Things You Need To Know About Podcast Music Licensing

A podcast is a great entertainment medium, with an estimate of over 120 million listeners every month. And it is also very much understood that music is essential to creating an engaging and memorable listening experience.

Music is an experience that builds momentum to the host’s voice and can add depth and emotional nuances that connect with the listeners. However, while using music, creators must ensure they have a license to use any type of music in podcasts.

Podcast music licensing is an important aspect of creating and distributing a podcast that features music in any form. Without proper podcast licensing, creators risk infringing on the copyright of the music they use, which can lead to legal consequences and also financial penalties.

Obtaining a music license for a podcast typically involves negotiating with the music’s copyright holder or purchasing a license from a licensing agency. 


In this piece, we will dive into important areas of podcast licensing and things you need to be aware of before starting a podcast channel. 

Types of podcast music licenses available

There are different types of licenses available for podcasts, including synchronization licenses (for using music in video or audio-visual content), performance licenses (for playing music in public), and mechanical licenses (for reproducing and distributing music on physical or digital formats), each of which serves a specific purpose listed below: 

  • Synchronization license

One type of music license available for podcasts is a synchronization license. This type of license is required when using music in video or audio-visual content, such as a podcast. 

A synchronization license grants permission to use the music in a podcast in conjunction with the visual content and typically involves a fee.

  • Performance licenses

Another type of music license available for podcasts is a performance license. This type of license is required when music is played in public, such as when it is broadcast on a podcast. 

Performance licenses are typically received through performing rights organizations (PROs) such as IMROIPOI, and PPI in Ireland. These organizations collect royalties on behalf of the creators of the music and distribute them to the artists and songwriters whose music has been used.

  • Mechanical license

A mechanical license is required when reproducing and distributing music in physical or digital formats, such as when a podcaster downloads an MP3 file of a song and includes it in an episode. Mechanical licenses can typically be obtained by contacting the copyright holder directly or through a licensing agency.

It is important for podcast creators to understand the different types of licenses and to obtain the appropriate one for their use of music to ensure compliance with copyright law and fairly compensate the music creators.

Types of Music That Can Be Used in Podcast 

Music can be added with three different effects:

  • Intro and outro music
  • Showstopper
  • Background ambiance to support specific listening sessions

From the intro and outro to background music, you need to consider a few different things while adding podcast music. 

  1. Music You Own: If you compose your own music, you can use it on your podcast as you like it. But you must compose and record a music piece on your own to have it outright. Since you are under a contract as a recording artist under a label; you will need to read the final prints of your contract because your rights may be limited. The rule is also applicable to the guests of your show in case they want to play any music on your podcast. 
  1.  Licensed Music: In most scenarios, only some podcast channels host are musicians, so the majority of the channels have to rely on sourcing music from different people or places. And in such cases, the music to be used in the podcast must have a license. 

Getting permission from the original owner of the music is a challenging task and requires a lot of requests, negotiation, and chasing of the owners. But there are also many affordable licensing agencies from where content creators can purchase copyrighted music or have them create custom music for their podcasts especially.

How to obtain a music license for a podcast

There are several ways you can go about obtaining a music license for your podcast:

  1. Contact the copyright holder directly: One option is to contact the copyright holder of the music you want to use and request permission to use it in your podcast. This may be the copyright holder of the composition (the lyrics and melody) or the sound recording (the song’s actual recording).
  1. Use a music licensing service: Several music licensing services can help you obtain the rights to use music in podcasts. These services typically have relationships with music copyright holders and can negotiate licenses on your behalf.
  1. Use Creative Commons-licensed music: Some music is licensed under Creative Commons, which allows for the unrestricted use of the piece as long as certain conditions are met. This can be a good option if you want to use music in podcast but want to avoid obtaining a traditional music license.

Best practices for keeping track of music licenses for a podcast

Once you are able to obtain a license for the music you want to use for your podcast, there are some best practices for keeping track of music licenses for a podcast:

  1. Keep records of all music licenses: Create a file or folder where you can keep copies of all the music licenses you have obtained for your podcast. This can include any agreements you have with copyright holders and any receipts or invoices for music licensing fees.
  2. Keep track of the terms of each license: Make sure you understand the terms of each music license you have got, including how long the license is valid for and what you are allowed to do with the music (e.g., can you use it on multiple platforms, can you edit the music, etc.).
  1. Use metadata to keep track of music usage: Many podcast hosting platforms allow you to include metadata for each episode, including information about the music used. This can be a useful way to keep track of which music you have used in each episode and which licenses you have obtained.
  1. Use music licensing services: If you are using a music licensing service to obtain music licenses, music licensing services may provide tools or resources to help you keep track of the licenses securing your time and the music.

By keeping careful records and staying organized, you can ensure that you are legally using music in podcast and in compliance with the terms of the licenses you secure for your podcast.

Consequences of using unlicensed music in podcast

Using unlicensed music in your podcast can have serious legal consequences. Copyright holders have the right to take legal action against individuals or organizations that use their music without permission. This can include seeking damages for copyright infringement, which can be costly and time-consuming to defend against.

In addition to financial consequences, using unlicensed music in a podcast can also lead to negative public attention and damage to your reputation.

It’s important to understand that music copyright holders take their rights seriously and will often take action to protect their interests and music. 

Therefore, it’s essential to obtain the appropriate music license before using music in your podcast. Failing to do so can result in legal and financial consequences that can be difficult to recover from and a time-consuming hassle you can get stuck at.

The future of podcast music licensing.

It’s difficult to predict exactly what the future of podcast music licensing will look like. Still, technology will likely continue to play a significant role in how music is licensed and used in podcasts. Furthermore, with the rise in video becoming popular in podcasts nowadays, the space is changing with the demand of the users. 

One possibility is that music licensing services and platforms will continue to evolve and offer more streamlined and automated ways for podcast creators to obtain music licenses. This could involve the use of other technologies to identify and track music usage, as well as streamline the licensing process.

Overall, it’s likely that the landscape of podcast music licensing will continue to change and evolve as technology and industry practices evolve. It’s important for podcast creators to stay informed about the latest developments in music licensing and to ensure that they comply with the terms of any licenses they have obtained.

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