Getting music for podcasts definitely gives it a more polished vibe, as well as make it sound more professional.
Now there are many royalty-free music websites out there. But the problem is that most of the good ones are either overused or a bit pricey.
Now it is undeniable that you can just go grab and use any music you want. But without the proper license, your episode can get flagged, and you may be sued for copyright infringement.
Even up to now, a lot of podcasters still don’t understand – or maybe just don’t care, about using music that they don’t have permission to use. And it’s maybe because many do get away with it.
But if you’re in the shoes of the artists who made those tunes, would you be happy?
Personally, I don’t think that it’s fair, and would never condone such actions.
And that is why in this article, allow me to tackle the different talking points associated with finding and using music for podcasts.
Let’s start with…
Why You Should Not Use Copyrighted Music For Podcasts
Just like you, music acts also create content, though theirs is in musical form. And just like you, they also want to get paid off their hard work.
For example, how would you feel if someone took your podcast as his/her own? You would be furious right?
These days, some labels added AI-based programs into the mix which can quickly sift out any unauthorized use hours after it’s uploaded.
These programs are highly sophisticated and can even sift out parts of an illegally used music track – even if its cut or edited.
This can lead to you getting a strike, or much worse – get sued.
Basically, anything that you hear on the radio is off-limits. And if you think you can get away with downloading music off YouTube or other websites, well, let’s just say that converting YouTube videos to MP3 is highly illegal – and can land you in jail in some countries.
When caught, most people resort to these reasons for doing so.
The Usual Suspects & Their Usual Excuse
I Was Not Using It To Make Money
Even if your intention was to make a podcast just for your friends; and if even you honestly don’t have any intent to monetize the said upload, your action still considered illegal under copyright laws.
Don’t think that because your podcast is part of a really obscure niche; that it could fly below the radar and not get flagged by record labels – because it eventually will.
Record labels are very strict when it comes to protecting their investment.
And if your podcast happens to go viral – you are in for some huge trouble.
Now there are indeed exceptions to this though.
You either need to be a non-profit or a charitable organization – but you need to have proper credentials and documentation to show that you are indeed one.
I Made Sure That It Was Under 10 Seconds
When it comes to music for podcasts, it doesn’t really matter if you used the entire track or just a few seconds of it.
If you don’t have the permission, it will still fall under illegal use.
In fact, even artists themselves file plagiarism cases against each other when they feel that a new song/track has the same melody or chord progression with a song/track they previously released.
So no. If you don’t have the right to use the entire song/track, just don’t.
I Credited The Artist (Attribution)
Just because you told everyone who made the track/song you used means that’s everything’s ok.
Think of it this way.
Bob stole and ate the cake Karen baked for the picnic, without asking permission from Karen.
Karen finds out and calls Bob a thief. To save face, Bob tells everyone how delicious the cake was.
Do you think Karen will be fine with that?
I Used The Music Under “Fair Use”
While there is some legitimacy associated with this excuse, a podcaster cannot simply use any copyrighted music and hide behind the “fair use” argument.
For anyone to use said argument in a legal manner, its use must be “transformative” and limited to a certain extent.
Using The “No Copyright Infringement Intended” Angle
Look, the moment you use copyrighted music without permission from its record company, publisher and/or artist – you are infringing on its copyright.
Music For Podcasts That You Can Legally Use
Music With “Creative Commons Music” Tag
A type of music recording that artists make which allows anyone to use said track/song – mostly without any legal obligation to its creator/owner.
Under this tag, you are given the right by its creator to use their song/track without asking them for permission.
Some Creative Commons licenses though have conditions associated with them.
For example, some would state that anyone can use their music so long as it is not used for commercial purposes.
So before you use a track/song with a Creative Commons Music tag to it, make sure to check if there are any conditions that come with it.
Music With “Royalty-Free Music” Tag
Songs and tracks with Royalty-Free Music tags mean that “you” are not required to pay any “royalties” to the artist for using their track/song.
