Adding music to your podcast can be interesting to enhance your work, giving it more substance and identity. But finding the right music to do so can be tricky. “Where should I find such music? Do I need a license to play music on my podcast?”, you may wonder. Well, we’ll try to answer those questions through this article. Let’s go!

In which case do I don’t need a license for my podcast?

There are only few cases in which you don’t need to pay for a license to use music in your podcast. First, pretty obvious but not that common, is if you own the rights to the music. For example, if you use a song that you wrote and recorded, then you have the right to use it as you like on your podcast. The second instance is if someone explicitly lets you use music they own the rights to. Back when Casey Neistat and his wife Candice Pool had a podcast, they had asked their listeners to come up with an intro jingle, for example, and they were able to use it with the permission of the listener who wrote it. The other remaining cases in which you don’t need a license, are if the song falls under either public domain or the “fair use” doctrine.

There are many misconceptions about the term “fair use”. There are several requirements for a content to be considered “fair use” and you can’t just claim the doctrine as you please. Fair use relies on the purpose of your podcast, the nature of the original copyrighted work (education, criticism, research…). And how much of the original work you’re using, and any consequences of your podcast on the copyrighted work’s value.

An enlightening example

But be careful because relying on fair use can be risky. For example, in 2019 the New York University School of Law uploaded a video of a conference (ironically) about copyright and music. In this video, with clear educational purposes, speakers used parts of some songs to explain how to identify similarities in songs. A few weeks later, the video was flagged by YouTube with several Content ID claims. They tried to dispute the claims to no avail. The fact that even a major institution like NYU School of Law had issues with proving fair use shows how risky relying on fair use can be. It comes down to a case-by-case basis.

In which case do I do need a license?

Well, basically in every other case. If you want to use an intro jingle, a background soundtrack, or any other sound that you didn’t create, whether royalty free or a commercial music you will need a license to use it.

Where to find a music license?

There are plenty of sources of music for your podcast online. For example, you can use online music license libraries like BAM Music. These services offer high-quality music for you to use legally on any podcast platform. That’s the most relevant option if you want to use music on your podcast, so that you don’t run into any copyright issues.

What happens if I don’t use a music license for my podcast?

It depends. If you used copyright free music or music under free license, that probably won’t affect your podcast channel. But be sure that the music you use is copyright free, or carefully check the terms of the free license you’re using. If you use copyrighted music without the owner’s permission, you might get your content or channel shut down or even face legal action. Or nothing may happen. Sometimes some people fall through the cracks, but that’s at your own risk. Some companies wait for channels to grow and have more financial resources to sue them.

We hope these tips helped you to see clearer about what you’re allowed to do on your podcast when it comes to using music! It’s time to let the people hear your stories!