‘Royalty Free’ Tells the Story of the Most Selfless Man in Music

Ulises Duenas


If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely heard some of Kevin MacLeod’s music without knowing who he is. In fact, chances are pretty high that you’ve heard a dozen of his songs without realizing they’re all by the same guy. That’s because MacLeod offers all his music for free or, at most, a small license fee. It’s his career and impact that is the focus of the new documentary, Royalty Free: The Music of Kevin MacLeod.


Ryan Camarda’s documentary features several interviews with people who know MacLeod personally and they paint a clear picture of who he is. MacLeod’s passion for creating music has left him with a huge portfolio of over 2,000 songs and the adoration of creators from all over the world. From Youtubers and game developers to Hollywood producers and pornographers, MacLeod’s music is shown to have a broad appeal that has helped take their projects to the next level. Seeing so many different kinds of people gush about how much his music has helped them is almost heartwarming.



MacLeod himself is heavily featured as he provides insight on the music business and why he works so hard to create free music. After a while into the film, you get a good inkling of the kind of person he is: a selfless workaholic who is plagued with bouts of anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome. It’s funny to see how much of an impact he’s had in the world unintentionally and even when he thinks about it, he doesn’t seem fazed. He’s so strangely endearing that even Hollywood would have trouble creating a character like him.


While the documentary is well-edited with cuts between various interviews happening at a sound pace, there are some problems. The narrator doesn’t have a good voice for movie narration, and his cadence makes certain words difficult to understand. It clashes with the editing, which looks very professional, but when the voiceover kicks in, it feel more like a college class project. There are also various scenes that explain how music royalties and licensing works that are very dry. It’s understandable to have some of those explanations in the documentary to properly demonstrate the impact of MacLeod’s work, but it’s boring at times.


I was aware of who Kevin MacLeod was before watching this documentary since his music is all over the place, but I didn’t know what kind of person he is. This movie does a great job of showing the man behind the music, while also explaining how much of an impact he’s had on people’s lives and in the music business. Even with its slow parts, it’s definitely interesting enough to warrant a viewing.



Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine

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All images courtesy of Ryan Camarda
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