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Should you use music in your podcast?

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Drawing of man playing music on a guitar

It depends what you’re using it for

Using music in your podcast can add something really special to your show but it can also be an unnecessary distraction depending on your content.

If you’re going to use music in your podcast make sure it’s a decision you’ve put serious creative thought into.  Also, make extra sure you’re not using tracks you don’t have the rights to or you might get a little visit from a lawyer.

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Fiction and audio journalism

If your show is focused on story-telling, music can be a fantastic tool to set the mood and draw people into the story.  Having said that it’s important to use it sparingly and think creatively about where you’re placing it and why.

There should always be a reason and it should never be “because this part’s a bit boring and I want to jazz it up.”

To get an idea of shows that use music really well listen to This American Life, Serial, Radio Lab or The Quicky.

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Conversational podcasts and interview shows

If your show involves you chatting to your audience, interviewing a guest or having a conversation with a co-host you’ll want to keep music to a minimum.

Why?  Because it’s distracting.

Sometimes people think music will keep their listeners engaged.  But your content should be strong enough to do that without any bells and whistles.

If you’ve sat down and thought about your listeners and what they want to hear you’ll be able to hang onto their ears without needing the trance pumping away beneath you.

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Ad breaks

If you have ad breaks in your show it’s a good idea to separate them from the main content by putting music underneath.

Just be mindful of keeping the levels low so the music doesn’t blast your listener’s ears off.

As a general rule if you’re using music it’s best to use it under shorter sections of audio i.e. less than one minute.

Ideally, your ads will be around the 30-second mark, so music will help move things along.  It’ll also highlight that section as something separate from your show content.

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Podcast intro and outro

This is somewhere you’ll definitely want to use music because it not only sets the tone for your show, it helps package your podcast up so it sounds professional.

Your intro and outro become your audio logo, it’s the thing people recognise when they press play.

Finding the right track can take time but it’s worth putting in the effort before you begin because ideally, you don’t want to change it once you’ve started.

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If you’re going to use music make sure you own it

No matter how much you love the latest Beyonce track, you can’t download it and use it on your podcast, unless you’ve got a penchant for being sued.

Using music you haven’t purchased a licence for is a legal nightmare that’s easily avoided.

There are plenty of music sites out there packed with songs for this exact purpose so make sure you go looking in the right places.

Music websites…

These sites contain a whole range of different styles and genres but make sure you read the fine print.

Some tracks will have specific uses or different charges depending on what you’re using it for so it’s important to do your homework.

Trawling through these sites to find the perfect track also takes A LOT of time, so make sure you factor that in.

Premium Beat

Marmoset Music

Audio Network

Jamendo

Audio Jungle

Music Bakery

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A little tip

When you’re searching for music for your podcast try not to choose from the “Most Popular” section if you can help it.

These websites are used by a lot of content creators so if you pick the first song on the list don’t be surprised if you hear it somewhere else e.g. on another podcast, a TV ad or on the radio.

If being unique is important and you don’t want people tuning into your show thinking of an ice cream commercial, you might need to dive deeper into the back catalogue.

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

1 Comment
  1. Farhan Helmy says:

    Greetings from Bandung, Indonesia.
    Thanks for sharing this awesome hint. Very straight forward messages. A must read article for the beginners 👍👍👍
    Farhan

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GET MY FREE PODCAST GUIDE

WANT TO START A PODCAST BUT HAVE NO IDEA HOW? THIS GUIDE TAKES YOU THROUGH ALL THE TOOLS AND TECH YOU NEED TO GET GOING!

SEND IT TO ME!