Licensing Music for Your Podcast: A Beginner's Guide

Bas Zuidwijk
June 18, 2024
4 minutes

Adding music can take your podcast to the next level, setting the mood, pacing the show and engaging listeners. But navigating licensing and copyright laws can feel daunting, especially if you're just starting out. Get it wrong, and you could face huge fines or even have your show taken down. The good news? Licensing music for your podcast doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. With the right guidance, you can find compliant, affordable options to legally enhance your show.

This beginner's guide will walk through the key steps for legally using music in your podcast - from understanding the different license types to leveraging cost-effective solutions like the Collabhouse Music Library. You'll learn:

• The difference between licensed, royalty-free and copyrighted music

• Which licenses are an absolute must-have

• Affordable options for podcasts on a budget

• How to avoid common music licensing mistakes

• The serious repercussions of using unlicensed music

Let's start with the absolute basics...

Licensed vs Royalty-Free vs Copyrighted Music

All music falls into one of three categories:

Licensed music: This refers to any song that is still under copyright, which covers the vast majority of modern music. To use a licensed track in your podcast, you need to acquire a sync license from the rights holder. More on this shortly.

Royalty-free music: These are songs that have been released under royalty-free terms, meaning you can use them for free in your podcast without needing to license them. Seems easy, right? But read the fine print, as some royalty-free music still has restrictions.

Copyrighted music: If a song is still protected by copyright, which generally lasts 70-100 years, you typically can't use it without permission and proper licensing. Beware - just because a song seems old or obscure doesn't mean it's copyright-free! Do your research.

The Must-Have Licenses for Podcast Music

If you want to legally include modern popular music in your podcast, you'll need to secure, at minimum, a sync license. This grants you the rights to synchronize the music with your audio recording.

Sync licenses must be obtained directly from the rights holder - whether that's the record label, artist, composer etc. This allows the rights holder to collect royalties.

Rates for sync licenses can vary, but the Collabhouse Music Library offers affordable pre-cleared options. There’s also a large amount of music that you can use free of charge.

Cost-Effective Music Licensing for Podcasts

If your podcast is operating on a shoestring budget, paying high sync fees just isn't feasible. Luckily, you have alternatives:

1. Production music libraries: These contain a vast selection of quality, pre-cleared music available via subscription. For example, Collabhouse offers a Music Library with thousands of songs from real artists that podcasters can access for free. Much more budget-friendly!

2. Creative Commons music: Songs released under a Creative Commons license give you free use, provided you meet the stated terms, like crediting the artist. Quality varies greatly, but gems exist if you dig.

3. Commission original music: Hire an up-and-coming composer to create an original podcast theme song or bumper for a reasonable rate. You'll own full rights.

4. Use public domain music: Music that is no longer under copyright is in the public domain, so free to use. This includes classics by Bach, Beethoven, and more. Quality over quantity here.

Each option has pros and cons, but used strategically, they provide legal and affordable ways to get quality music in your podcast. And remember - no pop songs or billboard hits!

Common Music Licensing Mistakes to Avoid

Many podcasters unintentionally break music licensing rules. Don't let these mistakes wreck your show:

• Assuming a song is copyright-free because it's old or unknown. Always verify first!

• Failing to read the fine print on "royalty-free" music. Restrictions may apply.

• Thinking you can use very short snippets under "fair use". Don't risk it!

• Not verifying that Creative Commons music fits your intended use case.

• Having loose verbal agreements instead of signed licenses. Get it in writing!

When in doubt, reach out to the rights holder and ask for written permission. It's better to be safe than receive a lawsuit!

Consequences of Using Unlicensed Music

If you use copyrighted music without proper licensing, the rights holder can take serious legal action against your podcast, including:

• Copyright infringement notices, ordering episode removal

• Multi-million dollar fines

• Getting banned from your podcast platform

• Complete show shutdown

All your hard work could vanish overnight. Don't take shortcuts - do it the right way from the start.

Explore the Collabhouse Music Library

For affordable, easy music licensing, the Collabhouse Music Library is an invaluable resource. You get access to thousands of high-quality songs, neatly organized by genre, mood, tempo and more. And you can trust that all music has been legally released for commercial use. No worrying about copyright issues!

See for yourself why podcasters love Collabhouse. Sign up today and instantly open the doors to unlimited music possibilities. Now get out there and create your dream podcast - legally and affordably. The sounds of success await!

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