What about royalty-free music?
Whether you realize it or not, royalty-free music, or stock music, is all around you in the media world. With many sites offering domain-free music for free or a nominal fee, ease of access is the shortest answer. It is also illegal to use copyrighted music in public pieces if you don't purchase a license to the material. If a musical artist's song makes someone's video better and helps them get paid, they deserve to be paid as well.
However, there can be many obstacles with royalty-free music. Due to the attractive option of using this music for free, some of the higher-quality royalty-free songs can be terribly overused. Some sites offer their music for free, but require a credit. If you're creating a commercial, there are no credits that air, so where do you credit the royalty-free music service? What if a site isn't legally offering their music, and you end up using something that's copyrighted when you think you're safe? Creating a music budget is the best way to avoid these possible problems.
How do I license music?
Music typically has to clear publishing before getting the license for the label . Pricing always varies. Some artists license their music for free if it is being used for a good cause such as a commercial for a charity or political ad for a candidate they believe in. Depending on the usage, licensing fees can rise into the six figures if it's for a high-budget film or commercial. Music Coordinators will handle this process and negotiations for you, but they must be paid as well. This process of licensing music can take time, so it's important you look into it early in pre-production and have an idea of what songs you want to use.
What if I can't afford to license, but don't want to use stock music?
You always have the option to use music from local, independent artists and musicians who would like the exposure. You have the option of getting custom music composed as well, but this can be a little more pricey.
How do I decide?
For the most part, on the small to medium business level, nobody minds the use of stock music. If the music isn't crucial to your production and just adds another layer to help your video sound more professional, it's completely fine to go royalty-free. For larger corporate projects, it can be a huge disservice to the creative execution of the rest of the project to use non-copyrighted music. At this level, licensing pre-existing music or hiring an artist to create original music is the way to go.