Music Use and Podcasting


I work with a lot of podcast and video producers who ask me the same question:  “Can I use music in my production?”

Simple answer:  Yes.  More complicated answer:  it depends on the music you want to use.

Generally speaking, you can’t just take a CD from your collection and choose a track.  (I come from a radio background.  We could do it there because radio stations have complex agreements that have been negotiated with the rights holders of most music which is commercially available.  It was heaven.)

Podcasters and video producers do not have those blanket agreements.  So what you’d have to do is go to each publisher and each record label to get the rights for every track you want to use.

How feasible is this?  Short answer – not.   It’s likely going to be expensive and convoluted.  You are going to miss your deadline.

Unless … the music you want to use if from a small independently released CD.  The response time is usually much quicker, and they’re usually much more accommodating.

What I usually do is keep a library of independent music by musicians and publishers I know.  I never have any trouble getting the rights.  I usually offer to pay them a bit and they’re even happier.  (I am also fortunate to have an in-house music department — my partner Edward St. Moritz can usually be persuaded to play some music for me on guitar.  And you can hire him for a reasonable fee if you want – he’d be happy to talk to you.)

Other solutions — there are nice people out there who will let you use their music for free because they’re unselfish people who like to share.  Or don’t have to recoup their artistic investment because they already have a well paying job.  Google “Podsafe Music” to find who they are.  You will often see the words “Creative Commons” after their name. This spells out what you can and can’t use their music for. (Some are specific that you can use their music for commercial purposes, others say non commercial only. And other criteria which they spell out in the license.)

And, you can also google “Public Domain” for music and recordings that are not covered by copyright. That’s a whole other subject.  A good one though. But it’s also a bit complicated.  A subject for another post, it is.

If you want to know more, I found a really good (and every entertaining) article about podcasting and copyright here.   It’s by a legal firm in the States named David Lizerbram and Associates. It refers frequently to banging one’s head against your desk.  Music copyright is like that.

Note to Canadian podcasters:  Do not follow the advice on fair use/fair dealing.  It’s accurate for Americans, but this is Canada.  Fair use is different up here.

I’m off to bang my head against a wall some more now while I pick some new theme music.


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