Picking and syncing music for sports videos, sports films & sports documentaries is an incredibly important and artful task.
Often there is none or very little dialogue and the music combined with the images alone must keep the viewer engaged for over an hour. This is not easy!
To produce a great sports video, film or documentary you need a careful and considered approach to the soundtrack. After all, it often is 50% of the content.
Sports and music are my two favourite things in life. If I am not talking about one I am usually talking about the other so this article is a long one.
Here are some links if you want to jump to the information you need:.
Where can I download music for sports video?
When looking for music for sports videos, be it free or paid for, the best place to start is online royalty free music libraries.
These music libraries typically act as a one-stop-shop for music for sports videos where you can pay one upfront licence fee, or in the case of most free music libraries, just give a shout-out to the composer in the form of a music credit.
If you google “Royalty Free Music” you will find lists and lists of websites that have great music which is a great source of music for sports.
From my own personal experience and research, I have found that what filmmakers want from their music libraries varies so much, one size does not fit all.
Below I have given a general list of some of the most popular libraries with different cost options.
Some of these libraries are free and some are “pay as you go” and some are subscription-based, but all equally have something to offer.
It is also worth pointing out that free music is as high quality as paid for music. I run a free music library and have had my music used by some of the biggest events and brands in the sporting world from the Winter Olympics to NBC Sports to the NFL.
Cost Per Track
|Louise Byrne Music||FREE – just add music credit to the composer||Royalty Free Music||.MP3 & .WAV||Professional & Personal Use|
|The Music Case||$29.00 or $99.0 PER TRACK||Royalty Free But Depends on Usage||.WAV||Be sure to check the licence page to ensure your usage is covered|
|DL Sounds||SUBSCRIPTION $36 FOR 3 MONTHS||Royalty Free Music||.MP3 & .WAV||Be sure to check the licence page to ensure your usage is covered|
|Bensounds||Free MP3 with attribution|
Starting at $34 per track
|Royalty Free Music||MP3 & .WAV||Be sure to check out the license page|
|TunePocket||$39 for 5 Tracks||Royalty Free Music||.WAV||Be sure to check out the license page|
*Sometimes I use affiliate links to increase the revenue of this site if they are available. You can go direct to the above libraries, but I would appreciate it if you used the link in the table as then I might earn a referral commission which will help run this free site.
What is the best music for sports videos and documentaries?
For many when they think of music in sports they think “high-octane banging rock music” but music in sports is as diverse as the sports themselves.
The best music for sport videos is the music that conveys the emotions you want the watcher to feel if they were there doing the activity.
For example, if it is a relaxed clean wave a surfer is riding, perhaps using calming acoustic music or chilled electronic chillout music would be the best.
If your sports video is of a downhill mountain biker, racing down a slope at breakneck speeds, perhaps high-octane rock music is the way to go.
The best music in sports video is music that connects with your athletes performance and conveys the particular sporting experience to your audience.
What music license do I need for music in sports video?
When using any music for videos, you will need to ensure you have the right copyright permissions to do so.
The safest and best option is to choose “royalty free music”.
Royalty free music typically has one, upfront fee (or it can be free which is even better), and everything you need is covered within that one licence without any further costs.
When licensing music for videos, there are two copyrights in every piece of music:
1 – Composer Copyright – i.e. whoever wrote the song
2 – Sound Recording Copyright – i.e. whoever recorded the song.
Sometimes both copyrights are owned by the same person, but sometimes they are not. For example, an artist maybe signed to a record label who owns the sound recording copyright.
Music copyright law is a pain as there can be many people involved in the copyright of a song, not just one person.
Secondly, most music is registered with a performance rights organisation (PRO) like the PRS in the UK. Whenever a piece of registered music is performed in public, the artist will receive a royalty.
If you use a PRO registered piece of music in a sports video which you then play publicly in your local sports hall, technically you are liable to pay public performance fees for the music. This is in addition to any copyright clearances.
So, you can see how licensing music can become very complex very quickly and most people are exhausted by it.
