music Sites
A promising repository (depending on the genre of your project), the Free Music Archive offers over a thousand pages of songs in the Instrumental category alone. The songs I checked had CC licenses, although according to their disclaimer, some songs are under other licenses, so check carefully. Also, they apparently have a large section of birthday songs…if you need that.
A nice collection of clean, uncomplicated songs that lend themselves well to backgrounds. Bensound’s CC license allows use in video games and software, with credits.
SoundCloud is home to a number of songs that list themselves under Creative Commons licensing. I’ve linked directly to instrumental, but I’m sure you can narrow down a bit further with more specific queries.
One of the great features about Audionautix is its ability to sort by mood and tempo. Just include a link to Audionautix or a credit within your game and you’re good to go.
An uncomplicated site with “How to Use” in three simple images. Click, download, boom. Popular but I don’t see ccMixter music cited in a lot of RPG Maker games, so it might be worth taking a look around.
Home to over a thousand CC 4.0 songs, with more new music added weekly. Point of interest: they have a section of 8-bit tunes!
A wide variety of music styles the artist graciously allows you to use right away, with only a credit requested, and possibly a link to your finished product when you’re done.
If you’re looking for something more moody and atmospheric, this might be the site for you. The songs I listened to weren’t very upbeat or optimistic, so this might be a good choice for dystopian, horror or other stories of that type.
A wide assortment of all kinds of things, but check the licenses closely. Downside: you can’t preview the music from the search page like most of the other sites listed here. Still worth checking out.
Some lovely cinematic pieces here, and they’re licensed under CC4.0. If you need a high-budget movie sound, you might find what you’re looking for here.
With all the free music sites out there, there’s no reason to ever use ripped music for original projects! Stick with CC licenses and don’t risk takedown notices. What are your favorite free game music sites? Let us know in the comments!