podcast music

Music for Podcasts

Podcasts can really benefit from using short pieces of music as it can make the podcast broadcast more engaging and help your listener remember who you are and what you are saying. 

As I am writing this article I am currently listening to a podcast! The particular podcast I am listening to uses music brilliantly and has a custom logo sound which is used intermittently, between sections. 

This is one of many wonderful ways music can be used in Podcasts to really take the content to another level. 

There is a lot to understand about music for podcasts. 

In addition to answering the questions below, I am going to give you some ideas of how you can use music in your podcasts to really get the most out of your air-time and try to elevate your podcast to the next level. 

Where should I place music on my podcast?

Before diving into where you can get music for your podcast, it is worth considering where you should place music on your podcast. 

Where you place music on your podcast is a matter of personal taste but some of the obvious places to use music in a podcast are:

  • Music on the intro to introduce your podcast
  • Music on the outro to conclude and end your podcast
  • Musical idents or short sounds between sections to break up topics or discussion points. 
  • Background music as a musical bed for certain topics.

The most common places to place music on a podcast are on the intro and outro. This creates a beginning and an end to your podcast, giving it a clear starting and finishing point. 

In addition, it is a great idea to keep your musical intro and outro music the same. Make this a standard tune that you use repeatedly. 

By using the same intro music for each podcast episode, this music will become very familiar with your audience and this music will become part of your podcast brand. 

Using good quality intro and outro music on your podcast will set the tone of your podcast, add professionalism and create familiarity with your audience.

podcasting setup

How long should podcast intro music be? 

There is no correct length for intro music for a podcast as the length of the intro music is a matter of personal taste.

The golden rule of intro music length is to make it short and memorable. 

A good target intro music length for a podcast is around 15 seconds.  Typically 30 seconds or less works well as it is short enough to engage your audience without creating boredom

Should you add background music to a podcast?

Most podcast enthusiasts agree that background music should be used sparingly in a podcast and only used behind certain sections. Most agree that background music should not be placed behind the full podcast episode. 

Background music can be a great tool to add emotion and tell a story, however, choosing good background music to use with speech and mixing the audio levels to ensure the speech can still be heard clearly is difficult. 

If you do need to use background music in your podcast, select background music that does not conflict with the speech. 

For example, avoid background music with high-frequency instruments such as flutes when mixing with a female narration as the high frequency of the flutes will conflict with the frequency of the female narration – in other words,  the flutes and voice will be competing for the same audio space.

What level should my background music be? A good rule of thumb when mixing background music and narration is to make your background music 20dB lower than the audio volume of your narration.

For example, if your narration is at a level of -1dB, then turn your background music down to -21dB. In this example, the background music is 20dB lower than the narration.

No one will ever complain if your background music is too low, but they will switch off and complain instantly if it is too loud and impedes the clarity of the narration.

For a podcast, the golden rule is to ensure that your speech can be heard clearly and music will always take a back seat to this. 

podcast kit

How do I get music for my podcast?

It is easy to find music for a podcast. What is more difficult is sifting through the large variety of online music libraries to make a decision on which library to choose.

Royalty-free music is one of the best music types to use when looking for music for a broadcast.

Royalty-free music is a music license type that grants you permission to use the music in your content without any future payments required or hidden fees.

Typically a royalty-free music license is the most straightforward and simple music license available, hence why royalty-free music is very popular.

There are many royalty-free music suppliers online. A simple google search of “royalty-free music for podcasts” will give you pages and pages of royalty-free music libraries.

Some of my personal royalty-free music library recommendations for music for podcasts are:

#1 Louise Byrne Music.

This is me, so obviously I am a little biased here, and going to give myself a shout-out. 🙂

You can use the music on Louise Byrne Music as intro music, outro music, musical idents, and background music on a podcast.

I don’t charge anything for my royalty-free music, I just ask that you ensure you give music credit to me.

So for example, on the website where your podcast is posted or on your YouTube channel you should post a music credit as per the following example:

Music:  https://louisebyrnemusic.com/ or  “Song Title”  from LouiseByrneMusic.com

All my music downloads come with a full commercial license so you know you are safe to use the music in your podcasts without fear of copyright strikes. 

#2 Shutterstock

I personally recommend Shutterstock as they have over 3000 tracks listed under “Podcast Stock Music”. 

The vast majority of these tracks also come with 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 60-second edits, including a multitude of music loops so if you really like a particular track you should be able to get a nice piece of that music without having to do a lot of your own editing on the music, such as adding fade-outs.

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How much does it cost to license music for a podcast?

The cost of a music license for a podcast will depend on the music supplier.  

Some music libraries will not charge anything and ask for a music credit shout out in return, others will charge anything between $5-$60 dollars per track, while other music libraries will have a subscription service, where you pay a monthly fee of anything between $10-$40 dollars per month. 

How much you pay for your music depends on where you get it from. The cost of the music has no reflection on the quality of the music. 

Money-savvy podcast producers will look for the best deal and hunt down free music libraries so they don’t overpay for their music. 

Where can I get free music for my podcast?

You can download free music for your podcast on this site, which comes with a full music license and music download options in high-quality MP3 or Wav file format. 

In return for free music, please ensure you add a music credit to the composer. 

When downloading free music (or any music for that matter!), ensure you check the terms of use as every composer and music library will have their own requirements.

Other free music libraries are:

#1 Louise Byrne Music

#2 Bensound

#3 Incompetech

#4 Free Music Archive

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Can I use 10, 20, or 30 seconds of copyrighted music?

You cannot use any length of a copyrighted song without permission. 

Even if you use just 5 seconds of a song, if you don’t have permission from the music owner, then this is considered copyright infringement. 

I am not sure what started this myth. Perhaps it is the “fair use” laws that caused confusion and somehow created a muddle?

Under the “fair use” law,  if your content meets certain requirements, for example, if it is for educational purposes, then you may have an argument that it is “fair use” and you can use music without copyright, however, this is a very grey area. 

Most lawyers agree that if you can help it, you should not rely on the argument of fair use when using copyright music as this law is very subjective and open to interpretation.

How do I protect my podcast?

Your podcast is your digital asset and you need to protect it. 

To avoid copyright infringements, from an audio perspective at least, use royalty-free music and royalty-free sound bytes from a trusted music supplier.

A legitimate music supplier will provide you with a music licensing contract. 

For example, on my own music site, I ask music users to go through a free checkout which issues you with an order number. This order number is your license number.

So, when you download music from LouiseByrneMusic, you are issued with a full music license and receipt with a number so you can prove to anyone who asks, where you downloaded your music from.

Whatever music supplier you use, ensure you are supplied with a license and store this away for safekeeping.

In addition, remember that any sound effects or sound bytes that you use will also, most likely, have copyright on them.

So as well as your music, ensure you are using a trusted supplier for your podcast sound effects.  Personally, I recommend Sound Effect Pack for general sound effects as they are very straightforward in their terms of use. 

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