Some royalty-free songs/tracks through require you to pay a one time fee or a monthly subscription.
This explains why I emphasized the word YOU earlier, as “you” are not the one who it legally tasked to pay the artist, but the company that is asking you for said fee to legally use the song/track.
Do you get the difference?
Music Under The “Public Domain” Tag
Copyright has an expiration date.
Typically, once a song/track reaches at least 75 years; there’s a huge chance that its copyright has already expired – thus falling under “public domain”.
When this happens, anyone is free to use said song/track.
But before you get all excited and start searching for music made during the 1940’s, you need to make sure that their record label and/or publisher did not extend their copyright just to be on the safe side of things.
Try And Get Actual Permission
Now there will be instances that you may are friends with an artist, a band, or a producer.
If that’s the case, all you need to do is ask them for a written and notarized document that states that they are giving you permission to use their music.
If they are signed to a major label, this can be a bit complicated as it would be rare for major labels to just sign off a piece of music without them getting something off it.
Also, make sure that the permission states that you have the right to use said music “for the entire world”.
For the unfamiliar, this may sound a bit strange. But there are actually music copyright restrictions per region.
Websites Where You Can Get Legal Music For Podcasts
Incompetech features music from producer Kevin MacLeod. Yes, all the music you hear on the site was created by him and falls under the royalty-free music category.
There are hundreds of tracks/songs to choose from that you can use on almost any type of podcast.
So long as you give him credit for using one of his songs/tracks, there wouldn’t be any problem.
Free Music Archive
Free Music Archive is filled with thousands of high-quality songs/tracks and samples that you can legally use.
Each of the songs/tracks on their music library has specific types of permission associated with it; so I suggest that you first establish what those permissions are before using the said track/song/sample.
909 Music is a royalty-free music library on the social media music platform Soundcloud.
They have several artists within their library that creates high-quality music and samples.
Since their music leans more towards electronic music; it can be quite limiting for those with more traditional podcast niches.
Now if you are after sound effects, then Soundbible is your go-to site.
Going back to legalities for a bit, even sound effects are protected by copyright laws.
So rather than grab a music file off YouTube for your comedy podcast, might as well just swing by Soundbible to be safe.
Where To “Buy” Music For Podcasts
Audio Jungle has a huge database of high-quality music and samples.
You can either go for corporate sounding background music or go for originals compositions from independent artists.
Tracks/Songs/Samples can be bought off them for as little as $1.
Searching for music on Neo Sounds is a bit interesting.
Not only do they allow you to search for music by genres. They also give you the ability to search by moods and emotions – making the search more specific and broader.
This in turn makes it easier for you to find a track/song/sample/effect that you need.
The thing I like about Sound Stripe is the fact that all the music in their library is free for commercial use.
This means that you no longer need to check if it is ok to use a sound file for a promo ad, etc.
And unlike the other two websites I mentioned, they offer a monthly subscription of $15 per month – allowing you to use any music on their site so long as you stay subscribed to them.
Now depending on what your actual need is, $15 can be too much or too little for your needs.
But at the end of the day, what is $15 really compared to you going to court and explaining why you illegally trampled on the intellectual property rights of a musician, right?
Anyway, that’s it for our music for podcast article.
So what do you think? Did the article explain to you the legalities of using music for podcasts? Will you be trying out one of the websites I recommended?
I would like to hear what you think, so please leave me a line in the comment section below.
And if you are a podcaster looking to streamline your production process, send me an email and let us help you out.
In fact, why not schedule a FREE consultation call and ask us how we can tweak your processes and make them more effective.
As always, stay safe, and I will talk to you next time.
Apple is a long-time podcaster and personal finance enthusiast. He runs Podblade full-time with his cofounder Rom Raviv and is determined to make podcasting a more accessible medium by providing affordable services to podcasters large and small. When he’s not podcasting you’ll likely find him swing dancing or traveling.