Music For Podcasts And Copyright: The Guide To Make No Mistake


A recurring question that still today I feel asked when I create an audio project concerns the choice of music in podcasts . Sound is an important element within an audio series: it determines the mood, creates atmosphere, defines identity and sets the rhythms of the contents.
Without music, even the simplest podcast format would be less engaging for the listener. If we then think of narrative formats, the sound becomes decisive.


But how do you go about choosing the music in the podcast? I guess everyone would like to include a famous song in their audio project that maybe fits perfectly with the content we are creating. But, even if it is legitimate, it is not quite that simple and perhaps not even the most recommended choice.

Now I'll explain why, starting from the research I did on the subject of copyright and copyright, and then give you some alternative solutions.

What is copyright

Copyright and copyright serve to protect the creative works of artistic value created by the author. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is actually a difference. Without going into the legal merits that are not my area, we can simplify by saying that copyright protects the economic aspect that can derive from the diffusion of the work, while copyright aims to protect its authorship .

Copyright arises at the very moment in which the work is created. From that moment, the author has the right to use it, reproduce it, authorize or deny its reproduction and distribute it. In Italy, this right is governed by law no. 633 of 1941 and its violation can lead to both civil and criminal penalties. Audio recordings and musical compositions, and therefore all music, are among the works protected by copyright.

The podcast is considered a work derived from legislation, as it is the union of several original or existing works of genius, which together create a transformed or adapted one. But this transformation does not free from copyright law, under any circumstances.

How to deal with the use of music in the podcast

Considering when it establishes the copyright law, you have three solutions:

  • ask for permission to use copyrighted music
  • create new music for your podcast
  • use royalty-free music.

Using copyrighted music in your podcast, as I said at the beginning, is legitimate but it is not always the easiest way to go. Keep in mind that to do so you must receive authorization from all those entitled to it, that is:

  • author of the work
  • interpreters who perform it
  • phonograph producers (record company).

The release , necessarily written , must specify the type of right authorized and also the destination of that music (theme song, soundtrack, background). The authorization must be requested even if it is a matter of a few seconds . The author, in fact, may not like the topics covered in the podcast to which you would like to combine the piece of music you have chosen and therefore deny the release of the license.

You can contact the record company directly to ask for authorization. The procedure is often long and is the subject of negotiations between the parties also to establish the remuneration, so it is better to rely on an expert. Here you can find other useful information for managing permissions.

If it sounds complicated to you, it is, and perhaps the other two solutions are worth considering. Unless you are a musician and want to make a piece of music yourself, you can opt for copyright-free music.

Interview with Avv. Martina Lasagna on Copyright and Podcast


Royalty free music and Creative Commons

The solution most frequently applied by creators to overcome the limitations imposed by copyright law is the use of royalty free music or Creative Commons. In the first case, a royalty free content can be freely used but it is necessary to purchase the license for use with a minimum fee. In the case of Creative Commons content, the author waives part of his rights and grants the use of his works freely or with some limitations.

There are different types of Creative Commons (CC) depending on the license combinations granted by the same author. They are identified by abbreviations that condition the terms of distribution. It is important to make sure of the type of license granted before inserting it in your podcast to avoid violations.

Here is the list of Creative Commons acronyms , as Wikipedia summarizes them , that you may find when you download music:

  • CC0 : public domain, usable for all uses without limits
  • CC BY : derivative works can be distributed, modified and created for commercial purposes as long as authorship is recognized
  • CC BY-SA : it can be used for the same purposes as the previous one but the new work must be assigned the same license
  • CC BY-ND : it can also be distributed for commercial purposes recognizing its authorship but cannot be used for derivative works (no podcast)
  • CC BY-NC : derivative works can be distributed, modified and created as long as authorship is acknowledged, but not for commercial purposes
  • CC BY-NC-SA : derivative works may be distributed, modified and created for non-commercial purposes provided that authorship is acknowledged and the final work is granted the same license
  • CC BY-NC-ND : can be distributed but not for commercial purposes and not for derivative works (no podcast).

Where to find podcast music

Here is a non-exhaustive list that you can refer to to download music or sound effects for your podcast.

Free Podcast Music Libraries :

  • Freesound
  • Audio library Youtube
  • DanoSongs
  • Free stock music
  • PacDV
  • ccMixter

Paid Song Libraries :

  • Jamendo
  • Audiojungle
  • Shutterstock
  • Epidemic Sound
  • Beeto music

The choice to use paid music catalogs over free music for podcasts lies in both the wide variety of downloadable tracks and the quality of the music itself. Personally I use Epidemic Sound for my personal projects because it has the advantage of being able to download the stems separately , that is the tracks of the single compositions of the melody (voice, bass, drums, etc.), for an even more flexible use.


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