At this year’s Oscar ceremony, one of the more moving moments had to be when Ennio Morricone, 87-year-old film composing veteran, was honoured with his first ever Oscar. He has composed the scores of countless movies, perhaps most famously that of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and he is recognised as one of the greatest film composers living. 


Hollywood recognises that a film is not complete without a really good score. The industry there trusts composers like Morricone to get it right. Why? Because music in film is both important and difficult to perfect. Think about the last major motion picture you saw. Would it have been as good without the score? Probably not. 


This is as true for smaller film projects—wedding videos, commercials, etc.—as it is of Hollywood films. And yet music is so often overlooked when it comes to smaller projects. So often we see a great short video ruined by a soundtrack that was clearly an afterthought. To get you thinking about music and small-scale video projects, here are five reasons music can make or break your video.

1. Music Can Set an Emotional Tone 

There is no doubt that music has a major effect on the way we perceive a scene from an emotional perspective. Take a look at the example below to see how. 

This is a scene from the movie 300 with different soundtracks overlaid. The first track is by Hans Zimmer, from the Inception soundtrack. Notice how it gives the movie a very dramatic feeling. There is a weight to the actions.


In contrast, the second song played is one by Nero, an EDM group from the UK. With this music, the scene becomes very different. The drama is gone, and what we’re left with is pure intensity. The final song takes it in yet a different direction, with chilling strings that make the scene seem tragic and the characters fragile. 


In a study in 2008, it was shown that music played before and after film clips had a major effect on how subjects perceived the emotions of characters in the clips. That’s how powerful music is. It doesn’t even need to be playing during the clip. Now think about your walk down the aisle, or your the video of your big moment in a sporting event. Music can allow you to help your viewers experience the emotion you want them to feel. It can allow them to get the full experience. 


2. Music Sells

Advertising thrives on music. Because many advertisements use many shots and cuts, music is extremely useful to maintain a sense of continuity. Take a look at the advertisement below for Coca Cola.


Coca Cola is famous for using uplifting songs to bring its commercials to life. Additionally, the song used in that ad is very catchy. That helps ensure that the song, and hopefully the product, stays in your head for a long time.Interestingly, a study was published in in 1989 that pointed out that music can affect a viewer’s mood and therefore their buying habits. The researchers linked the kind of music played to the amount a viewer was willing to spend. Think about that the next time you score your ad—you may just be influencing product sales with your song choices.


3. Music Helps You Stand Out

So few people who are creating YouTube shorts or wedding videos do music correctly. Most people simply don’t think of it when they’re creating their video, and throw it in as an afterthought. 


And that’s why there’s so much opportunity for you to separate yourself and your video by putting some real thought into the music. So, before you finish your project, check the following list. Does your video check out?


- Are you using music?

- Is the audio quality of the music good?

- Does the music match with the visuals?

- Is the volume of the music at the right level?

If you’ve answered yes to any one of those questions, you’re way ahead of the game. Good job!


4. Using the Wrong Music Can Get You in Trouble


Copyright law is no joke. If you think it’s fine to just stick the latest Nickelback song into your video, you are in for some difficulty. Ever since 2007 YouTube has been using special software to track down copyrighted music and silence it, quite literally. You may find the sound of your video completely cut off without warning. 


And then there’s the financial side of things. In 2011, a wedding videographer was sued over the use of copyrighted music in his video and reportedly was forced to pay a five-figure sum in court. The moral of the story is be very careful when using copyrighted music, and try to avoid it if at all possible.


5. Copyright Free Music is Easy to Come By


Thankfully for independent creators, there are plenty of sources for copyright free music on the internet. One great example is Bensound, where you can find royalty free music across many genres and categories. Another is Purple Plan. At NDF, we like to support independent artists, so we’ll often approach a smaller band and ask if we can use their song for our video. We credit them and they get exposure, while we get a nice song that gives our video what it needs.