You have labored over your film concept (the one you just came up with an hour before you had to pitch it), you have poured every emotion in your soul into the storyboards (mostly fear), and now you scurry about in the last two weeks of Winter quarter, squeezing whatever creative juices (and hard-earned cash) left in you to put out a story you can call your own into this cyberworld.
Visually, things seem to be falling into place (historically known as the crapper), and now it is time to find that perfect minor chord to send your audience weeping after they view your piece.
The musicscapes are vast and this post (in three parts) will only attempt to provide some guidance for those creating audio-visual projects to navigating the creative commons music territories (or swamps).
We begin with the very nifty OWL Music Search. OWL helps you find music you like by letting you open an mp3 file from your own library, select a section you like, and it will match it against over 98,980 songs from a variety of commercial and independent catalogs, including ccMixter, Magnatune, and Jamendo. Their catalog is growing as they continue to index music. The search is based on the characteristics of the sound wave of the clip you specify. The search allows you to hone your search on music available for commercial use. OWL is also featured at the Creative Commons Project site as an applet on their search page. The results are hit and miss depending on the uniqueness of the clip you choose, but it is a superior way to search for music than tags.
Jamendo is another great cc-music community, it offers a freeform text search box, as well as the ability to search by tags (also known as the needle in the hay stack method), artists (really), and albums (right). If you are a regular user of the site, then through building your playlists and community interactions you can build a reservoir of songs for future use. However, in a pinch (or business as usual) your best bet is to use the Albums search page and turn the advance search on allowing you to add tags and limit the search to music licensed for commercial use (no one can take that dream from you). If there is a need to commercially license a piece of music separately, the site will help you do that and give the artists 50% (which they call fair).
ccMixter is yet another great resource (I cannot help you there). A word of caution though: most music under ccMixter is available under a creative commons sampling license, meaning ok only for noncommercial use (and abuse).
Our final featured resource for this post is the Internet Archives NetLabel directory. A NetLabel is the Platonic version of a real life Label. They publish a collection of hand-picked artists virtually (and hopefully) under a variety of creative commons licenses. The site had some nice features like Most Downloaded and Staff Picks. You can also search by tags and subject. Again your best bet is to find which of these labels publishes music closest to your liking and keep a list of those handy.