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PremiumBeat vs. Pond5


In the early days of the digital filmmaking revolution, royalty free music was still a niche market. Things were changing rapidly at the time: equipment was becoming more affordable, computer applications were becoming more powerful, and filmmakers were seeing the swell of digital video content that would soon sweep the entire world. This dynamic environment started to reveal the cracks in the digital video content foundation, and plucky asset creators started finding ways to meet other creators’ needs effectively and affordably. One of those needs was music.

As advances in technology started leveling the video production playing field, one glaring challenge remained: licensing music. The differences between professional and amateur video production were glaring—the sound alone was often enough to make smaller projects sound cheap and uninteresting. If you wanted your project to sound pro, you had to license music directly from a musician—or hire someone to score your project for you. This could quickly eat up a production’s budget. So, platforms like PremiumBeat and Pond5 figured out ways to serve up professional music at affordable rates.

Instead of licensing music directly from musicians, doing the bookkeeping, staying current on royalty statements, and forking over the cash, you could now simply click through some results, license the songs you want, and move on with your life. The platforms struck deals with the musicians and negotiated legal agreements that benefited and protected everyone involved, and then those platforms went out and promoted the music. An ecosystem developed, and it only got richer and richer as film gear got cheaper, programs got faster, and calls for content got louder. More music came in, more music went out, and the word got around that you could make some money using this model. Other royalty free music platforms joined the game, and today, you have a number of options when it comes to finding the right partner for your projects.

The biggest and most successful of these platforms are what they are for a reason. The quality of the music, the expert curation, the ease of use, and the customer satisfaction all drive successful user experiences, and the winds of content creation keep blowing. This is all great news for people looking for affordable, professional-sounding music for their projects. However, it also means there are a ton of songs out there for you to go through. How can you be sure you’re not using the same song as everyone else, or that you’re not taking advantage of developing trends, or that you’re even searching the right library?

If you’re doing your research on royalty free music platforms, we’d like to help. Naturally, we’re quite proud of our library (we’ll get into that), but we know we have some solid competitors in the industry. In this comparison, let’s look at two powerhouses, PremiumBeat and Pond5, for some insight into the libraries, licenses, and pricing structures.

PremiumBeat vs. Pond5

  1. Music Library
  2. Music Licensing
  3. Music Search
  4. Music Quality
  5. Industry Experience

1. Music Library

There are several important elements to consider when weighing different royalty free music libraries, but the most critical of them all is the library. Each platform (including us!) has filled its blogs and resources with useful tools, fine-tuned the UX, spooled up promotions and offers, and generally broadcasts its message to the Internet. These things are part of the overall experience—and they’re important—but the bottom line is the music.

We started curating songs and offering licenses to content creators back in 2005, so we’ve been at this for a while. We decided from the beginning that our strategy was going to be exclusivity. As multiple royalty free music options began to spring up, we realized that volume of content is only one measure of a best-in-class library. We wanted to be the music library full of the songs you want, meaning no matter which genre you’re seeking, you’ll actually want our tracks. It can be frustrating and disheartening to click on song after song after song, and just not hear the professional quality you’re looking for. If you’re going to spend some money licensing a track, you should get what you pay—both the track itself and the experience getting to it.

So, we approached the curation of our library very carefully and decided that we would reject more than we accept. We wanted to be (and remain) picky. There are over 20,000 tracks in our library, meticulously selected by a team of music industry professionals that we recruited to the task. We’ve never used any kind of automation, so these experts listen to everything, and if they hear something with potential, it must be vetted three different times before it can join the catalog. We want you to find everything you need, and that includes the freedom (and the resources) to customize the tracks you like. Each download includes full tracks, as well as shorts, loops, and stems, so you can edit the track to create something no one will hear anywhere else.

Pond5 has been around about as long as we have, and their strategy is a bit more general. They offer multiple varieties of filmmaking assets—like footage, motion graphics, sound effects, and music. According to their website, there are millions of songs available in their catalog, which is impressive. This sort of survival of the fittest approach to growing a library means it’ll be helpful to pay attention to trends and popular tracks to make sure you’re spending your time listening to the tracks in their collection that are really worth your time.

Beyond the size and curation of the library is how you can experience it. Most royalty free music platforms offer similar experiences. But, when you first arrive at PremiumBeat.com, you can dive straight into the library. This can be an intense experience since there are so many tracks to explore, however, if you’re familiar with libraries of this scale, you can head directly into the stacks.

