How to add intro music to YouTube videos

Old timey record player with a laptop coming out of it

There are billions of YouTube videos, and every day YouTubers upload 720,000 hours of new video. Much of that comes from popular YouTube channels with millions of subscribers.

So when you upload your video content to YouTube, the competition you’re facing for every viewer’s attention is both vast and strong.

There’s no one way to break through. But a good principle to follow is to always come out of the gate strong — so you hook the viewer in the first few seconds. One way to do that is to add an intro with music. Creators often use the intro to YouTube videos to add branding and a visual signature to their work, so viewers immediately recognize content from the creator’s YouTube channel. When you add music to a quality intro, your catchy ditty stands a better chance of getting stuck in someone’s head.

Backspace. Copy and paste. Drag and drop. That’s how you edit audio and video in Descript.
Edit audio and video just like editing a doc.

Why is a catchy intro important for YouTube videos?

Creators add intros to YouTube videos as a way to add their signature to a piece of content. By opening YouTube videos with intros, you:

  • Project your professionalism. A well-crafted intro segment adds a sheen of professionalism to your overall project. Viewers make snap judgments about you and your content right from the start, assessing whether they really want to invest 10 minutes or whatever in your video. Seize the opportunity with an intro that incorporates graphics and some catchy music — or whatever it takes to keep them from clicking away.
  • Preview what’s coming. Beyond just hooking viewers’ attention, an intro lets them know whether something is relevant to what they’re looking for. Use the intro to preview what’s to come and show how you plan to present it so that your audience can decide whether to stick around — if you do it well, the right ones will.
  • Create associations with your other content. YouTube isn’t just a video hosting platform. It’s increasingly used as a social media space, where users congregate and engage in long discussions in comment threads. So think of intros to your videos as a branding opportunity to establish consistency across all of your content (and perhaps multiple channels) so that users associate each post as part of a larger whole.

Best practices for adding intro music to YouTube videos

Just like everything else on YouTube, there’s no single, one-size-fits-all formula for YouTube intro music. Still, we can identify some best practices. When adding music to your YouTube intros, follow these five rules of thumb.

  • Shorter is better. Ask five creators how long should YouTube intros be, and you’ll get five different answers. They will be “short,” “super short,” “short as possible,” “really, really, super-duper short,” and “figure it out for yourself (short)” Given the speed at which YouTube viewers rip between videos, err on the side of short and sweet.
  • Choose the music, then edit. Many professional film editors choose a piece of music before editing any footage. Pick a track with the right mood and energy, and let it guide your video editing. You’ll likely produce a more cohesive montage than if you add music after editing.
  • Budget appropriately. You can add well-known music to your YouTube video, but prepare to pay a licensing fee. If you don’t have a budget, turn to royalty-free music. Resources include the YouTube Audio Library, Freesound, SoundCloud, Wave.video, and Icons8. Or, and this is ideal, use some of your budget to commission original music by a composer.
  • Respect your viewers’ ears. Starting a YouTube video with loud, aggressive music will surely grab your audience’s attention, but maybe not the way you want. You want to endear your content to them, not damage their eardrums. Focus instead on making your intro music tasteful to a broad audience. It's okay to roll out high-energy music, but mind the volume levels.
  • Think about branding. The music you choose for your YouTube intro speaks for more than just the video in question; it contributes to your overall brand. Before selecting music, decide what you want your brand to represent — think about how you want audiences to see your brand and YouTube channel. Jot down a few descriptors, then find music that aligns with your vision.

How to add intro music to YouTube videos with Descript

For a brief period, creators could add intros to existing YouTube videos using Google’s YouTube Studio software, but this feature no longer exists. That means you need video editing software, like Descript, to add intros to your videos. (If you want to learn how to make a perfect YouTube video, look into everything Descript has to offer.) Here’s how to add music to your videos in Descript:

  1. Drag and drop. When you upload a video file to Descript, you’ll automatically get a transcript. You can edit your video by editing that, but we won’t get into that. To add music to a Descript project, simply drag a music file (such as an MP3, AIFF, or WAV file) to the point in the sequence you want the music to start and release to drop the file. In the case of an intro video, drop it right before the first word in the transcript.
  2. Adjust placement. Once you’ve added your audio file, a music track will appear right above the script track in the timeline below the transcript. Use this to adjust the length of the clip or drag it elsewhere so it starts and ends earlier or later.
  3. Add effects. Not every audio track needs embellishment, but if yours does, Descript has you covered with effects like fades, EQ, compression, and ducking. To access these tools, click on the music icon in the script, or on the music track in the timeline. Descript offers presets for all of these effect levels, so you only need to adjust them if you want to.

A note on music licensing

Musicians deserve payment for their work, just like anyone else. For ethical and legal reasons, always use licensed music in your YouTube videos. If you use royalty-free music, source it from proper channels and abide by the terms of the license. Here are three websites where you can source licensed music:

  1. SyncFloor. SyncFloor specializes in simple, highly limited music licenses that are sometimes called micro-licenses; they only cover the use of music on a limited number of platforms. It appeals to video content creators who value streamlined processes and minimal legalese, and has a proprietary search function to help you quickly find the kinds of songs you’re looking for. SyncFloor also displays transparent pricing so you know exactly how much you have to pay.
  2. Epidemic Sound. Epidemic Sound sells subscriptions to its massive library of royalty-free music. Once you’re a subscriber, you get access to a multi-platform licensing deal that includes YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, and podcasts. If you pay for a year upfront, personal subscriptions come out to $9 per month and commercial subscriptions run $19 per month. (Month-to-month rates are slightly higher.)
  3. Marmoset. Marmoset connects video creators to work-for-hire composers and upstart bands willing to license their music for video projects. It’s popular with video creators who want to directly support musicians, and for those who enjoy customized service — Marmoset representatives help assess your needs and pair you with the right artists to provide music for your project.

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