Music for Podcasts - Myths, Licences, and What You Need to Know

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Adding music to your podcast can give it a distinct brand and character or elevate a particular passage of an episode.

Before choosing any music, whether it’s your intro/outro music or otherwise, it’s important to know that you’re not infringing on any copyrights or ignoring any licensing agreements to avoid any potential disputes.

Myths you might have been told

  1. The ‘10 second rule’ - When using music that’s under copyright it doesn’t matter if you use 10 seconds or 10 minutes, it’s still not allowed.
  2. It’s ok as long as I credit the original - Giving attribution, no matter how correct it is, doesn’t get you out of using copyrighted music. Attribution isn’t even a requirement if you do include it.
  3. My show isn’t making money, so it’s ok - It doesn’t matter if your show is not-for-profit

What about ‘Fair Use’?

“Fair use” is often highlighted as a way to get around or use-but-not-violate copyright. The problem with it is that it can be a vague concept that varies from country to country depending on the specific language of the copyright law.

Fair use is a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism.

This is a definition provided by Stanford University and highlights for a writer, for example, can critique a book or a podcast can discuss part of a film.

However, definitions of “fair use” can be ambiguous which can work against you if someone thinks you’re not using copyrighted work fairly.

If in doubt it’s probably best to not use copyrighted works.

Licenses

Licensing music requires the user of the music to have purchased the ability to do so.

If you want to use music by Beyoncé or The Beatles then you’ll most likely be paying a small fortune for a song.

However there are plenty of places where you can purchase a license for a small fee and use the corresponding song as desired. Check out the links below to find licensed music.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is an open licensing standard that aims to empower creators of any content to share their work under clear and transparent terms.

If you ever see something shared under a Creative Commons license it should break down what you can and can’t do with that work in easy to understand language, e.g. Free to use, not-for-profit, give attribution.

You can read about the licenses here and if you want to share something under a Creative Commons license then you can choose which type of license here.


Where to Find Music

Free


Disclaimer I’m not a lawyer and the information above should not be understood to be legally prescriptive. If in doubt, consult a lawyer.