This is what makes royalty free music libraries so appealing and popular. All these fees and copyright types are included in the licence so it is really a “one-stop-shop” for music.
Therefore, when choosing music for your sports video, choose a reputable royalty free music library and double check the music license terms to ensure you are covered. A reputable music library will answer your questions and not bury important information so don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions about the music license you are downloading.
When choosing music for sports video, it is important to have a clear idea what you will be doing with the finished production. For example, will it be going on YouTube only or will you be printing the finished video to DVD and physically distributing?
If you do the latter and will be creating physical DVDs, check that your music license covers this.
About a decade ago, music suppliers used to put restrictions on this and charge you a fee depending on how many physical copies you made of your sports video on DVD.
This is mostly obsolete now as the DVD industry has dwindled, but if you plan to go the DVD reproduction route, check that your music licence covers music in DVD production as this could be one of those hidden licence terms that gets overlooked.
How can I license an indie artist’s music for my sports film?
The music soundtrack is fundamental to an original sports movie and as a filmmaker you will want authentic and awesome music.
Perhaps there is an indie artist you love and want to promote their music in your film, or perhaps you are looking for something a little bit off the beaten path and outside of royalty free music libraries.
In this case, soundcloud is a good place to start your search.
Soundcloud is an online audio streaming platform where independent artists can post their music links so they can let the world hear their music.
Soundcloud is just a hosting and streaming platform like Spotify, therefore all the music copyright on there will be independently owned by each artist.
It is a great place to find some incredible independent music and artists, however finding music you love is the easy bit – the next step is to work out how to license the music.
The first point of call is to contact the musical artist directly to ask permission.
If the musical artist manages all their own copyright (i.e. they do not have a publishing deal with another company or record label), they can negotiate directly with you.
It is always tricky to negotiate music licensing with an independent artist and personally from my decade of working in the music industry and writing music for sports videos I recommend you stick to known production and royalty free music libraries with standard and simple music licensing contracts and terms, however, if you still choose to go the DIY route, here is a summary of some of the basic things you need to check and ask.
This list is not exhaustive list or legal advice, but it will make sure you are on the right track:
You need to check if:
#1 You have permission from the following parties to use the song:
- The Songwriter / Composer ( Often called the Sync Rights)
- The Sound Recording Copyright ( i.e. whoever owns the sound recording copyright of a particular recorded version – his is called The Master Rights)
There are two copyrights in a piece of music – the composer copyright (so whoever wrote the song) and the sound recording rights (whoever recorded the song, or more specifically – whoever paid to record the song!)
So if an artist wrote a song, but at one point in their career they were signed to a record label who covered the costs to the recording studio to record the music, the composer would own the composer copyright as the creator, but most likely, the record label would own the rights to that particular sound recorded version of the song.
Often with independent artists, they own everything as they are not affiliated with a record label, but from your viewpoint as a filmmaker licensing music ensure you have the full rights to both the
- Sync rights (composer copyright)
- Master Rights (the copyright on the particular recorded version)
#2 Ensure you get the above permission from the musical artist in writing
When trying to use music from an independent artist who does not have any legal framework or documents in place, ensure you get clear written permission from them to ensure you can prove that you cleared the music usage.
This is not a fail-safe if things go wrong, but it shows that there is an agreement between you both to sort out any issues if they do arise in the future.
#3 Get it in writing that the independent artist has the full right to grant you a licence
You really need, in writing, assurance from the independent artist that they have the full right to grant you a license.
Many people can be involved in the copyright of a piece of music. If someone says “yeah it is Ok to use”, you need to trust their word and ensure that they have the full authority to do this.
#4 Have you informed the artist exactly how I plan to use the music?
Ensure you let your indie music artist know exactly how you plan to use their music so they are comfortable with it.
Again, do this via email or in writing so there is a paper trail.
All individuals have different beliefs and morals. If you are making a video that goes against the morals of the musical artist they could withdraw their consent, so let them know exactly how you will be using their music.
If nothing else, it is just basic respect.
