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  • Writer's pictureTom David Frey

Your Aerials Need the Right Music!

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

For good aerial cinematography, in addition to your skills, you, first of all, need a good drone. But you also need ND filters. And of course an editing software. However, most people tend to completely forget about the audio, even though sounds and music have a major effect on the audience.

Example: the same video material looks completely different when you change the background-music.

The difference is gigantic when the visually identical material is played back once with a rather friendly, happy music and then another time with rather dark, dramatic music.

(Tip: Just try it out for yourself, you'll be stunned to see how strong the impact of the music is). But why is that so, and what can we do about it?


How Music Influences Us

In fact, music has a physically measurable impact on the listener.

Blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heartbeat are affected, as are muscle tension and the hormone level. When listening to more aggressive, tense music, the body releases more adrenaline - the opposite happens when listening to soft, calm music. Fewer stress hormones are getting released and we are able to focus a lot better. Nowadays, music is even used in many medical areas, from stroke therapy to psychiatric pain treatment to memory training. Memory training? Listening to music is a pretty big and demanding task for our brain since it has to process a lot of information at the same time. Recognizing pitch and melody, determining the instruments, locating the source of the sound, et cetera. Listening to music trains our brains.


Music and Feelings?

Have you heard of the limbic system? It is not a distant galaxy from the Star Trek universe. No, instead, the limbic system is a part of our brain. And not just any, but one of the oldest and most central parts, responsible, for example, for food intake, digestion, memory, and even for reproduction and emotions. And this is where our main topic comes into play again: the music. Music is so compelling because it stimulates the limbic system, where then tunes transform into emotions.

We feel maudlin, or excitement, fear, hope, or joyfulness, our last relationship or our childhood come back to mind. Simply put: emotions arise as soon as we listen to music.


We need Music (but not just any)!

It is because of the strong effect that music has that makes it so important to filmmakers.

Visuals have a much greater impact on the audience if they are combined the right music. But still, online, you often come across beautiful aerial clips that lack any aesthetics, simply because they are silent.

By not adding any audio, the emotions that are a prerequisite for the audience's interest, are left out. Two simple rules make the usage of music in aerial cinematography very simple: 1. Create emotions by adding audio. 2. Don't let the ears listen to a drama that isn't visible to the eyes. I think that we covered the first rule already: silence is a no go.

The second rule, though, is already a little more interesting. Many enthusiastic editors out there add dramatic music to their videos, while showing the video of a flight over a nearby castle, valley, or field. The music is epic, dramatic, loud, and often well-known. But that is difficult twice: First of all, don't use highly dramatic music if your video doesn't support it. It simply doesn't work. Often, especially when it comes to aerial cinematography, the motto should instead be: less is more.

Quiet tones are often way more effective than the deafening, heroic ones. However, there is another catch that you should be aware of that has nothing to do with the aesthetics of a video: music from films is usually protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without a(n expensive) license. By the way: Platforms like YouTube automatically recognize copyrighted music. Even if it lasts for a few seconds only and comes along other audio. YouTubes algorithm is pretty advanced; I speak from experience. In the worst case, using copyrighted music can even get expensive.


Where can I find good Music for Aerials?

There are generally two sources that I can recommend. One of them is free, and the other one is not. The free one is a bit simpler, and the paid version offers a richer selection of music and, above all, a simple licensing procedure.

Option 1: YouTube Audio Library YouTube provides its audio library with music and sounds effects (click here), which you can freely use in YouTube productions.

Even if you monetize your videos and make a little money, you can use the music in your videos. That's cool! The selection though is not limitless, but here and there you will find useful songs.

You should take a look at the free library, if you are taking your first steps in aerial cinematography.

Quality of the recordings: Mixed Selection for aerials: Moderate Functionality: Very good License: Private and commercial use (on YouTube only) Price: Free Click here for the YouTube Audio Library.


Option 2: Artlist The premium alternative comes from Artlist (click here). A large selection of high-quality music at a reasonable price. Once you subscribe, you get access to thousands of songs that were specially made for cinematography. And more songs are added weekly, the audio library keeps on growing. The cool thing about Artlist is that you don't have to buy every single song that you like, as it usually is on most other platforms.

No, if you use Artlist, you instead get full access to all available pieces of music for around 200$ - and that's the price that you pay for for an entire year, putting the monthly cost down to about 16$ per month. And, from experience, I can say that it is difficult to get just one single song for 16$ on the market! But with Artlist, you can download and use as many songs as you wish. I've used Artlist for more than a year now, and I'm delighted I made the switch. I save nerves, money, and, most importantly, time. At Artlist, I don't struggle with high prices and complicated licensing procedures but focus solely on finding the right music for my drone film projects.

Quality of the recordings: Very good Selection for aerials: Good (they even feature an "Aerials" category) Functionality: Very good License: Private and commercial usage (includes social media; excludes reselling the songs) Price: Fair Click here for Artlist.


What to do?

Honestly, I know the feeling of not wanting to spend money on music. However, this is not only pretty selfish, as also the musician has to make a living somehow, but by not wanting to spend the money, you also score an own goal. Because the effect that music has is incredible and often dramatically underestimated, especially by beginners. For many years I struggled with finding the right music: First of all, the music had to fit my project, next it needed to come at an affordable price, and, of course, the license had to allow me a commercial usage. Sometimes, and that's no exaggeration, searching for music that met my criteria (it has to fit, be affordable and come with a proper license) took me several days. For a single song.

The time I spent, senselessly browsing music libraries, adds up to an amount that I don't even want to know. Looking back, it was quite a waste of time. I can recommend Artlist to anyone who seeks to improve their aerial videos with professional music. Click here for the YouTube Audio Library. Click here for Artlist.


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