Music In Podcasts

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Audio is great. I love it. All of it. Spoken word, music, binaural sound. You name it, I love it.

Last week, my favourite band released their new album. I’ve listened to it over and over for about a week. I really like it but it has also made me pine for their older stuff.

This isn’t a review of the latest Feeder album by the way, although maybe I could do that?!

Commercial Music in Podcasts

At last week’s Podcast Movement convention in Orlando, Podcast Music announced that they have teamed up with SoundExchange. SoundExchange are the USA’s version of PRS - the organisation that provides licenses to play music to radio stations and shops etc.

The agreement would see gain access to SoundExchange’s database of music and allow podcasts to gain licensing for label and publisher-owned music.

This is big news in the podcast world as currently the safest way to include music in a podcast is to not to.

Commercial Music, bad for podcasts?

I know lots of podcasts who use music in their episodes. It’s an effective way of drawing focus to the dialogue or announcing a change in theme. In most cases, the music is used in the background or as the podcast’s opening theme.

Podcasters source their music through online stores such as Audio Jungle. These music libraries are great for podcasters and musicians alike. They provide freelance musicians to sell their creations, under license, to podcasters and in turn, make a living.

Finding the right track, at the right price, can be an all day process. Not a bad thing. I think being forced to take your time in making a choice makes you more creative.

Most podcasters will only use one piece of music for their show. Creating stings and jingles using repetition of a piece of music that is synonymous with their show.

Music Podcasts

Those podcasts that are all about music will inevitably change.

I fear for their creativity.

At the moment, music shows have to find creative ways of explaining a music track to their audience. Yes, some shows will play a 30 second clip but this is all a part of that creative process. Finding the right 30 seconds. Deciding what part showcases the whole track. Describing an entire 3 minutes in just 30 seconds is not easy.

When podcasters can simply buy a license to use a Beyonce/Calvin Harris/Courteeners track there will be no need to be creative. There’s a danger that all music podcasts will become the same - and just like radio…

Music as background

Could this news also lead to the creativity of podcasts in other genres being stifled?

Take a show like They Walk Among Us. The use of music in each episode is wonderful. Depicting a change in mood or circumstance. The time and thought that goes in to selecting each piece of music is what makes it work. If you start adding popular music into the mix, that care and attention to detail could well disappear.

Imagine how easy it will be to dip into your mind’s library of hits. It will be too easy to just use a song you know and like. Whether the music actually fits the mood of your podcast’s content will be immaterial and quite possibly detrimental.

I love music

As I said before, I love audio. I adore music.


Making it more available for use in podcasts isn’t my cup of tea. If I want to listen to music I’ll turn on my radio or open up iTunes on my phone.

In fairness, this deal is only going to be available in the USA and will still take months, maybe years, of work to put into place. The questions around the deal are endless.

Podcasts aren’t restricted to one country so how will the licensing work?

If an American made podcast, like Serial, includes a Jay-Z track one day, will us Brits be allowed to hear that episode? Will the music’s license restrict the podcast’s audience reach?

Only time will tell of course and I predict it will take a lot longer than the estimated one year mentioned in the latest press release from Podcast Music.

Are you looking for help with starting a podcast or need help with your existing show? I can help. Visit my CONTACT page and send me an email. I offer a range of services to meet any podcasters’ needs.