With an estimated 120 million monthly listeners, podcasts have earned their claim to fame as one of the most popular forms of audio content in the US. And there’s no denying that podcast music is essential for creating a memorable and engaging listener experience.

With a seemingly endless number of podcasts competing for listeners, grabbing someone’s attention is vital for keeping them tuned in. And that’s where the right music really shines. It sets the tone of every episode and keeps the listener coming back for more.

But any time a creator uses music, they need to ensure that they have a legal right to do so, and that includes podcasts. We’re here to help podcasters learn everything they need to know about music licensing for podcasts and how to choose the best music out there.

Does Podcast Music Need to Be Licensed?

Yes, podcast music does need to be licensed, in most cases. Unless you are the musician and own all rights to your original work, you will need to obtain a podcast music license for any music that plays during your podcast. This includes intro, background, and outro music, as well as sound effects.

Why Do I Need to Purchase a Music License for My Podcast?

Copyrighted songs are considered intellectual property. That means they are protected by copyright laws. You must have the permission of the copyright holder for any piece of music you want to use in any form of content, including podcasts. Licensing the music you use in your podcast ensures that you’re in compliance with copyright laws.

What Music Can Be Used In Podcasts?

From your intro track to your background music and sound effects, there are several things you’ll need to consider when adding music to your podcast. In short, you need to own the music outright or obtain permission to use it.

Music that can be used in podcasts includes:

  • Music You Own Outright: If you create your own music and own the rights to it, you can use it however you like. To be clear, this doesn’t mean purchasing a digital download or the physical copy of a song or album, it means actually owning the music outright.

Typically, that means you have composed and recorded an original piece of music. That said, if you are a recording artist and have a record deal, your rights to your own tracks may be limited, so you’ll want to ensure that you read the fine print on your contract.

Keep in mind that the same rules apply to your guests. So, even if your guest is a musician who records their own songs, if they’re under contract, they may not have the legal right to play their songs on your podcasts.

  • Music You Have Licensed: Since most podcasters are not also musicians, using music you own outright likely isn’t an option. And that’s where music licensing for podcasts enters the picture. Most of the music you’ll want to use in your podcast will need to be licensed.

Communicating directly with the rights holder of a song to obtain permission to use the track simply isn’t realistic for most podcasters. Not only is this process expensive, but it’s also likely to be a waste of time. Most music publishers won’t even reply to requests like this.

But don’t be discouraged by the thought of chasing down copyright owners to get permission to use their music! Track Club’s music licensing platform makes podcast music licensing affordable and easy for all content creators. And our catalog is full of high-quality, specially curated songs you won’t find anywhere else.

Music That Can’t Be Used in Podcasts

Now, let’s take a look at the music that can’t be used in podcasts, just to clear up any confusion.

  • Music From the Radio: You can’t play music from the radio in the background of your podcast. You also can’t use it in your intro or outro or record it to play back later. You don’t have the legal rights to do so.
  • Music from a Streaming Service: As with music from the radio, you cannot use music from streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music in your podcasts. Paying your monthly subscription allows you to listen to the music, but it does not give you the right to use it in your content or for commercial purposes.
  • Music You’ve Bought: Buying a CD, digital download, or physical album does not give you the right to use the music  in your podcast, either.

What Type of License is Required for Podcast Music?

To use copyrighted music in your podcast, you will need to purchase a sync license. This is the type of music license that typically governs music used in television and film since these types of media require music to be synchronized with the visuals on the screen.In the case of a podcast, the music is synced with your podcast audio program.

How to License Music for Your Podcast

The easiest and most cost-effective way to license music for your podcast is with Track Club by Marmoset. Our meticulously curated music licensing subscription app allows you to customize every track to suit your needs.

Simply choose your subscription and follow the prompts through the signup process. Once you’re signed up, use our smart filters to find the perfect song for your podcast. Then you can use MixLab to customize the song to suit your needs.

When you’re ready to use the song, Track Club’s easy-to-use TrackID feature ensures that you have proper clearance to use the track. And that’s all there is to it!

Podcast Music License Costs

The typical cost to license a single song for your podcast can vary. Track Club gives high-volume content creators access to quality podcast music at an affordable subscription price. Subscriptions start at just $18 a month. Or, take us for a free 30-day Test Drive!

Tips for Choosing the Right Music for Your Podcast

So, how do you choose the right sound for your podcast? After all, music sets the tone for every episode, from start to finish. Getting the intro music right is crucial because it’s the first thing new listeners will hear.

The right music also makes your podcast memorable and relatable, keeping users coming back for more. It sets the overall tone and gives listeners an idea of what to expect.

For example, you might want something modern and upbeat for a sports podcast. A hip-hop beat might be perfect for a film podcast. Or you could choose something sinister and a little spooky for a true-crime podcast. The options are limitless!

Types of Podcast Music

There are various places to use music throughout a podcast, so you may need to think about licensing multiple tracks, depending on your needs.

  • Intro Music: Intro music is what grabs the listener’s attention and keeps them tuned in for more. It sets the tone for your entire podcast, so be sure to choose something that reflects the mood you’re trying to create. Keep your intro short and make it distinct so it stands out in the listener’s memory.
  • Background Music: Your background music can play softly in the background as you talk, or it can be used as a transition between segments. It should blend in well with the tone of your podcast and help to bridge the gap between important moments of dialogue. Be careful with the volume so that it doesn’t drown out your voice or your guests.

While you might be tempted to use a whole song, including vocals, as your background, this can get a little noisy. Consider using individual stems to set the mood without being too distracting. Remember, our small batch music catalog is fully customizable and stems are available for every track.

  • Outro Music: The right outro song can leave your listeners excited for more. If you choose a track listeners love, they’re more likely to stay tuned until the end. This is a great opportunity to make your audio identity stand out and it sets the mood your listeners leave the podcast with.

Commonly Asked Questions About Music Licensing for Podcasts

Can I just give the artist credit when I use their song?

No. While giving the artist credit is a great way to show appreciation for their work, it does not grant you the right to use their song and it is not a legal way to skirt copyright laws. The only legal way to use copyrighted music in your podcast is to purchase a music license.

Do I need a license if I only play the song for 10 seconds?

Yes. You’ve probably heard it time and time again that if you cut the song before 10 seconds, it’s fine to use it. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception that could get you into trouble. Whether you play 10 seconds of a track or the entire thing, you need permission via a proper music license.

Do I need a license if I’m not making any money from my podcast?

Yes. Musicians still have the right to be paid for their work, even if you’re not making money from your podcast. If you’re a non-profit podcast, you might want to consider looking for copyright-free music.

Do “Fair Use” laws apply to my podcast?

Generally, no. “Fair Use” policy allows for extremely limited use of copyrighted music without the copyright holder’s permission, but it’s very case-specific. Music that’s being used for entertainment purposes very rarely qualifies as fair use, and that includes podcasts. In short, relying on fair use law is extremely risky and could lead to copyright infringement claims or lawsuits.

Wrapping Up

Incorporating music throughout your podcast is the best way to create an immersive experience, but it’s not worth risking a copyright violation. Obtaining a proper music license ensures that you don’t get flagged for copyright infringement. You don’t have time for that - and neither do your listeners.