Music has completely different copyright laws then when you are publishing a book, an article, or an image. The music industry in America is the most heavily regulated industry when it comes to copyright laws. As a podcaster, you don’t want to mess up this part of your show. As it is your show, you are free to do whatever you want. The last thing that you need is your show taken down without notice because you’ve been doing things that are unethical with music rights. Get educated on what’s acceptable and unacceptable in the legal system of using music for your podcast.
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Have a Great Podcast Music without Worrying About Music Rights
I’m going to introduce a new member and alternate co-host of our team at Brandcasters, and that is Alexandra Hazzard, a critical member of the team. Welcome, Alexandra.
Thank you. It’s fun to be here.
Those of you who know us at Brandcasters and work with us, may have had a lot of interaction with Alexandra already. It’s perfectly natural for us that she would step in for Tracy to co-host with me. I’m pleased to have her here and be sharing the subject with you. We have a really important subject to talk about for anyone who is already podcasting or considering podcasting. This has come up because we’ve found several people that have already been podcasting and have come to work with us, transferring their production to our company that is doing some things that are not very ethical. They actually are running afoul of music copyright laws in reality. We thought we should have a discussion about this to talk about what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable in the eyes of the legal system. We’re not going to be your conscience. All these people have been podcasting and not doing everything by the letter of the law for quite some time. It’s your show. It’s your prerogative as a podcast host and owner. You could do what you want.
Hosting companies have to protect themselves and that’s what they’re starting to do.
Where did we learn this?
We learned about it on Libsyn. We have some clients who don’t host with us because they already had a podcast. We’re over a hundred episodes in and didn’t want to move yet. We’ll publish our episodes on Libsyn. When you log into Libsyn, they have a big notification at the top of the page. It’s telling you, “By hosting with Libsyn, you are telling us that you are compliant with music copyright laws.” If you’re not compliant, you’ll get kicked off their platform.
They are not going to take responsibility for the music you’re using on your show. If you are posting your own shows up on their platform, they’re not in control of the music that you use and choose. Let’s talk about music rights and music copyright laws in general. Music is very different in copyright law than many other aspects of copyright law. I want to preface this statement by saying I’m not an attorney. I’m not providing official legal advice. I am just giving you some helpful information from my experience. I do know quite a bit about this, but I’m not an attorney. If you have questions about copyright law, you should consult your own attorney. When you write a book, when you record a podcast, when you record a piece of music or anything that is a protected work, you automatically inherently have a copyright in it, if you’re the author of it. You don’t have to file any legal paperwork to obtain a copyright. You can file an application to register that copyright if you want to, but you don’t have to and you don’t have to have done it to even fall under copyright law protection. You already have one. That’s an important thing to understand.
The music industry has lobbied our government here in the United States. There are a lot of similarities between copyright laws in some countries but check with your attorney if you need to know the details of that. The music industry has lobbied our government in the United States and gotten a lot of advantages and protection from copyright laws. The music industry is the most heavily regulated industry when it comes to copyright law. You have to be very careful. There are definitely some do’s and don’ts when it comes to music. This episode is one-on-one on that and a public service announcement. We’ve seen some people really doing some things that are not right. If you’re one of these people and you’re doing one of these things, we would strongly suggest that you might change your practices to align yourself with the copyright laws. You don’t want to get in trouble. The last thing you need is to have your podcast taken down. Can Libsyn, without notice, take you down if they discover that you’re doing this?
I’m not positive if they do it without notice, maybe. They don’t disclaim that on the notice that I’ve seen. They do say that you will be subject to being removed. Maybe they would D-list you first from iTunes, Stitcher, and all the places you’re syndicated before removing you completely from their platform in the case have an opportunity to fix it. They haven’t said in that notice.
It makes sense that they might shut you off first and then ask questions later. They don’t want to get in trouble. They’re trying to make sure that they’re not liable. They protect themselves because they don’t want to be the subject of a lawsuit at any point. These copyright laws, especially as the internet has come to be, have become a much bigger deal with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA. There are a lot of specific rules about taking down content on the internet, on sites like YouTube, Hulu, and Facebook about anything that is copyright protected. This is not something you can afford to completely ignore. When it comes to music, if you have your favorite Def Leppard song, Van Halen song or you’re a rocker and you want that music to be the theme song for your podcast, you really cannot do that. You could apply for the right to use it.
You’re going to pay a lot for those rights.
