Licensing Music For Podcast

licensing music for podcast

In this post you will learn how to license music for a podcast without breaking copyright law.

We will explain what it takes to legally use music in your podcast and discuss a number of options, both free and paid (yet affordable).

Read our tips below or jump straight to some handpicked podsafe music examples.

How to license music for podcast?

Before we begin, think about what kind of music you need.

Do you need a short intro / outro or you want music to run continuously throughout your podcast?

Do you need a well-known song or can settle for a more generic “stock” music?

How big is your budget (if any)?

The answers to the above questions will determine the best option how you can legally license and use music in your podcast episodes.

It’s safe to say that given a choice most people would prefer to use a famous song. So let’s start with that option.

How much does it cost to license a popular song for podcast?

If you’re thinking you can simply download a song from iTunes store or just pick one from your personal MP3 collection, that’s not the best idea.

Unfortunately that’s illegal and punishable under the copyright law in most countries. Why?

As a rule of thumb, you must obtain permission from the rights owner to use any copyrighted music.

In order to legally use a copyrighted song, podcasters must obtain a license from every rights-holder in both the master recording and the song’s publishing.

Typically, the publisher controls the song and the record label controls the master (that is, the actual recording of the song).

Getting licenses for popular music can be expensive.

We asked Deborah Mannis-Gardner, the owner of DMG Clearances to give us some examples.

According to Deborah, licensing popular songs isn’t cheap. In general, the publishing fees usually fall in the $1,500-$2,500 range, and the master fees can be anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000.

Are there any options (that do not cost thousands of dollars)?

music for podcast

Clearly, paying thousands of dollars just to be able to use a short music clip in your podcast is hardly reasonable for most podcasters.

Some people turn to ripping music from CDs, using music from their private mp3 collections or even streaming services like Spotify arguing they can do that as long as they follow certain rules.

Music licensing myth 1: I can use any music as long as I don’t make profit.

Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The copyright law requires you to have the explicit permission of the copyright owner even if you don’t monetize your podcast.

The same goes for using small snippets of copyrighted music. You still need to obtain the permission.

Music licensing myth 2: I can use any music under “fair use”.

Sometimes, you indeed may be able to use copyrighted music under “fair use” provision but only in specific cases.

For example, if you’re making a podcast about how to make music intros and want to use some of our sounds as examples, that may qualify as “fair use”.

However, if you simply make a podcast for a university and use our music as intro (that adds value to your podcast) that is hardly fair use and requires the license.

Simply using copyrighted music in a non-profit or educational podcast does not automatically make it fair use.

Learn more: Can I Freely Use Copyrighted Music Under “Fair Use”?

Now, let’s look at some free and affordable options if your budget does not allow for licensing music from popular artists:

Public domain music

Public domain refers to music that is not protected by copyright, typically because it’s expired or was expressly waived by the owner.

Note that, even if the composition itself is in public domain, the recordings of that composition may be still under the copyright. That’s often the case with classical, blues, and jazz records.

The supply of truly public domain audio recordings is quite limited.

It may be hard to find what you need, especially if your podcast needs modern music background.

Creative commons music

Many composers and musicians distribute their music for free under the Creative Commons license.

Typically you can use Creative Commons music free of charge. However, there are different kinds of creative commons licenses.

Often you will be required to give credit, or may be restricted from using the music in commercial or monetized podcasts, or will be obligated to share your audio under the same terms.

Furthermore, many artists don’t own 100% of their master or publishing rights, especially after they got signed to a record label or made a deal with a publishing company.

Both public domain and creative commons music offer opportunity to license free music for podcasts but each options come with limitations.

If you want to quickly find a good, modern sounding music track and have official proof of licensing (especially if you plan to monetize your podcast), consider purchasing the license from a music library.

Buy license from a music library

Many music libraries, large and small, offer affordable podsafe music priced specifically for small time podcasters.

Depending on the type of music and the specifics of your usage (typically commercial or not) you can easily get a lifetime license under $20.

A quick Web search will give you plenty of music libraries to choose from.

Just to give you an example, here are some podsafe music examples from our own royalty free music library. You can license and use these music cues in any podcast, including monetized.

Podsafe music examples

All our intros come with lifetime royalty free license, are completely podsafe, and available for download in standard MP3 and WAV formats that will work in any audio editing software.

Can’t decide which music to use in your podcast?

With TunePocket unlimited royalty free music subscription, you get unlimited access to thousands of podsafe music tracks, loops, intros, and sound effects.

Related: How to record your voice (for podcast) with low budget and professional results

Questions? Comments?

This post explored how you can license music for podcasts. Let us know what you think by posting a comment!

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