So, you want to be the next Serial or S Town, or at least become the supreme podcast ruler of your niche market. You’re in luck! There’s never been a better time to cozy up to a microphone and start your own podcast. Conversely, the podcasting waters are getting a little crowded. In order to stand out and be heard, literally, you’re going to have to up your podcast game. That means picking a great topic, working on your perfect podcast voice, and finding the right royalty free music. Wait… royalty free music? Are we saying you can’t use Beyoncé’s latest hit as your podcast intro theme?
Yes, this is exactly what we’re saying. Don’t do that. No one crosses Queen Bey and gets away with it for long. So, rest your voice for just a little. We’re here to tell you exactly why music is a crucial component of a great podcast, and why you need to care a great deal about music copyright. (Hint: Royalty free music downloads are your friend).
But first, we have this exciting message: podcasts are kind of a big deal now!
Congratulations! You picked a very good time to croon your thoughts into a mic, because we are living in the golden age of podcasting. Back in the old days, podcasters had to stand on soapboxes on the street and scream their thoughts on gluten-free baking to uncaring men with handlebar mustaches and women wearing huge hats. These days, the rise of the smartphone has made it as easy as gluten-free pie to become a podcaster.
Both the iPhone and Android app stores include tons of dedicated podcast apps, including Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, and more. These apps allow our phone-addicted generation to listen to their favorite podcasts while trudging through traffic to work, trudging on the treadmill at the gym, and trudging through otherwise soul-killing house chores. As a result, over 44% of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast, and that proportion continues to grow at a fast clip!
It’s also easier than ever for you to create your own podcast. No soapbox or accommodating radio station is necessary. For less than $200, you can equip yourself with a decent microphone and basic editing software and nab an affordable media host to store your podcast files. Once you’ve loaded your first episode to your media host, all you have to do is submit your RSS feed to the major podcast directories, and badda bing! You are a podcaster. (Need a little help getting started? The Podcast Host offers this handy guide.)
Of course, the nitty gritty details are a little more complicated – like deciding what your podcast is actually going to be about – but the gist is that it’s never been easier to be a podcaster. The problem is that a lot of other people have also figured this out. That’s why when your first gluten-free baking podcast episode appears in the iTunes store (Huzzah!), it will have plenty of company. We’re talking about roughly half a million other podcasts and over 18.5 million individual episodes competing with yours!
Publishing a podcast might be easy, but actually getting someone besides your mom to listen is a whole other story. There are lots of things you can do to stand out from the competition, like picking a fascinating topic and being a smart and witty host. There’s also adding music to your podcast.
Can you hum the main theme song to the Mission Impossible movies? What about Star Wars or Indiana Jones? Of course you can! What is your favorite TV show? Every time you sit down to watch a new episode, we bet just hearing the opening bars of its theme song sends oodles of anticipation tingling down your spine. (Game of Thrones, anyone?)
This is the power of music in a nutshell. It can affect an audience’s emotions, guide them through transitions, and create a deep connection to a media brand. As a podcaster, you can harness the power of music in all of these ways and more. Here are the most important ways to incorporate music into your podcast:
Every episode of your podcast should start with a short, pre-recorded intro. This is your chance to introduce your podcast to new listeners and remind your loyal listeners why they love tuning in. Summarize your podcast in a sentence or two and add a musical element. The music functions as your podcast’s theme song, helping listeners connect with the podcast.
Your intro music is the most important musical choice you’ll make for your podcast. This will become a key branding element and will always connect your listeners to your unique podcast. If you are one of the millions of listeners who became obsessed with the podcast Serial when it first debuted in 2014, then you probably have its intro music – two sharp notes tapped on a piano – burned into your psyche.
You don’t end a conversation by simply turning around and walking away from your partner (unless you live inside a soap opera). Instead, you offer some concluding remarks, such as, “see you later.”
Likewise, ending a podcast without a wrap-up is a sure way to confuse and frustrate listeners. Instead, conclude with a powerful closing statement accompanied by your “outro” music. This can be the same music as your intro, or it can be different music only used for the outro. Think of it as a friendly way to say goodbye to your listeners until the next episode.