The reality is you’re never going to get it. That type of a band, they’ve already signed their rights and the record company owns it. The levels of approval and permission you’d have to go through and the rate you would have to pay to use it, it’s not going to happen. If you use it without permission then you’re violating the copyright law.
I do want to say that it’s not just about using it in your episode for your intro and outro. It’s also about if you’re having a good time with your guests on your show and you want to play a song while you’re already on the air. Some people do a Facebook live and I’ve seen this happening where they’ll be on their Facebook Live. They’ll play their music right there on the Live from their computer and it’s just a normal pop song. Maybe in the middle of the episode, they play it too because it’s a transition between the next segment. As fun as that may be, it’s not following our copyright laws that we all have to abide by.
I’ve had some people suggest or ask us at times at different trade shows, “If you use less than eight seconds of a song, that’s okay?”They thought that there was some exception if you only use a very small clip. We have researched that, and we understand that that is not, in fact, the law. You can’t do that either. What we often do and what most podcasters really should be doing when it comes to music, whether you want to find some music for your theme song for your show or to have some transition sounds between different segments of your show, that you purchase the rights to royalty-free music. You’re still paying something for it. You have to buy the rights to a piece of music.
There are many different websites you can find them on, but the arrangement and the purchase of the music are completely above you. You’re buying music that is not subject to ASCAP or BMI royalties. ASCAP is the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. BMI is the British equivalent of that. If you go out to Ikea or you’re in a restaurant and they’re playing music, all the music being played in public like that, there are royalties being paid for that pop music to be played there. Every business that does that has to pay into a system that rewards the owner of that music by paying them royalties for it. You don’t want to get involved in that with podcasting because it’s quite messy. Unless you’re a major company like NBC, CNN, or NPR that does this all the time, has a system for it, and it’s not a big deal for them. Alexandra, can you share with our audience some of the details and what we do to help podcasters with music, where they might find it for themselves, and what the cost might be.
A lot of the time, we use PremiumBeat.com because they have a higher volume of songs. It’s easier for us to find what we’re looking for. They’ve got so many different genres. You can even lookup by the mood. I had a client who wanted a song that makes you want to dance in your seat. They have ‘dance in your seat’ as a search term you can use. They bring up all of the songs that would make someone feel like they want to dance in their seats. We like to use PremiumBeat.com but they’re one of the more expensive. They’re only $49 a license. That’s one of the more expensive sites. Audio Jungle is cheaper but you got to be careful. Their licenses are generally more for websites than for podcasts. You got to make sure you’re purchasing the right license if you use them. Avada Market, is a website market where you can get website themes and all sorts of other plugins and things for your website. They do music as well.
Those are the major two that we do use. There are some others, but you always have to be careful and make sure you’re reading through what that license is. With PremiumBeat.com specifically, it’s on a project basis. You have to be careful in how you name your project. You go to purchase on PremiumBeat.com and before you check out, it makes you type in your project name and a slight purpose of what it’s for. I’m always careful to say the podcast name, and that it’s for the show as a whole. That way we could use it in the middle of the show and not just in the intro and outro. If someone has an ad they’re going to insert in the show, we can use the music in the background to the ad for that specific show. I’m careful in how I phrase it because it is a project basis. If you call it by the show, you’re being really clear that the entire show is the project that you’re using it for and not just one episode or not just the intro or outro for the episode.
One of the other things that you’ll notice if you go to PremiumBeat.com is that when you search for these music titles, you will be able to listen to them. You can actually play them right there, download them, and listen to them. When you download them prior to paying for them and when you listen to them, there’s a watermark in them. If you ever go to iStock Photo, Corbis or any of these other stock photo sites and you’re looking for an image for your PowerPoint presentation or your Slide Deck that you’re going to give an investment pitch in or some speech you’re going to give from the stage, often there’s a visual watermark on that image that you can look at it and say, “That’s the image I want.” If you download it without paying for it, it’s got a watermark in it that says, “We’re the owners of this image. Until you pay for it, then it has a watermark. If you pay for it, we’ll give you the version without the watermark based on the license you’re buying.” PremiumBeat.com with the music does the same thing. When you listen to that music track, every ten seconds or so, it goes, “PremiumBeat.com.” It’s saying that over the music. We’ve had some podcasters come to us and they’ve already had a podcast they’re producing. It’s already published on iTunes and the theme music came from PremiumBeat.com and it still has that watermark.