Alternatively, we offer other approaches to finding the sound you need. Our music acquisition team picks their favorites and stacks them up at the top of the page. So, if you want professional assistance sifting through the library, you’ll get it right out of the gate. Next up is Trending Tracks, which will let you see what your peers out in the content creation community are up to. If you want to cash in on a trend, sell a client on a hot new style, or move in the opposite direction completely, you can start here. Following this, we showcase our New Releases. We like to say that you’ll never browse the same library twice because we’re constantly updating it. Each time you come back, you can go straight to the freshest tracks and get them into your projects before the rest of the content world catches on.

And, that’s just the opening act. If you’re approaching your music selection from an existing mood board or even just an idea about the feel you want, then we’ve created gateways to help get you to the tracks you need— moods and genres. There are tons of options here, including everything from acoustic folk to industrial to trance. We have country tracks and rap tracks and even holiday tracks. You can also explore music that’s specific to the genre of project you’re creating, like Western or horror or suspense. And, if you can’t find the foothold you’re looking for with the genres, the moods ranges from uplifting to aggressive to sci-fi.

Being as selective as we are involves more than simply being picky about which tracks make the cut. It also means recognizing talent when we find it and working directly with our artists to develop additional tracks. You can see showcases of the talent in our roster in the Signature Series on our YouTube channel.

Next up in our user experience is PRO-free tracks. It stands for “performance rights organization.” If you’re planning on taking your project into the broadcast world, you’re going to need PRO-free tracks. These tracks protect your project, and anyone associated with it, from any kind of rights litigation out in the RTVF and digital broadcast world. Many of the other industry folks you’ll run into at this level of content creation and distribution will demand that you bring PRO-free music to the table before they’ll even have a conversation. Our PRO-free collection has everything you need to play ball in the big leagues. You may not need this level of legal protection if the scope of your project is a little more modest, but it’ll be a good tool to have when you’re ready.

Finally, we need to mention the Masterworks Collection. A constant frustration for many content creators is finding music that sounds like a proper score—something epic and grand. For the most part, this kind of music is unavailable on a royalty free model because it takes an entire orchestra to create it. However, these are live performances of professional orchestras, so your project can sound just as impressive as anything you hear on the big screen.

Since Pond5 offers a number of different kinds of assets, you’ll need to first tell the site what medium you want. Then, you’ll need to perform an initial search to get into the library. From there, you can begin applying filters to help you find what you’re looking for. There are a number of thumbnailed collections available on the splash page if you have an idea of what you want already. Click through to any one of these to further refine how you search.

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2. Music Licensing

The beauty of royalty free music is the licensing structure. In a nutshell, royalty free music platforms have struck agreements with their musicians (careful: not all agreements are created equal) for the right to use their music. The best platforms offer fully exclusive tracks—meaning they’ve agreed with their musicians that this music won’t be available anywhere else. Further, best-in-class royalty free music libraries cover all the rights issues you might run into, so you don’t have to worry about copyright infringement or takedown notices. In exchange for these rights (there are usually different agreements for different uses, which we’ll cover in a moment), royalty free music platforms compensate the musicians at an agreed-upon rate, and the music joins the library. When you license (or download) a song from one of these libraries, your agreement is with the library itself, not the musician. This means you choose your song, pay your fee, take your download, and you’re off to the races—there’s no more paperwork to deal with.

And the best part is the “royalty free” bit. If you’re not familiar with royalties, they’re typically paid on an earnings basis a few times a year. The more your project makes, the more your royalty agreements need to pay out. You need to keep very careful fiscal records, counts on inventory, and other information typically handled by producers or other business people in the content industry. You can get into hot water pretty quickly if your royalty statements start falling out of sync with your books. There are plenty of bombshell Hollywood stories about this happening. “Royalty free,” though, means you don’t have to worry about this. Your money gets divided between the music platform and the musicians themselves. And the best part, which you’ll find at the libraries worth your time, is that these agreements last forever. Even if you unsubscribe, you’re covered in perpetuity.

So, let’s take a look at the licenses you’ll encounter at both PremiumBeat and Pond5, starting with PremiumBeat.

