As more and more people are jumping into the podcasting world, some may have questions about it. For instance, whether they can use music on their content or not. Adding music to your podcast seems to be an popular step to create a successful show. But there are conditions to do so. Let’s learn how to use copyrighted music in a podcast!

Do I need music on my podcast?

You don’t necessarily “need” to add music on your podcast to create good content. We are confident you can still talk about interesting things without any additional sounds added. However, try and name one podcast that doesn’t use music, even for a few seconds. Music is generally used in the intro of the podcast, but is often used as background to talking. It can also be used for explanatory purposes. Just as any jingle does commercially, music helps you create an identity to brand your content helping people immediately identify your podcast.

Common misconceptions about the use of music in podcast

If you’re not comfortable with the notion of copyrights, you may not know what you’re allowed to do with music. When it comes to publishing content containing music that’s not yours to online platforms, there are several precise rules.

  • First, you don’t have the right to use 30 seconds. Nor 7 seconds, nor any other number big or small, of any copyrighted song. As soon as music has a copyright (aka, as soon as someone else writes it) it is not yours to use by default. Even if just for a few seconds at the beginning of your podcast.
  • Fair use is a real notion that exists within US law, but the concept is often misunderstood. Fair use is not a permission to use any song however you like. There are precise conditions that go along with the doctrine, which you can find out more about in this article.
  • Crediting the author of a song isn’t enough to allow you to use it in your podcast. It is indeed a key condition to use copyright free music licensed under Creative Commons, but only applies in that particular case. Remember that you giving the author credit doesn’t amount to them getting paid fairly for their work.
  • Not earning revenues from your content is also a condition that you may have to respect to use certain songs under free licenses. While this is not a general rule that applies to all music licenses, be sure of the terms for your specific license.

Then how can I use a copyrighted track on my podcast?

If you’re global music star, Tablo, who owns the rights to his songs, then you can use your own song for your intro just like he did for his own podcast. But if you don’t own any song personally, getting the right to use a popular copyrighted music in your podcast will be pretty complex, and most likely expensive. You’ll have to directly ask the owners of the song, whether record label, publishing company, artist, or any other rights holder for permission. Assuming the ideal situation, you will get an authorization by way of contract. But you can pretty much bet on it being onerous. To give you an idea, Lionsgate paid $250,000 for the right to use one single Beatles song, one time, in the TV show Mad Men.

What alternatives are available out there?

Don’t worry there are plenty of options for you to add music to your podcast. First of all, you can check music under free license as we discuss in this article. That might mean music licensed under Creative Commons, for example. Depending on the terms (that we know you have read carefully), you’ll be able to use tracks like these in your podcast. You can also go to royalty free music libraries which allow you to use a song as many times as you want if you pay an initial fee. Or you can go to more traditional license companies (such as BAM Music) that produce music especially for content makers, including podcasters). This kind of music will generally be more qualitative than other sources of music online.

Licensing systems vary from one library to another, but there are usually two systems: single-track, in which you purchase the license of one particular song; or a subscription, based on monthly or yearly payment to access the whole catalogue of the company. Depending on your needs, you might want to consider one of these options.

Thus, you now have understand that using copyrighted music on your podcast can be tricky. But that should not stop you from looking at other alternatives to get the track that suits your content. Using music in your podcast will definitely make it more appealing, so don’t hesitate to check out BAM’s catalogue if you’re interested.