How To Choose Your Podcast Music

Tara Parachuk | October 18, 2019

photo for podcast music

Music in your podcast plays a very important role in the listener’s experience. Music should be used to enhance the content of your podcast and not manipulate or override the story or message you are sharing with your listeners. If you are successful at creating a good balance of conversation and music, you have the ability to monetize your podcast.

Podcast music performs three basic functions:

In this article

  1. Styles of Podcast Music and Instruments
  2. Selecting Your Podcast Music
  3. Copyrighted Music – Dispelling the Myths
  4. Podsafe – Legalized Podcasting Music
  5. Podsafe Music Network – Where to Find Podsafe Music
  6. Download Podsafe Music – How to find Podsafe Music
  7. Royalty-Free Music
  8. Local Musicians – Support local talent by airing their music
  9. Music Composition – Custom works for your Podcast
  10. Alternatives to Podcast Music
  11. Ambience – Overall Podcast Atmosphere
  12. Sound Effects – Audio Embellishments
  1. Sets the theme of the podcast.
  2. Prepares the listener for individual segments or features within the podcast.
  3. Entertains the listener by introducing and promoting new music.

Styles of Podcast Music and Instruments

In short, know your theme and select appropriate music to complement the topics you will be discussing in your podcast. You should select music for the opening of your podcast; a tune that your listeners will start to associate with your show. As well, you should learn to use musical cues to signal differences in themes. For example, you may decide to play different music when you are introducing a guest. Using music as a cue helps to create a flow of your podcast for your listeners – one that they will become familiar with over time.

Hiring a composer to provide you with custom theme music is a great branding idea if you have the resources to employ a professional. You can also find free Podsafe music for all of these musical genres.

Selecting Your Podcast Music

Music and sound effects help to brand a podcast, making it easy to recognize and differentiate from other shows. The podcast voice over is another element that your listeners will identify with, which is why it is important to have a consistent imaging voice and an official podcast host voice.

When selecting music, keep the theme of the podcast and the target audience in mind. Since each podcast is different and has a unique listenership, the music you choose should reflect both, in a complementary fashion. You should choose music appropriately – emotional reactions to music are instinctive, but using that music at the appropriate time in your podcast can be a bit more of a challenge. To avoid becoming overwhelmed with musical choices, you first need to consider the topic and whether it is serious or more fun. Think about using music as clues to your audience on how they should feel at certain moments.

As an example, if the podcast serves the financial industry, specifically the stock market, the music might be more energetic with a declamatory anthem. Sound effects may include the opening bell of the stock exchange, walla (background noise – people talking), a heartbeat, clocks ticking, and/or other related sounds. The host may have an authoritative voice and excitable voice, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

Once you have selected the sound effects and audio you want to include, you will then have to edit these sounds into your podcast in a seamless way.

Royalty-free music can be used in productions without recurring fees, (i.e. without paying royalties for each time the music is played). Music beds can be purchased either as a single track or as a package with variations on a theme. An alternative to royalty-free music is podsafe music.

Podsafe music can be acquired by partnering with a musician and crediting their work during the podcast. Independent artists are making their compositions available as podsafe music in exchange for publicity and airplay. Sound effect libraries can be subscribed to for a modest fee or CDs can be purchased and imported to a media player.

Copyrighted Music – Dispelling the Myths

There are a few myths suggesting that use of copyrighted music during your show is an acceptable practice. In short, in any of the scenarios below, a podcast producer is in copyright violation. Unless you have purchased the rights, the following scenarios could get you into a lot of legal trouble:

  • “I only play 15 seconds.”
  • “I talk over the intro of the song.”
  • “I bought and own the CD.”
  • The artist agrees.” (You still need the label’s permission and sometimes their union’s.)

Podsafe – Legalized Podcasting Music

‘Podsafe’ refers to a track that is legally permissible to play on a podcast, usually because the band or artist is not signed to a major label or the recording was made under the Creative Commons license. At podsafe sites, artists can submit podsafe tracks and podcasters can sign up and get the music for their shows.

Podsafe Music Network – Where to Find Podsafe Music

For podcasters, the PodSafe Music Network provides access to songs, interviews, and other elements as well as the tools and systems that can be used by podcasters to create royalty-free music podcasts, as well as to build and monetize a listener base. For artists, the Network provides an outlet to showcase, promote and market their music.

For listeners, the Network features a broad range of the independent music and original content in single-play or podcast formats, as well as a community for purchasing, voting for, and promoting their favorite music and mixes.

Download Podsafe Music – How to find Podsafe Music

As a podcaster, it’s important to use music that doesn’t infringe on any copyright. You can find music that’s available to use, by searching for ‘podsafe’ music sources on your chosen search engine.

Many of the sites offering podsafe music allow you the ability to create a personal playlist that allows you to manage and download music for your podcast.

Before using music from any podsafe site, read and follow their guidelines.

Royalty-Free Music

Royalty-free basically means that you can use the music without having to pay royalties to the composer.

Once purchased or acquired legally (royalty-free music downloads), you can use the music for your own purposes, for example, as a background track for business presentations, audiobooks, or telephone auto attendants, IVRs, and on-hold messaging systems.

Local Musicians – Support local talent by airing their music

You may also wish to consider including music produced by local talent. You can find musicians by reading through a local arts and entertainment newspaper. You might also have a local musicians union that you could contact for information on who is playing in upcoming shows. Additionally, there could be a music conservatory in your region where many musicians train and practice their craft. Finally, the local clubs and pubs might be able to let you know of musicians who perform live music. Try these options and help your local music community grow.

Music Composition – Custom works for your Podcast

Original songs can be written to underscore the theme of the podcast by collaborating with a composer or an independent songwriter. Original works can often reflect a deeper meaning and provide an accurate musical translation of your podcast theme.

Whether you choose to use custom music or copyrighted music, you want to be sure that the music sets the tone of your podcast and complements the theme and feelings you are trying to convey. You can also try listening to other similar shows and listen to how they use music throughout each episode.

Alternatives to Podcast Music

Ambience – Overall Podcast Atmosphere

Ambience consists of sounds present in your recording environments. This is the pervading atmosphere of a place, specifically its background noises. For example, a podcast that is recorded at a baseball game would have an ambience with cheering fans, vendors selling treats, or the crack of a ball hitting a bat.

You can also create ambience through the use of music throughout your podcast. If the show you are producing is heavy in dialogue, you will want to add in background music that fits the theme of what you are discussing. Using the same music for your episodes, helps create a sense of familiarity with your listeners.

Sound Effects – Audio Embellishments

Recording intelligible dialogue is the number one priority of a podcast recording. Adding sound effects should augment the original recording. A few examples would be doors slamming, cars passing by, or birds singing in the trees. The purpose of sound effects is to create the illusion that the auditory environment is real, rather than fabricated.

Placing an emphasis on selected sounds can create tension, atmosphere, and emotion. It can also impart personality as well as exaggerate or diminish the listener’s perception of the host and the characters. For instance, clocks ticking can make a character sound busy or impatient, whistling can make a character sound relaxed or free spirited, and other sounds, such as carnival noises, can make a character sound silly.

Related: Top Podcasts for Storytellers

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  • Avatar for Dalicia LaFleur
    Dalicia LaFleur
    June 24, 2019, 4:05 pm

    Clicking on the music library link on the resources page, now links to this article. What happened to the music and sound effect library?1

    • Avatar for keaton
      July 2, 2019, 3:38 pm

      Hey Dalicia! Our sound effect library is now retired. However, this article contains links to other sound effect libraries!