PremiumBeat Licensing

PremiumBeat Licensing

Single Purchase Standard License

So, like we said, most royalty free music platforms offer a number of different pricing models. This is because there are different rates based on what you want to do with the track you’re licensing. If you’re simply using it in a vlog or a personal project, that’s a more affordable agreement between the platform and the musician than if, say, you’re planning to make a boatload of money with it on an advertisement. Naturally, the musician will want in on that boatload, so the agreement is different. As with every other market, those prices get passed along to the consumer (you), and they influence the total price you’ll pay. Subscriptions are cheaper per song than single licenses, but you have to commit to a subscription term, and you may pay more out of pocket than if you’d downloaded only the one track. And then, there are different plans for individuals vs. teams, corporate plans, multi-media plans, etc., etc.

So, first up: the Single Purchase Standard License. This is a one-time purchase of a license for a single track that you want to use in your personal (non-monetized) projects. It lasts forever, so you can use the song in as many projects as you want. This license is $49.00 USD per track, and it’s a perfect model if you really only need one track for a smaller project (you don’t want to buy several tracks this way because you’ll start spending money you could save with a subscription). If you need just this one song, you can get in and out quickly with this license and get back to producing that content. Your download will include the full track, as well as shorts, loops, and stems—the license grants you the right to make as many edits to the track as you want, so you can create something truly unique that no one has ever heard before.

Monthly Subscription

Next up: the monthly subscription plan. Every royalty free music platform worth its weight has at least one subscription plan—several have many. This is by far the most popular model among regular content creators. Once you’ve found a royalty free library that you like, and you have multiple projects planned, it’s much easier to subscribe for the music you need than to keep weighing platforms for every project. The subscription allows you to maintain a standard of quality across your projects and minimize the time you spend hunting for the right track.

The downside of the subscription, however, is the term. Most platforms require a year (you can sometimes save money in the long run if you pay for the entire year up front—buyer beware: that can get pricey). This is really how most platforms make their money. They’ll tie you up for a year, and then if you don’t return, no problem. They got the “lifetime value” out of you that they wanted, and they’re moving on to “convert another lead.” This is the dark side of the business: it’s all just numbers and dollar signs in the end.

Don’t get us wrong, we need to make money, too. But, because we’re content creators ourselves, we don’t agree with this short lifetime value proposition. We want you coming back again and again, when it makes sense for you. We know that not every creator produces content all the time. Sometimes there are breaks between projects, or budgets get tight and things have to shutter for a while. We know. We’ve been there. So, our term is only for three months. That should carry you through a project or two and then free you up to unsubscribe if you need to. When you’re ready, come back, and there’ll be new tracks waiting for you.

With our subscription, you get five downloads per month at a rate of $12.99 per song (much cheaper than the single purchase). And, as with the standard license, you get full tracks plus shorts, loops, and stems for customizing. This plan, like the standard license, covers content that you don’t intend to monetize. For that, we offer the premium license.

Premium License

Everything, so far, has been about your personal projects that you don’t intend to monetize. But eventually, you’re going to need to make some money. We get that, and so do our competitors, which is why we all work so hard to offer a monetizing license that works for you and for us. The Premium License allows you to monetize your work through ad revenue, admission, or any other method, in perpetuity. You’re completely protected, so there won’t be any issues with rights and usage. This license is $199 USD per track, and like the others, it comes bundled with shorts, loops, and stems—all of which you’re covered to use however you like.

Pond5 Licensing

Pond5 offers video, music, and motion graphics, so this model isn’t just for songs. Their free account just means that you pay a la carte for each track you want. Things are a little different over at Pond5 because you’re licensing with the musician—Pond5 is brokering the deal for you. Tracks can be as low as $15.00 USD or as high as $399.00, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the price tag when you’re shopping. If you’d rather subscribe, you can pay as little as $8.30 per clip, or $199.00 per month, or $999.00 for the entire year. Pond5 also offers varying levels of indemnification, which is important in case the musician files a claim against you. Indemnification will protect from any fees (up to a point, depending on your plan).

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All other things being equal, the searchability of a royalty free music library can make or break the platform. If we assume that you have multiple outlets for professional sound with airtight licensing and a solid browsing experience, then what differentiates one of these outlets from the others? Turns out, it’s search. Thousands and thousands of royalty free tracks aren’t any use to you if you can’t find the one you want.

