Podcasts are growing exceptionally fast, and the production quality is constantly improving. In order to keep up with the competition, high-quality, rights included music is a must. Here's everything you need to know about podcasts and music copyright.
As a podcaster, finding music you can use for your show can be difficult. Some podcasters throw caution to the wind and use top chart music, risking DMCA’s or other punishment for the sake of ease. It’s not a smart move and can hurt your success in the long run. That’s especially true if you crosspost your content to places like YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, and Facebook. So, let’s run through the most asked questions about podcasts and music copyright, and find you solutions!
Is it legal to stream any music I like in a podcast?
It is not legal to stream any music that you like during a podcast unless you have the rights to do so. Songs fall under copyright law, and as such, only those who have a license to use them can do so legally. Acquiring the rights to use a song usually means having to pay the copyright holder either in a single payment (royalty-free) or pay per play (royalties). If you use a song that you do not have the right to use, you could face a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown request and could even face a potential lawsuit if you fail to comply with the takedown.
Do I need to have the rights to the music I use in my podcast?
Yes, you do need the right to use music in your podcast. There are rare occasions where you can use music such as in the case where artists release their music under copyright-free publications. There is also something called Creative Commons (CC) licensing, but comes with specific requirements and limitations. In those cases, you can use the music without payment or issues with copyright as long as you comply with the strict requirements. That said, you will NOT find mainstream music under either of those licensing types, and artists offering them will be few and far between.
What if I only use a track in my podcast as an intro?
Unfortunately, using a track as the intro to a podcast will not make a difference as it relates to copyright. Without having paid for a license to the song, using music without permission violates copyright law.
Can I use just a small part of a song without issue?
Generally, no, however, the line does start to blur slightly. In copyright law, there is a concept called fair use. If you can prove that using the song falls under fair use, by either making it transformative through commentary, criticism, or parody, then it may be allowed. Fair Use is a complicated concept, but if you are using a small part of a song, such as a particular line or a sound, it could be okay. When in doubt, leave it out!
How do I pay for music to use in my podcast? How is payment calculated? Is it per stream or per song or per listener?
In order to get the right to play music on your podcast, you will need to acquire the right to do so. This means paying through a licensing service. Many mainstream labels offer packages to be able to license an artist song, but it can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This is often prohibitively expensive for the majority of podcasts. Instead, you can look to a service like Epidemic Sound. We offer tens of thousands of songs for a very low monthly subscription. With Epidemic Sound, you get full access to unlimited play and streams with NO royalties. So, whether your podcast gets 10 listeners or 100,000, you only pay your monthly subscription.
What if I have listeners in different countries?
Copyright laws tend to fall to the US DMCA rules. Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook all have their base operations in the United States. Many podcast hosting services, Spotify and website hosts also operate out of the US. As such, while different countries do have slightly different local laws, most services operate with the US rules in mind.
If I have a podcast sponsor, do the rules around copyright music change?
Possibly, but only because the sponsor has acquired the rights to use the song in their ads - and they have included you in that. It’s important to make sure that the sponsor whitelists you and your outlets where you post your podcast. There have been stories of entire podcasts being taken down on platforms like YouTube because their channel was not whitelisted by the sponsor. So, be very proactive in this before using any audio provided by a sponsor.
Are there any good, affordable options to find music for my podcast?
One of the best places for high-quality, affordable royalty-free music is Epidemic Sound. Tens of thousands of tracks, all available for one monthly subscription price. No limitations. No royalties. Take your podcasting music (and sound effects) up to the next level and impress your listeners!
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