Many multimedia and video journalists require ambient music for their projects, but truly free royalty-free music and sound effects are hard to come by. Most companies charge hefty one-time prices to use their products, which usually puts them out of the price range of the average financially-challenged media outlet.
Another option is to use public domain music, or music that falls outside of copyright protection. Public Domain 4U has a lot of public domain MP3s available (mostly jazz/blues), while Musopen has a large selection of classical music for immediate download.
Sound FX hunters will find both Soundsnap, with its user-friendly search interface, and FindSounds, with its preview waveforms, two of the best online resources for sounds. Mac users can also make use of GarageBand’s sound effects library. Other sites for free sound effects include Soungle.com and SoundJay.com. For more resources, check out Hongkiat.com’s 55 great websites to download free sound effects or this list of additional resources.
There is a prevalent myth among audio-seeking journalists that any piece of music, copyrighted or not, can be used freely as long as the clip is under 30 seconds. This is, in most cases, untrue and opens the user and company up to potential lawsuits. The best approach is to stick with the music and sound effects that are explicitly free to use.