You Ask, I Answer: Sources of Music for Podcasts?

Jenna asks, “Where are some good sources of music for your podcast?”

Let’s talk licensing for a bit. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

First, there are two sets of rights you have to know. Performance rights give you the right to use the music itself, to use its copyright. Mechanical rights give you the right to use a recording of the music made by a performer. If you’ve ever heard a musician cover another musician, the original musician has the performance rights, and the cover musician has the mechanical rights. It’s like baking a cake. Someone else has the recipe rights, and you as the baker have the mechanical rights.

To play music on your podcast, you must have a license for both sets of rights (unless you own both).

There are three kinds of music – podsafe, meaning it is licensed for podcasters to use, public domain, and everything else.

Podsafe music is music where you typically get a license by asking the musician directly. You get both sets of rights authorized by the performer. You must get this in written permission for safety.

Public domain music is exactly that – and you have to make sure you have both the performance rights and mechanical rights. Using a recording of someone else performing a public domain work does not grant you the mechanical rights. A public domain MIDI file that you render yourself is the best bet there, but you need to have either secured permission to use the copyright of the MIDI file creator, or the file creator has released the rights by declaring it in the public domain (which many do).

Everything else requires licensing from performing rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, as well as mechanical rights organizations like Harry Fox Agency. If you purchase these licenses, you can then play any music you want on your podcast, as long as you adhere to the terms of service and report it. Bonus: they then compensate artists for you playing the artists’ music, so if your organization can afford it, get licensed.

I particularly like music generated by AI, because both sets of rights are yours if you’re the one generating it.

You Ask, I Answer: Sources of Music for Podcasts?
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