So, you need more than just a search button. With libraries of this size, the quality of the search correlates directly with the available search filters. Chances are, you’re going to have a general idea how you want to filter your results—but the better the list of filters, the more likely you are to realize there are options you didn’t even know you wanted!

Searchability is a big deal to us at PremiumBeat. When you land at the site, starting your search is super easy. Simply click the big gold “Start Your Search” button smack in the middle of the landing page. From there, we’ll escort you into the library, and you can toggle on the filters on the left side of the screen. Click a few options, and you can watch your results narrow as you work. Here’s a quick rundown of the tools at your disposal:

  • Genre
  • Mood
  • Beats per minute
  • Duration
  • Artists
  • Instruments
  • Advanced (Surround, Stems, Shorts, Loops, PRO-free, Available with subscription, Instrumental-only)

Pond5 also has an easily accessible search field on their landing page. You’ll need to click the dropdown to the right, choose your medium, and then enter a search term to get started—think of a keyword that has something to do with your project, like “dark” or “storm.” From there, you’ll get your initial results, which you can then begin filtering. Click on the “filters” panel at the top of the page, and the following options will open up for you:

  • Duration
  • Tempo
  • Mood
  • Genre
  • Additional (public domain, Non-P.R.O., and cleared for sampling)

The more time you spend with a particular library, the more you’ll get to know its search functionality—finding the track of your dreams will become a simpler process. Experiment with filters you hadn’t considered before—you never know what might come along and surprise you.

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4. Music Quality

What do we mean by “quality?” Good music is good music, right? Naturally, any competitive royalty free music platform is going to offer clean recordings, sharp mixes, and professional-sounding production. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t last long as a purveyor of royalty free tracks.

So, what is it that makes one library “higher quality” than another? Every platform will have a different interpretation (it’s only natural that we each think we’re the best). For us, it’s the life cycle of a track. Our customers will never see 95% of this process, but it’s what consumes our days and keeps us motivated.

It begins with how we acquire music. We’ve already mentioned how picky we are—you can see this by the comparative size of our library and how long we’ve been doing this. We can’t just take any old song, and we know that we aren’t the experts. We hired professionals straight from the music industry early into the game so we wouldn’t be guessing. Each of them hand-vets every track—three times. We never rely on algorithms or applications. An expert human ear is the only tool we need.

Once a track runs the gauntlet and is preparing to join the library, other small details are falling into place behind-the-scenes. We package up the mastered shorts, loops, and stems, and we dig into the metadata that will identify the track in our library. We pay careful attention to every detail that will add up to your browsing, listening, and licensing experience. That’s primarily how we define quality—good music chosen by good people to create good projects.

And while we’re at it, we like to surprise you, too. Sometimes, you might not even think to consider a particular genre or region when searching for your music. Our world music genre, for example, has tracks from twenty different countries. These tracks feature sounds and mixes that you might not ever have heard before, all bundled up and ready for a listen. If you’re looking for a unique sound that stands out among your content competitors, maybe look where everyone else isn’t looking.

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5. Industry Expertise

The last element we think you should consider when choosing a royalty free music library is: Who’s running it? These libraries are dynamic. They’re growing all the time, trends shift, and content creators need new and better assets. But, how do you know what content creators need in real time?

You create content yourself.

We’re in the same boat you are. We don’t just talk a content creation game, we’re doing it all the time. Take a look at our popular blog The Beat. We’ve been putting out dozens of articles a month for years on the topics that mean the most to content creators. If you’re looking for a tutorial, a roundup, a giveaway, an interview, a gear review, or even a manifesto on all things filming, shooting, editing, and producing, then we’ve covered it. And, we’ve kept records of what we’ve done as we’ve gone, so we can bundle the hard work and just give it to you for free.

And, head over to our YouTube channel, where we’ve put out hundreds of videos worth thousands and thousands of views. If you can dream it, we’ve filmed it—everything you might run into as an indie content creator trying to figure out how to do what Hollywood does—but in your garage. You’ll see that we use our music in everything we do—click on the meta description, and it’s all spelled out for you. If you hear something you like, just click and license. Boom. Job done!

We know the struggle, and we’re trying to make it easier.

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We know you’ve got options when it comes to royalty free music. The world is hungry for content, and it takes a lot of resources to feed it. We think it’s important to look around and see what the other platforms are doing from time to time, but, ultimately, we’ll always stick to our core values. Come give us a listen, or two, or three. After all, it’s never the same library twice.