Obviously this is my opinion and it is a *little* biased, however, if you don’t want to take my word for it I am sure a little research on your part will convince you.
It is common knowledge that royalty free music is cheaper than conventional licensing; this is true. Unfortunately, royalty free music has also got a stigma for being poor in quality and in my experience a number of industry people that I have spoken to have remarked saying it is pan pipe, lift, test card, on-hold, cheesy music etc. You get the idea.
If this is your opinion I urge you to give it another chance but please keep in mind…
Most composers / artists are talented professionals who like to take pride in their work and only produce quality music. Unfortunately, it seems that some royalty free music sellers devalue music by selling it for peanuts with little or no restriction on its use. I believe this dissuades the better composers from wanting to produce it. The result is that there is an abundance of poor to mediocre music out there for hardly any money.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that is supposedly free, extremely cheap or sold by the bucket load. You will tend to find that this music is possibly illegal, poorly produced, dated in sound and basically naff.
If you were a composer, would you spend valuable time producing something of high quality just for somebody to sell it for a couple of dollars or give it away free? No, I thought not!
The bottom line is, there is a value on the work that has gone into a musical production and if you don’t mind paying a fair price for using it, there are reputable royalty free music providers out there that offer quality music.
There is a new wave of fantastic sounding music that does not bear any resemblance to historically “cheesy” royalty free music. I believe this is due to a new wave of music producers who have access to professional production equipment and software that just a few years ago was only accessible to cash rich recording studios and established composers. Furthermore, the development of broadband connections, cheaper bandwidth, social networking and an increased use of media content online has opened up many new markets for new composers and bands.
Remember, quality is out there and it is affordable, but it needs to be worthwhile for the composer and the website hosting and promoting the music.