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Music Copyright | Can I use a Song in my Podcast?

Music copyright is a thorny subject. Can you use a song that’s been copyrighted in your podcast?

Otherwise known as, “what can I get away with regarding copyright?” Straight away, you have to concede that you're on the defensive. You know deep down that the music is protected and belongs to someone else.

Therefore, the answer is both unsurprising, and disappointingly short.  “Very little”, and that's being hopeful. But let's break it down.

Can I use Non-Royalty Free Music on my Podcast?

No, it would be copyright infringement, and you could face heavy fines from the owners. Plus, it could seriously affect your podcasting schedule and back catalogue if you were forced to suspend its availability due to a legal battle.  You might get away with it.  You might not.  Why risk it?

Can I use it for my intro/outro?

No, sorry. It's still copyright infringement, even if you just use a little bit.

Is it Really illegal?

I'm afraid so. Record companies have legal teams ready to pounce before you can say, “hello and welcome.”

Using other people's intellectual property without permission is classed as copyright infringement.  It counts as a criminal offence. Yes, there are exceptions, like Fair Use, which you can look up here, but even then it's a defence and not a loophole.

There's also Incidental Inclusion, but that's more for when you've accidentally recorded some music in the background of your podcast.  Say you're recording an interview in a coffee shop or outside a music venue and you capture part of a song as actuality – you'll be excused as you aren't setting out to record it specifically for personal gain via your podcast.

That said, you can't use that as an excuse when you play the first 20 seconds of Yellow Submarine at the beginning and end of every episode.

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I'm not aware of any prosecutions so far, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.  Remember Napster and the file-sharing furore?  People were eventually prosecuted for illegally sharing music.

Indeed, the legal concerns could be far higher if you have any kind of sponsorship or advertising on your podast, or even on your site itself – any source of income attributable to your podcast.  The law would have to argue that you are making money, directly or indirectly, as a result of using music you haven't paid for.

What if I Only Play Part of the Song?

There's a common myth that you can get away with only playing five, ten, thirty seconds etc – sadly, it's not true.  If you play any amount of a song that is distinguishable or recognisable as that song, then you have violated copyright law.

What About Fair Use (again)?

I knew I shouldn't have mentioned Fair Use earlier on.  Okay, yes, you can use music if you are parodying it in some way or reviewing it.

But, really, is that what your podcast is about – music reviews? If so, then go for it.  If not, then Fair Use is not a defence you can hide behind.

What about Educational use?

Frankly, I suspect you'd be grasping at straws here, but you'd be right in saying there is no copyright infringement if a protected work is used for the purposes of instruction and examination.  And that's provided the song itself helps in some way to teach a sbject, i.e. The History of Rock and Roll from 1946 to 1970.

However, let me stress again that this must NOT be for commercial purposes, and the rights of the author must be given sufficient acknowledgement.


Long story short, you can't use copyrighted songs in your podcast without permission.  Typically, companies want hundreds of dollars per episode if you want to get permission.

How do I Find Music that IS Legal?

There are a host of websites out there that offer music you can use – some of them are free, and others you have to pay a one-off fee for the licence.  I often use but there's a whole wealth of them out there, and we've listed many of the best on our ‘Finding Podcast Music‘ article here.

Also, remember that members of our Podcast Host Academy get access to a library of royalty free music and FX. So, if you join up, you'll get all of our courses, our coaching AND a bunch of really good tunes that you can use for any purpose you like.



  1. Thomas on 22nd August 2018 at 3:44 am

    What if I wanted to pay for the rights to use in my podcast? Who would I talk to?

  2. Maige on 23rd August 2019 at 9:37 pm


  3. Isaiah on 28th August 2019 at 9:34 pm

    If I wanted to do a podcast showcasing hit songs with cool time signatures, or songs that have a hidden message in the lyrics, etc. – would clips of these songs be allowed? It’s semi-educational/personal observations/review.

    • Lindsay Harris Friel on 30th August 2019 at 2:23 pm

      You’d have to get permission and pay the fee. 🙂

  4. Jeff Brittain on 8th November 2019 at 12:35 am

    What if the artist gave me permission? He’s a good friend of mine. How would I let the world know so that ITunes and other podcast applications let me use it?

    • Lindsay Harris Friel on 8th November 2019 at 6:04 pm

      Put the artist in the credits. You could say “Music by (artist name),” or “(title of song) is written and performed by (artist name),” or whatever suits.

  5. Kyle K on 14th November 2019 at 5:37 pm

    Following up on that Lindsay, if I’m interviewing the artist on my podcast and using 20 or 30 second clips from some of his/her songs throughout the podcast with their permission, is just having the artist’s permission typically all I need?

  6. Taycha on 29th December 2019 at 1:03 am

    What if it’s a situation where you’re at a family dinner listening to the (radio) and decide to record a podcast forgetting that the radio is playing… Would you have to scrap the podcast?

    • Lindsay Harris Friel on 30th December 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Is the background radio so loud that it eclipses the conversation?

  7. Pablo Povarchik on 31st December 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Can I get the rights to play a song on my podcast directly from the band? Could I have a simple agreement to be signed by the band or artist that grants me the rights to play the song on my podcast?

  8. Tanjia J on 10th January 2020 at 10:27 pm

    Hi Lindsay! This may have been asked peripherally but i just want to make sure. A friend and I starting a crime podcast, want to use a snippet from a popular Travis Scott song to show iour subjects relevance in popular culture. Is this legal? If not, how do we go about doing this the right way?

    • Matthew McLean on 13th January 2020 at 9:53 am

      Hi Tanjia, it’s only legal if you have a license for both the performance and mechanical rights to a song which can be very complicated and cost a fortune. I’d recommend you look at finding podcast music that’s simple to use and won’t get you in trouble. Here’s where to find podcast music.

    • Lindsay Harris Friel on 13th January 2020 at 10:17 pm

      I wouldn’t. It has less to do with the artist themselves, and more to do with their record company and armies of lawyers. There are so many other options for finding good music, anyway. Have a look at this article about finding music for your podcast.

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Written by:

Robert Cudmore

June 27th 2016