If you are savvy enough to convince a company to shell out money to be featured on your podcast, it is a good idea to include a unique piece of music associated with sponsorships and commercials. This music lets listeners know that you are transitioning from your own content to an advertisement. Listeners of the popular podcast Startup know that the happy-go-lucky musical interlude means they’re about to hear ad promos for companies like Squarespace or SurveyMonkey.
Your podcast might be broken up into several different segments, including recurring segments that your audience loves. A great way to help listeners mentally transition from one segment to the next is to use a short musical number to ferry them across the gap. You could use the same musical number for all your transitions or use attach specific music to certain segments, like your guest interview or your listener Q&A.
Some of the most popular and advanced podcasts go the extra step of adding musical elements within the main body of their podcast to enhance the emotional impact of the story they are telling. The iconic This American Life is famous for this special musical trick. If your podcast features the hosts having an off-the-cuff conversation, then you probably don’t need to add this extra element to your editing process. However, if you want to really enhance the listener’s journey, consider dabbling with a few musical overlays.
Of course, all this music has to come from somewhere, and you already know Beyoncé isn’t going to give you her greatest hits for free. Now is the part where we have to tell you that stealing music is a terrible, terrible idea.
Maybe you just started your podcast. It’s no big deal if you use some random music you found on the internet, right? Who cares where it came from or who created it? Your mom isn’t going to snitch on you to the copyright police, so what’s the big deal?
Here’s the problem with that thought. Stealing is stealing even if you don’t get caught. Just because you got away with swiping those sweet Pokémon cards from Toys R’ Us when you were ten doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do.
Here’s the other problem – what happens when a second person starts listening to your podcast and then a third and a fourth? Before you know it, you could have hundreds of listeners and then thousands, and maybe, just maybe, one of your new fans recognizes her song in your intro. You know, the song you never bothered to pay her for!
When someone creates a piece of art, including music, they own the rights to that piece of art. This is copyright. That person can give someone else the right to use their music or sell the right to use that music. When you use music that belongs to someone else without permission or without paying a royalty, you are committing copyright infringement.
If you are caught, the owner of the copyright could demand that you take down the offending podcast episode or even ask for a share of your sponsorship profits. It gets worse. Legally, a copyright owner can also sue you for up to $150,000 for every work infringed upon. Though this doesn’t happen very often, it really isn’t worth the risk. Also, keep in mind that the more popular your podcast becomes, the more the target on your back will grow. If you want to be a successful podcaster, it’s important to do things the right way from the very beginning.
In other words, don’t steal music from Beyoncé or from anyone else. There are plenty of other ways to find royalty free music downloads.
Don’t worry future superstar podcaster. You don’t have to teach yourself the harmonica in order to make your own podcast music. These days, plenty of companies have sprung up that offer royalty free music just for situations like yours.
One of them is us, Soundstripe! Our job is to offer you lots and lots of great music without any copyright worries. Here are all the reasons why our services are perfect for podcasters:
· Royalty Free Music – We might have mentioned this, but we offer loads and loads of copyright-free music, which takes the guessing and the worry out of your music selections. As long as you stick with our music library, you’ll never have to worry about getting a Cease and Desist notice in the mail.
· The Artists Get Paid – We’ve scoured the world for extraordinary musicians, and we create agreements with them so that they receive fair compensation for their music. It’s a win, win, win.
· Lots of Genres – Podcast topics can range dramatically, but we still have the perfect music for you. That’s because we offer music in over a dozen different genres, so you’ll find the perfect music for your scary Halloween episode and your upbeat one-year anniversary celebration.
· Unlimited Music – We offer you access to our entire music library for one reasonable monthly or yearly subscription fee. Use as much music as you want and as many times as you want. Even if you need music for five separate podcasts, you’ll still pay the same rate, you go-getter!
· Easily Find the Music You Want – Your time is important. You have a podcast to host after all! You can’t waste precious hours slogging through an unorganized list of music. At Soundstripe, you can sort our music by genre, mood, instrumentation, and even beat so you can find the perfect selection for your podcast.
· Create Playlists – You don’t want to stop in the middle of your editing process every time you need to find a new piece of music. Instead, create playlists for each episode. This will make the post-production process much smoother and efficient. Less time spent editing your episode means more time to record new podcasts. Your listeners will be thrilled!
So, podcaster, you need music, and we have music. That sounds like the start of a beautiful relationship. Check out our music library today, and we can wait to download your next podcast episode.