by Jaclyn Y. Garver
NCMPR Communication Specialist
Fort Wayne, IN
Cling cling-cling cling cling cling … choo choo ts ts dun dun dun-dun … shaka kakaka
Jack Black onomatopoeia’ing his way through the score for Chariots of Fire in the film The Holiday is funny, yes. But the whole scene is an excellent ode to the importance and wonder of a movie’s score.
Music can make a film, or it can make it unwatchable schlock—and the same is true for the 30-second spots marketers produce for their community colleges. Background music can inspire hope or energy, wistfulness or determination, fear or anticipation. Choosing the right tune for the spot that’s meant to sell your institution is as vital as getting the message on-brand or spelling the name of the college right.
So where do you get your music? NCMPR asked community college marketers for their favorite websites to use.
But first, a disclaimer: When you need music, be sure you go about downloading that music in a way that is, well, legal.
Peter Griggs, director of marketing, communications, and public relations at Shasta College in California, puts it well: “Please encourage members not to steal. There’s no other word for it, and it pains me when I see professionals at educational institutions – where students are suspended or expelled for plagiarism – (steal music). Because Beyoncé won’t notice, right?”
Instead, try one of these sites:
This is Griggs’ go-to for music. It’s easy to search and relatively inexpensive, he says.
Jayzelle Mata, campus marketing and outreach assistant at North Orange County Regional Consortium for Adult Education in California, also touts the benefits of Envato, especially the available selection and options that come with a paid membership.
“You not only get the royalty-free music, but you also have access to different assets for many different projects,” she says. “There are a variety of genres to choose from, and the search filters make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for.”
Some downloaded audio tracks, too, include longer and shorter versions, and that versatility is helpful, Mata says.
Before switching to the paid Envato, Mata used the free Bensound. It was easy to search and categorized by genre, and it offered a good selection of music styles.
A subscription to Artlist is kind of like an all-you-can-eat deal, says Joel Wires, marketing coordinator at Southwestern Community College in Iowa. The yearly cost is about what it would cost for purchasing four music tracks on iStock, and it has a good variety of music.
Wires also recommends the musician Kevin MacLeod’s work on filmmusic, which can turn up some high-quality music if you’re willing to do some digging. Wires has used several tracks from the site, and he’s recognized the music in others’ work, too.
Thanks to the cost and track variations, Linnie Carter, vice president of college advancement at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, opts for SmartSound. The site offers royalty-free music and customization options.
Kellogg Community College in Michigan has used Audionautix for years in its video production, says Simon A. Thalmann, Kellogg’s digital marketing manager. The site is free to use, even for commercial purposes, so long as users credit Audionautix.
Thalmann also recommends Epidemic Sound, his favorite go-to source for music and effects.
“It’s been a serious game-changer for our video work,” he says. “The production quality is off-the-charts, and the variety is great.”
Users can categorize and select tracks by mood and download whole or partial mixes. Select just the instrumentals, for example, or only the bass lines or vocals.
“I’d say it’s probably my favorite purchase in terms of content support we’ve made in the past several years,” Thalmann says.
Bret Figura, graphic designer at Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois, is September’s guest on the Peer and Simple podcast, where he talks about the music spot he wrote for a college campaign last year. If you don’t happen to have a musician on staff – or if you’re unable to find someone locally to hire – he also shared his favorite sites to download royalty-free audio tracks:
- Pond 5’s royalty-free music
- Soundcloud (search for “royalty-free” or “creative commons”)
- Bandcamp (search for “royalty-free”)
- Internet Archive (search for “royalty-free”)
- YouTube (search for “royalty-free”)
- Adobe Stock
Don’t see your favorite spot to download audio here? Tell us what you use in the comments!
Jaclyn Y. Garver is the communication specialist at NCMPR and the former communications coordinator at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne, Indiana.