We’re in the process of fixing that for one of our transition clients who had that, which is unfortunate because before they transitioned to us, they didn’t know that they were doing that much wrong because they were using less than ten seconds. Some people think that’s okay, but the watermark is still in there on their audio track. Our audio editor flagged it and was like, “This is on here. Is it the wrong version? Did the client not buy the music?” Now, we’re re-editing all those episodes to fix that because we don’t want to be in violation now that they’re on our platform.
Even a royalty-free piece of music is something you still have to pay for. If you haven’t paid for it and you’re using that sample track that has the watermark in it, that’s a copyright violation. Just like it is to use your favorite pop song without permission. It’s not the best idea in the world. We would definitely recommend you to not do that.
PremiumBeat.com is not the only one that uses that watermark. Audio Jungle does too and almost every other one out there does. I’ve found that when a music website doesn’t use the watermark, then they don’t let you download it before you purchase it.
There are even ways to get around that. I’ve seen people, while they play it online, just record it. They don’t have as good a quality piece of music. There’s really no reason to do that. $50 for a music track for something you’re going to use for the theme song of your show is a pretty reasonable expense. If we’re setting up a podcast for someone, that’s included in the whole cost of it. Maybe you really want a very specific type of music and you’re not happy having something that anybody else could buy off of a stock music website, you can create your own original music. We have done that for people here at Brandcasters. We have resources that are creating original music for podcasts in different genres. There are even other outsource that we’ve used. It’s not the cheapest thing in the world to have an original song made a signature song for your show or your podcast, but you certainly can do that.
We have another podcast that Tracy and I co-host. It’s the first podcast we started a number of years ago. The subject matter is 3D printing. We did something a little geeky there, but it was pretty creative. 3D printers tend to make a certain type of sound. There are some different pitches in there, sounds a little R2-D2 like. We recorded some raw 3D printer sounds and then had a musician go and take that, change the pitch of it, use the sounds in different ways, and created our own original music for that podcast. It was kind of techie, geeky. It sounded like 3D printers but also was musical. That really worked well for that situation.
We’re doing that with your podcast Product Launch Hazzards. We’re going to be making noises because of its product launch hazards. It’s like you’re protecting yourself from the dangers of product launching or just getting a resource, which is really what the podcast is for. It’s a resource for people who are launching products into the market. We were going to use some sirens and some city noises of when dangerous things are happening in a city. What does it sound like? We’re going to compose that into some sort of music for that podcast as well.
You can get as creative, original, and specific as you want. For most people, some good music track from one of these royalty-free music sites is going to be just fine. There’s really no reason to run afoul of the copyright laws. You’re just asking for trouble or borrowing trouble. Eventually, it’s going to catch up with you and cause you a headache. Why do that? Set yourself up from the get-go to comply with the appropriate laws because it’s not that hard to do.
You can find so many similar songs to pop songs these days on these free resources. I’ve been on PremiumBeat.com so often because I’m normally the one looking through it for some options for all of our podcasters. I’ve found before lots of songs that sound almost identical to pop songs but are royalty-free versions where maybe they used different instruments or have a slightly different melody, but it sounds close enough that if you’re looking for that pop song, rock song, or whatever your favorite song gives you, we can find something fairly close to it that you’ll still be very happy with.
We do recommend having your theme music be fifteen to twenty seconds long in the beginning of an episode. Not much more than that. Some people do it longer than that. Less is more in our opinion. You’re talking about a really small amount of music. Hopefully, people are going to be listening to your show, subscribing, and coming back over and over again because of the content of your show, not necessarily music. It’s important to have decent music and to be recognizable. They play your track, “I recognize that music. I’m listening to the right show,” but it’s not super critical that it’s worth hanging on to.
We realized on Feed Your Brand that this is a subject we hadn’t really covered. It’s become more of an issue lately with certain people were interacting within the podcast universe. We thought it was time to take a deeper dive in and have a discussion and share it with you. I hope you enjoyed that. Thank you, Alexandra, for joining me as the co-host here for the first time. I’m sure we’ll be doing a lot more of that. To our audience, just know that now and again, you might have Tom and Tracy co-hosting. You might have Tom and Alexandra and you might have Tracy and Alexandra. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll be back next time with another great episode. This has been Tom and Alexandra on Feed Your Brand.
- Alexandra Hazzard
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act
- Avada Market
- iStock Photo
- Product Launch Hazzards
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