There's no rule to say that you must have music in your podcast, but opening and closing with your own theme tune can help add an extra layer of identity and professionalism to your show. How do you actually go about finding music that's suitable (and legal) for you to use, though? Before we take a look at some options, what types of music can you play on your show?
What Kind of Music Am I Allowed to Use?
It's your duty to always make sure you have permission to use whatever music you play on your podcast. Generally there are 3 options available to you.
- Royalty Free Music – You buy the license for a piece of music that entitles you to use it as and when you wish, for the duration of the license (which is usually a lifetime).
- Creative Commons Music – There are various types of Creative Commons licenses, but most entitle you to use a piece of music for free and without permission, so long as you credit the artist. Some Creative Commons licenses permit commercial use, whilst others don't.
- Public Domain – Music goes out of copyright and into the public domain after a certain amount of years. The time period differs from country to country, and there's a further grey area here; there's a difference between the song itself (which may be in the public domain) and the recording/performance of it. If a musician today performed and recorded an ancient public domain song, he or she would be the copyright holder of that rendition, and you wouldn't be allowed to use it.
If you're interested in diving a bit deeper into licensing restrictions, Mike Russell at Music Radio Creative has created this comprehensive guide.
Where Can I Find Music For My Podcast?
Let's take a look at some of the most popular options. I'll update this article on a regular basis too, so keep any eye out for new editions and please get in touch if you've got any other recommendations.
Music Radio Creative
Music Radio Creative go beyond simply helping you choose music for your show, they will also work with you to design tailor made intros, outros, transitions, stingers, and jingles. They work with some of the best voice over talent in the world to craft your message into these segments.
Their client list boasts some of the top podcasters around, like Pat Flynn, Cliff Ravenscraft, and John-Lee Dumas. They are very much the premium option, which automatically makes you think they'd be really expensive, but you'd be surprised…
If you're not fussed for having the radio-style effects and voice over tracks built in to your music, you can shop around at Music Bakery. The site is packed with all different genres of Royalty Free music, each available in different sized segments. As the site itself states, you “buy a track once, use it forever”. You can also buy CDs with multiple tracks from Music Bakery if you'd like to have a range of options for the music you use on your podcast (or podcasts).
Jamendo is a pretty comprehensive collection of Royalty Free music. The website states that they currently list 200,000 tracks by over 40,000 independent artists, so you're guaranteed to find something you like here. Jamendo also offers a music composition service, so you can place a request to have your theme tune custom composed by a musician of your choice.
Incompetech is an extensive library of free-to-use music created by New York-based composer Kevin MacLeod. A lot of his work is actually scored for film and video work, so can really work well on fictional pieces if you're an audio drama or documentary creator.
There's still a whole load of tracks on there that would certainly fit as the theme tune to a spoken word podcast though. You can use the music on Incompetech for free and without permission (so long as you credit the site), or if you didn't want to list credits you can buy a standard license for a particular track.
Audio Jungle are a great option for the podcaster on a tight budget. Tracks can be bought for between $1 and $19, and there are (at time of writing) 355,919 audio files available for purchase on the site, so loads to choose from.
There are many musicians out there who create and upload a lot of their material for free use on a Creative Commons basis. A big benefit of going down this route is that you're a lot less likely to bump into another podcast using the same theme tune as you.
Some musicians will also be open to working with you to custom score your show if you'd like something unique put together. I've often worked with Kevin Hartnell who's a first class musician and a really nice guy. He scored my sci-fi audio drama Kraken Mare a few months ago and did a fantastic job with it.
Ask a Friend
If you have a musical friend who makes a lot of tracks you could approach her or him to see if it would be alright to use one of their songs in your podcast. In exchange you could always make sure to credit them at the beginning of each episode and direct your listeners to their website, so this can be a beneficial relationship for both parties.
Just be sure to never word it using the phrase “for the exposure”, as that's a sure fire way to get yourself a slap from most creative people. You can of course offer to pay them for their music, or buy them dinner, or repay them with a ‘skills exchange'. That could be anything from helping them carry and set up equipment at a gig, to mowing their lawn.
Any Other Suggestions?
If you've sourced music for your podcast from somewhere I've not mentioned, let me know in the comments section. I'll be updating this post periodically so all recommendations are welcome.
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