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Legal Music for Remixing and Sampling

Producers, DJs, and remixers: Looking for free sounds?

cc-musicMany musicians choose to release their songs under Creative Commons licenses, which give you the legal right to do things like remix them and use samples from them in your tracks for free.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a new system, built upon current copyright law, that allows you to legally use “some rights reserved” music, movies, images, and other content — all for free. CC offers free copyright licenses that anyone can use (without a lawyer) to mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. For instance, a musician would use a Creative Commons license to allow people to legally share her songs online, make copies for friends, and even remix or sample them for use in new compositions. For more information, visit our Learn More page.

Where can I find CC-licensed music?

Several sites offer music published under Creative Commons’ flexible copyright licenses. Here are a few:

  • ccMixter is a community remixing site featuring CC-licensed tracks from the Beastie Boys, Danger Mouse, Fort Minor, and hundreds of other artists.
  • Freesound is a collaborative database of CC-licensed samples and sounds.
  • SectionZ is an electronic music site offering CC-licensed music in styles like IDM, drum ‘n’ bass, and ambient.
  • Jamendo provides CC-licensed music from dozens of genres that you can download with P2P software like BitTorrent and eMule.
  • Opsound is an aggregator that provides links to a vast collection of CC-licensed music from many genres.

Can I remix or sample any song with a CC license on it?

Almost — you need to make sure that what you want to do with the music is OK under the terms of the particular Creative Commons license it’s under. CC-licensed music isn’t free for all uses, only some — so make sure to check out the terms (you can find these by clicking on each song’s license icon).

For instance, many tracks are licensed under one of CC’s noncommercial licenses. A noncommercial license allows you to use a creative work for free, as long as you aren’t doing so for commercial purposes. In short, any use that you make money from is a commercial use.

Most importantly, you need to use music that is not licensed under a NoDerivs license. This means that the musician doesn’t want you to change, transform, or make a derivative work using their music. Under CC licenses, remixing and sampling amounts to transforming the music, so you can’t legally remix or sample a song under a CC NoDerivs license.

Also, make sure to properly credit the musician and the track you remixed or sampled, as well as express the CC license the track is under. For example, you might include text like this alongside your track:

This track features a sample from “Desaprendere (Treatment)” by fourstones, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.