Picking and syncing music for sports videos, sports films & sports documentaries is an incredibly important and artful task.
Often there is no or very little dialogue and the music, combined with the images, 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.
In this article, I will cover the following:
- Where can I download music for sports videos?
- What is the best background music for a sports video?
- How do you pick the right music for a sports video?
- What music license do I need for music for a sports video?
- How can I license an indie artist’s music for my sports film?
- How to use music in a sports video.
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 with most free music libraries, just give a shout-out to the composer as a music credit.
If you google “Royalty Free Music” you will find lists and lists of websites that have great music which is a brilliant 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 that 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. Coya Music is a free music library and has had its music used by some of the biggest events and brands in the sporting world, from the Winter Olympics to NBC Sports to the NFL.
|Music Library||Cost Per Track||License Type||Other Comments|
|Coya Music||FREE – just add music credit to the composer||Royalty-Free Music||Professional & Personal Use|
|The Music Case||$29.00 or $99.0 PER TRACK||Royalty-Free But Depends on Usage||Be sure to check the licence page to ensure your usage is covered|
|DL Sounds||SUBSCRIPTION $36 FOR 3 MONTHS||Royalty-Free Music||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||Be sure to check out the license page|
|TunePocket||$39 for 5 Tracks||Royalty-Free Music||Be sure to check out the license page|
What Is The Best Background Music For A Sports Video?
The best sports music or background music for a sports video will emphasise the energy of the sport or the emotions of the athlete.
For example, extreme sports that involve speed and danger often work well with rock music as they have high octane energy and the booming guitars and drums elevate the excitement of the sport.
Similarly, endurance sports such as triathlons or marathons will use mid-tempo motivational music that emphasises the athlete’s ability to “keep going”.
What genre of music you use in your sports video production is up to you, but from experience, I always try to match the mood of the music to the emotions of the athlete or the sport.
How Do You Pick The Right Music For A Sports Video?
The variety of sports music on the market is as varied as the sports itself, therefore it’s difficult to decide on the best background music for your sports video.
The type of sport and the type of sports video you are producing will affect your choice of background music.
It is worth working out, therefore, which of the following sports video types your content might fall under:
- Sports Highlight Videos / Sports Montage Videos
- Sports News Videos
- Sports Hype Videos
- Sports Documentary Video
1. Sports Montage Video
A sports montage video is a series of video highlights, telling the story of an event or simply showing the highlights of a sport.
Sport montage videos can range from exciting shots of achievement to heart-breaking shots of defeat. Sometimes they can capture an athlete’s journey to success or defeat in a few minutes of footage.
Whatever story your sports montage or sports highlight video is telling, it should take your viewer on an emotional journey.
Therefore, the music used in sports montage videos is essential to evoke powerful feelings in your viewing audience.
With every season brings a new tent pole sports event, be it tennis or NBA, and we sports fans can expect to see a constant stream of new and exciting sports montage videos.
Here is some free recommended sports background music that would make a good sports montage or sports highlight video soundtrack:
2. Sport Hype Videos
Sport hype videos are very popular and very important to the promotion of a sport.
A sports hype video is typically a short introduction-style video that is full of energy and shows amazing and exciting clips of the sport.
The NFL has some of the best sports hype videos out there, with dramatic clips of touchdowns, smashing helmets, powerful motivation music, and glory!
Sport hype videos are all about energy and excitement. After watching a short sports hype video, you should be all fired up to watch the full sporting event.
Here are some recommended free sports hype video music examples:
3. Sport News Videos
If you are discussing sports analytics, sports stats, or simply reporting on the sports news, an air of authority and seriousness to your videos is essential to get your message across.
This can be done by using music idents (a short melody or audio logo), sound effects, or upbeat serious music that has an air of professionalism.
Almost every sports channel uses a musical ident to signal to its audience that announcements and news are on the way.
You will want the music to be positive and attention-grabbing, but not so serious that you are putting a damper on people’s mood – remember, sport is fun!
4. Sports Documentary Video
A huge division of sports broadcast is the sports documentary video. I love a good sports documentary!
Just like all documentaries, the music soundtrack can make or break a sports documentary.
The music you chose for your sports documentary will vary depending on your message, music tastes, and sport.
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 correct 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 they cover everything you need within that one licence with no further costs.
When licensing music for videos, there are two copyrights in every piece of music:
- Composer Copyright – i.e. whoever wrote the song.
- 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 may be signed to a record label that 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.
Also, 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 that 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 it exhausts most people.
This is what makes royalty-free music libraries so appealing and popular. They include all these fees and copyright types 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 questions about the music license you are downloading.
What Music Licence Do I Need For DVD Production?
When choosing music for a sports video, it is important to have a clear idea of what you will do with the finished product. For example, will it be going on YouTube only, or will you be printing the finished video to DVD and physically distributing it?
If you do the latter and will create 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 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, below, I summarise some of the basic things you need to check and ask.
This list is not an exhaustive list or legal advice, but it will make sure you are on the right track:
You need to check if:
1. Check You Have Permission From The Following Parties.
- 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 – this 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 that 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 ensures 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 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 have 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 arise in the future.
3. Get It In Writing That The Artist Has The Right To Grant 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 On How You 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 use their music.
If nothing else, it is just basic respect.
5. Confirm Financial Reimbursement 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 the promotion.
6. Have You Told The Musical 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 intention from day one and be sure you are all on the same page.
How To Use Music In A Sports Video
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 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.
We also use this technique when using music for sports.
In sports 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 relaxing 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 have naturally.
Basically, synchronise the visual 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 that you can no longer appreciate the changes in the music.
Sports video makers will typically spend hours and hours filming footage to get a few minutes of good footage and it takes some skill to get this marriage of music and sports action to work 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 fluidity and motion in your footage that transports your audience. Suddenly, your sports video will become immersive for your audience and they will 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 a 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 overwhelming sometimes.
It’s 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 because 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?
Also, if you change musical genres, will you be able to do it in a way that does not jar and maintain 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 synthesiser 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 it off.
Careful consideration of musical genres could have avoided this, 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 until 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 soundtrack that gels and works brilliantly, is the film by Dave Brown, “Welsh Connections” – Bamboo Chicken Productions.
4. The Art of Storytelling
The most common types of music sports videos are:
- Sports Documentary
- 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 do 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 the 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 action scenes to make them more intense and impactful for the audience.
This can work brilliantly when done well, but if you get this wrong, your audience will not be happy. The loud bits will be too loud and the quiet bits too quiet.
The aim 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 have a level meter or monitor 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 a 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 the musical score.
It is an amazing piece. Check it out below.
Producing sports videos and syncing music for sports videos is a very exciting and rewarding task.
It is important to ensure that you have permission to use your chosen music.
An exceptional amount of skill is required to tell a story through video and music alone, and this is a very important skill to learn if you are editing and producing sports videos.
If you are looking for free and safe to use royalty-free music for sports videos, check out our free music library.