#5 Confirm financial reimbursement with your musical artist on day one
Money causes most problems so ensure you get any financial reimbursement decided with your artist on day one
In addition, get this in writing so you both know where you stand. You might pay them a one off fee or they might be happy to let you use the music for free in return for promotion.
#6 If you are getting music for free, have you told your indie artist that you intend to monetise your sports video?
If you are a business or plan to monetise your sports movie be sure to let your musical artist know this, especially if they are giving you their music to use for free.
Most problems occur after filmmakers use music with permission for free, but then their content goes viral and they have made a lot of money!
Problems arise once money is being made, so outline your monetisation intend from day one and be sure you are all on the same page.
What audio file format should I download and use – MP3 or .Wav?
The quality of your music is essential to the success of your sports videos.
Always use top quality, uncompressed audio file formats such as .WAV files. They are the best quality and you will be giving your audio broadcast quality the best chance of success.
.WAV files are large in file size, however, so this is the downside of working with .WAV however, when it comes to video editing your software suite should be more than capable of handling this audio format.
If you must use .MP3 or a similar compressed audio file format, ensure it is a high quality audio file.
Ensure your MP3 bitrate has a sample rate of 320kbps and no lower if you are going the MP3 route.
How do you pick music for your sports video and keep the soundtrack engaging?
If your sports movie is mostly video footage and music with only a little dialogue, it is really important to carefully consider your music soundtrack and focus on keeping your soundtrack engaging.
If you are a sports fanatic like me and watch hours of sports videos from extreme sports movies to general sports montages, you will see that most sports productions have certain features in common in how they use and sync music in their videos.
Here are some basic fundamentals to follow if you need some guidance on how to pick and sync music in your sports video and keep the soundtrack engaging.
#1 Match the style of the music to the performance style of your athlete
When choosing music for any film or story, music editors will choose music that suits the performance of their on-screen actor / character and the feelings and emotions that character is portraying.
For example, a creepy villain will have creepy music.
This technique is also used when using music for sports.
In sport videos, your athlete is your performer. Whatever their sport, from an extreme sport such as surfing to a team sport such as American Football, they will have an athletic performance style.
So, if your sports video features a surfer on a wave with a smooth and relaxed style, consider relaxed and chilled music. Alternatively, your sports video could be of a fast downhill mountain biker with an aggressive riding style, therefore, use more aggressive and adrenaline filled music such as rock or metal.
Here is an example of how music is used to great effect in a sports video and the musical style matches the performance style of an athlete – “Breaking Through – A Journey Through the British Isles”.
This is a full British surf film by Jimmy Witson Productions & A.P.E House Media. Written, Produced & Edited By Ashton Wadey
In this shot we see a surfer carving a wave with a distinctive style, featuring a distinctive and relaxed soundtrack. Great movie!
#2 Edit the visual shots to the music
A lot of sports video producers do this instinctively and it is an amazing talent to naturally have.
Basically, synchronise the visal shots to the dynamics of the music. For example, if you have a beat drop in the music, synchronise this to a dynamic move or dynamic shot in your footage.
This may sound very simple and obvious to some, but this can be really hard to do when you are up to your eyeballs in footage and have heard your soundtrack so many times, you can no longer appreciate the changes in the music.
Sports video makers will typically spend hours and hours of filming footage to get a few minutes of good footage and it takes some skill to get this marriage of music and sports action working well together.
If you get this right however, it will pay off. Syncing musical tempo, beat changes and musical dynamics to your athletes performance can create a fluidity and motion in your footage that transports your audience. Suddenly, your sports video will become immersive for your audience and they will be able to visualise themselves surfing that wave or taking that dirt jump.
In the mountain bike sports video, “Shifted” , created by Matt Butterworth and Eric Marciniak of Virtu Media we see a mountain biker in sync with the beat drops of the music. It is beautifully done.
This is a great example of where music dynamics and sports footage come together beautifully.
#3 Keep musical genres coherent if in doubt
Syncing music to video is a real art. It is particularly difficult in sports videos as there is such a wide variety of music you can use, it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes.
