Have you ever wondered if you should use music in your podcast? If so, you may have wondered where to find royalty-free music (or sound effects).
This post answers:
- The question of whether or not you should use music (hint – yes)
- What you should use the music for within your show
- The benefits of using music
- The three types of music you can use for a podcast (plus a bonus option) that will ensure you can find pieces that will set the tone for your show, without getting into trouble
- Where you can find royalty-free music and sound effects for your podcast
Table of Contents
Should I use music in my podcast?
The most direct answer to this question is: absolutely. Including music in your podcast helps elevate your show and can help make it sound professional.
Additionally, here are some other benefits:
- Helps set the tone for the show
- Helps identify your brand
- Acts as your ‘theme’ song and helps keep your podcast memorable
- Help keep listeners engaged
- Can help cue a transition, or identify an advance in time within an episode
Where to use music in a podcast episode
Believe it or not, there are a few places that work to use music within your podcast episode. Let’s break it down.
- Intro: your intro is where you will tell new listeners what your podcast is about. You’ll use the same intro for each episode. For more information on recording an intro and outro, check out this post here
- Outro: your outro can repeat your podcast name, who you are, and any call-to-action pieces you want listeners to take (leave a review on Apple and subscribe are two examples). Your outro music can be the same as the intro music, but it doesn’t have to be
- Transitions: there may be parts of your podcast where you are switching topics, featuring different segments, or introducing a guest where you want to let the listener know of the transition
- Ads: similar to transitions, if you’re including ads within an episode, you may want to signal to the listener of the break-in contact with music
Podcast music best practices
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when selecting music for your show:
- Keep the music short. Your listeners aren’t going to want to listen to a minute worth of music – they want to hear your content and expertise
- Choose music that matches the sound of your show. For example, you may not want a slow, calming song for your intro if your podcast is upbeat and energizing
- Make sure when recording your content the music volume is low enough so listeners can hear what you’re saying
Now that we’ve gone through why you need music and the benefits, let’s take a look at where you can find royalty-free music, and what types of audio you should avoid.
What kind of music should you avoid?
If there is one thing to take away from this post, it would be to stay away from copyrighted music. The only exception to this is if your podcast depends on it.
But, what is considered copyrighted music?
Copyrighted music is anything on the radio, for example. It’s also songs or sound effects heard in movies, TV shows, on Spotify, etc.
Many myths surround using copyrighted music that you should be aware of. But the biggest piece is to understand that it doesn’t matter what the size of your podcast is, what you’re using the music for, or if you’re earning money on it or not. You should not use it.
Using copyrighted music can not only potentially set you up for legal issues, but it can also get your podcast kicked off major platforms like Spotify and Apple.
The other thing that can come up when talking about using copyrighted music is the question:
“How much of a song can I legally use on a podcast?”
Enter: the fair use rule.
The fair use rule is:
“the legal principle that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for the purpose of commentary and criticism.”
This quickly gets into a lot of grey areas. Play it safe – stick with royalty-free music.
So, what kind of music can you use on your podcast?
Royalty-free music for your podcast
Royalty-free content is going to be your best option when looking for music for your podcast.
But, what does “royalty-free” mean? There are two key points:
- You don’t need to pay royalties to the artist, but you still may need to buy a license to use the music
- You still may also be required to credit the artist
Many sites offer free and/or paid royalty-free music or sound effects. You can find many different options split up by free or paid options below.
Where to find FREE royalty-free music for a podcast
Please note that some of these do require visual credit or a link to the artist.
- Free Music Archives
- Melody Loops
- Music for Makers
- Pixabay (includes podcast sound effects)
- Purple Planet Music
- Silverman Sound Studios
- Sounds Like an Earful
Where to find PAID royalty-free music for podcasts
Some of these sites offer single-track purchases, while others offer subscription-based packages.
- 909 Music
- AudioJungle (includes podcast sound effects)
- AudioMicro (includes podcast sound effects)
- Blue Dot Sessions
- Epidemic Sound
- Foximusic (expired)
- Music Bed
- Music Vine
- Partners in Rhyme
- Pond5 (includes podcast sound effects)
- Royalty-Free Music on YouTube
- Soundstripe (includes podcast sound effects)
Royalty-free podcast sound effects
In addition to some of the above resources, these sites offer royalty-free podcast sound effects.
Other resources for music for podcasts (beyond royalty-free)
In addition to royalty-free music for your podcast, there are two other options to be aware of. Those are creative commons and public domain. Here’s a quick run-down of each.
Creative Commons music for your podcast
Creative commons music is typically free music from artists looking for exposure.
Here are some key takeaways:
- Credit or license requirements vary depending on the artist
- It’s extremely important to look at the fine print, as each artist may have different requirements for use
- There are multiple types of creative commons licenses, so be sure you understand which one applies to the music you’re interested in. You can learn more about the types of licenses here
- Where to find creative commons musical content:
Public domain music for your podcast
Public domain music is an instance where the copyright on a particular piece expires after 75 – 100 years.
Here are some key takeaways:
- If you’re thinking of using a song that fits within this period, research it first in case the copyright holder has extended the license
- If a modern-day artist covers a piece that is considered public domain, the new recording is NOT covered
- Public domain laws vary depending on what country you’re in. This post covers laws based in the United States
- Where to find some public domain musical content:
Bonus: hire someone to create something for you
If you’re looking for a custom piece for your podcast and have the budget to hire someone, collaborating with an artist may be a great fit.
Here are some places to find artists:
Music sets the tone for your show, can help elevate your content, and make your podcast memorable to listeners, but it’s important to understand which types of music you can use (and which to avoid).
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Melissa Guller is the founder of Wit & Wire, where we help everyday experts become profitable course creators. She previously worked full-time for Ramit Sethi, Teachable, and General Assembly. Today, she shares simplified tech tutorials and modern marketing strategies through our blog, YouTube, and Wit & Wire Weekly newsletter