Podcasts have exploded in popularity in the past 10 years. And music has been key to their success.
Music for Podcasts: Audio Storytelling Is Enhanced by Music
A portmanteau of iPod and broadcast, podcasts were originally created as short, informative episodes that could discuss history, politics, personal events, short stories, or similar content. Modern podcasts are typically much longer, produced by one of many podcast stations or companies besides just Apple Music/iTunes.
While podcasts are spoken forms of audio entertainment, like radio shows of earlier eras, a good podcast effectively uses music at various points to heighten emotion or create transitions. Many podcasts have their own theme songs, background music, and closing credits music.
Newer podcasters or smaller podcasts may not commission their own music and instead source music from other places. If you are interested in starting a podcast, you cannot use recorded, produced music without paying a licensing fee, so you may want to source music from other places.
The Best Background Music for Podcasts
Regardless of the genre of podcast you produce, you want great background music for certain sections.
You may think of famous movie soundtracks that would enhance the tension, energy, melancholy, or happiness of the audience.
However, you cannot use these copyrighted songs unless you pay exorbitant licensing fees and sign a contract with a performing rights organization (PRO). Even then, the PRO, recording label, or composer may refuse your request to license the song, so you will not be able to use it at all.
Royalty-free stock music. Many content creators choose this for its ambiance and because stock music is often designed to be background music for creative works. You pay a fee one time to get the license for royalty-free music or access to a huge library of stock music, and you can use these songs multiple times.
Creative Commons music. You could get this through SoundCloud and other sites, which is a type of free licensing that allows you to use music in certain settings based on what the creator wants the music used for. You probably will not pay a fee for Creative Commons music, but you may need to acknowledge the artist who created it or follow the composer’s other requests.
Public domain music. This contains more than 400,000 songs published in 1926 or before, including numerous silent movie scores. This music is free, and you do not need to credit where it came from.
Other Parts of Your Podcast That Benefit From Music
Background music is one way to use music effectively in your podcast, to increase energy or enhance certain moods or emotions in your audience as you tell a story or have a conversation. However, there are other ways for music to be applied to this rich audio medium, including:
Intro music to underscore the name of your podcast.
Ending credits music as you thank your co-creators and support team.
Interstitial music as you transition between segments or into and out of ad breaks.
Music to introduce different segments of the podcast or introduce your guests.
Choosing music for your podcast depends on the type of content you have, what mood you want to set, and several other factors. Getting the right music for your podcast can draw in the audience, while failing to find a song that is a great fit means you might be misusing music, setting the wrong mood, and driving your audience away.
Playlists to Help You Find Podcast Music
Here are some playlists with music you might want to use in your podcast. You can listen through these and decide which songs work best for you:
While you can find some copyright-free songs for your podcast, you’ll open up many more options if you subscribe to a licensed music service.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use music in a podcast?
Yes, you can use music in a podcast, but you need to make sure you license the music appropriately. For example, you cannot use a new release from a major recording label without paying the high licensing fee, nor can you use royalty-free music without paying for that license.
If you cannot afford licensing fees, you can find some free music through the Creative Commons. You may also consider hiring a composer for your show.
Where can I find free music for podcasts?
It is possible to find free music for your podcast or other production, either by searching Creative Commons licenses, including on sites like SoundCloud, finding free royalty-free music, using a licensed music library offered by a company like YouTube, or by finding artists who offer their music for free on sites like Band Camp.
How do I download music for my podcast?
When you find a site with songs you like, you can download directly from that source, either after you pay or after signing an agreement about how to use the music in your podcast. There are many services that allow you to directly download music, especially if you pay for the song or pay a monthly subscription fee, although you may not have unlimited downloads from every source.