It can be useful to consider your musical genres when producing a sports video, for example, Rock, POP, Dance, Chill-Out. Folk, etc.
Are you going to stick with one genre or mix them up?
It is an important question to ask as firstly, if you stick with one genre your audience will know what to expect for the full movie, which may be a good thing or will they get listening fatigue?
Secondly, if you change musical genres, will you be able to do it in a way that does not jar and maintains consistency and fluidity in your video?
I was watching a surfing video recently that had a problem with mixing musical genres. It opened with a soft and chilled soundtrack, synced beautifully to a relaxed surfer on a glassy wave. It was calm and relaxing.
However, the next shot was of a surfer on a more aggressive wave but synced to heavy rock music with a weird synthesizer running through the tune.
For me personally, the shift in mood and dynamics was too much. I was relaxed but suddenly my adrenaline was called into action.
The shift in audio dynamics was too great so I turned off.
This could have been avoided by a careful consideration of musical genres and how they sit, side-by-side in your sports video.
Instead of jumping from “loud to soft” or “relaxed to frantic”, perhaps consider how you could do this gradually.
In this example, the producers could have held back on the aggressive music and footage to later in the movie. Perhaps gradually turning up the adrenaline level from relaxed to frantic with some intermediate scenes would be a better approach and option for your audience.
Whatever your approach, it is worth considering your musical genres in your sports video and how you will blend your soundtrack together to tell your story.
An amazing example of a production that uses a diverse a soundtrack that gels and works brilliantly is the film by Dave Brown, “Welsh Connections” – Bamboo Chicken Productions.L –
#4 The Art of Storytelling
Sports videos typically fall into one of two category,
1 – sports documentary
2 – action sports film
An example of an action sports film is one where there are continuous shots of pro-athletes just doing their thing. There might be some dialogue but it is limited as it is more about watching and enjoying the sport.
Personally I love both but from my experience, each type needs a different approach when considering the musical soundtrack.
If you are telling a story in your sports video, be it through action or dialogue, it is a good idea to carefully consider how your music helps the storytelling process.
If there are highs and lows, tension and suspension or sad and emotional sections, have you checked that the music is contributing to these feelings to help tell your story?
It might seem very obvious but if you are an indie filmmaker, you may be doing everything from filming to editing to sound syncing, so it can be very easy to overlook some areas.
If in doubt, keep it simple and match the mood of the music to the mood of the scene. For example, a sad scene requires sad music.
#5 Consider Your Audio Dynamic Range
The dynamic range of a soundtrack is the difference between the loudest and quietest parts of a soundtrack.
Have you ever watched a movie and suddenly had to dive for the remote control as it suddenly got very loud or very quiet?
You will find that some sound designers will turn up the audio for actions scenes to make it more intense and impact for the audience.
This can work brilliantly when done well, but if you get this wrong your audience will not be very happy. The loud bits will be too loud and the quiet bits too quiet.
The objective is to have a good balance between loud and quiet in your sports video. This is a skill that can take years to master, but if you are just starting off, ensure you you a level meter or keep an eye on your audio levels so that the overall dynamic range of your sports video is balanced.
In general, nothing is too loud or too quiet.
An example of a sports video with beautiful dynamic range is “unReal” featuring Brandon Semenuk.
We see Brandon Semenuk arrive at the top of his mountain biking trail. There is nothing but silence or ambient noises.
The second Brandon starts his trail, the music begins. The music is not suddenly loud and dynamic, it is calm and progressive. A beautiful progression from the quiet to musical score.
It is an amazing piece, check it out below.
Where can I DOWNLOAD FREE MUSIC for sports?
I write and produce a lot of music for sports videos as I am a huge sports fan. From mountain biking, swimming, climbing and any water-sport under the sun, I am hooked.
Here are some of my most popular music for sports videos that you can license for free. You just need to credit the music to me, for example:
Music by: “https://louisebyrnemusic.com/”
Popular Music for Surf Videos
Popular Music for Track & Field Sports
Popular Music for Extreme Sports Videos
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as a guide only for educational and informational purposes. It is not legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.