Why Use Copyrighted Music in a Podcast?

Since I started podcasting nearly a year ago, there’s always been the question of how best to include music in a podcast. Personally, I’ve found it adds too much production time and I frequently fast-forward over songs in other podcasts anyway.

The CARP license that destroyed webcasting doesn’t quite fit. The RIAA, SoundExchange, and the other copyright holders haven’t published a license that makes sense to podcasters and I don’t see the incentive for them to. Their business model is based on keeping music unheard.

If there’s anything I gleaned from Frontline’s The Way the Music Died it’s that the really interesting artists aren’t in Wal-mart or any record store. Chris Anderson over at the Long Tail has the graphs to prove it. Yet, it’s the record store artists that new podcasters want to include in their new podcast.

Why shoehorn a model that doesn’t promote the interesting (traditional publishing) into a model that does (podcasting)?

Including a known artist’s work in a podcast is bad on two counts:

  1. It invites the RIAA and their lawyers into your wallet.
  2. It’s a lost opportunity to share other independent artists with your listeners. Sure, they won’t be as polished as your $18.00 radio-friendly unit shifters, but neither is your podcast. (That’s why it’s worth listening to.)

If you’re looking to use pre-recorded music for your podcast:

First know why you want music. Is it to sound like a “real radio” program? Or is it to share stuff you like with others in hopes they’ll like it to?

Secondly, pack up your CD collection and put your hometown in GarageBand.com’s city or state search, flip through the Magnatune‘s catalog, or through everything licensed under Creative Commons.

I’m confident all the artists there will be more than happy to be on your podcast.


“…basing any new work on Big Machine Music is insanity, particularly when there is a wealth of available music via Creative Commons or trivially licensable sources like Magnatune.” – Dave Slusher