Podsafe Music: Using Music in Your Podcast

Let’s talk a little now about podsafe music (music you can use in your podcast) and copyrighted music (which you can’t use without permission.

NOTE: I’m not a lawyer and the following should not be considered legal advice.

I’m sure you want to know if you can use your favorite Beetles song in your intro or a nice classical piece in the background of your podcast.

Here’s the short answer. If it’s not your own music or if you don’t have permission from the creators/owners of the music, then don’t use it. If you use music that is copyrighted, then you risk legal problems.

How can you tell if something is copyrighted? Copyright laws can be complicated. Just because there is no copyright notice doesn’t mean it’s fair game. It’s not always clear if a work is protected. When in doubt, don’t use it.

If music is considered public domain, you’re probably free to use it. This is the case with some older songs. You can learn more about public domain music here.

Creative Commons Music

In the middle of the spectrum is creative commons music. With creative commons, the creator has given permission to use the work with certain conditions.

The conditions could include any or all of the following:

  • You have to give the creator credit
  • You cannot change the work
  • You cannot use it for commercial use

You may be interested in using the Creative Commons licesnses to protect your own podcast.

To learn more about Creative Common music go here.

Where to Find Podsafe Music

Here are some sources of podsafe music:

Fair Use

You may have heard of something called “fair use”. Fair use allows for the usage or citation of copyrighted works without permission in certain instances.

Here are the four factors used to decide if your usage of a work is fair use or not:

  1. If your use was commercial in nature or for educational and non-profit use
  2. What kind of copyright work you used
  3. How much of the work you used
  4. What affect your usage has on the market or value of the work

This is a complicated subject that can’t really be covered in this article. Don’t just rely on fair use without proper legal aid.

The Truth About What is Podsafe Music

There are many myths about what is podsafe music. Here’s the truth about copyright materials:

  • Even if you give credit you still need permission to use a song
  • Even if you only use a small piece of the music you need permission (using 30 seconds or less is not necessarily considered fair use)
  • Even if you use it for non-profit or educational purposes you still need permission
  • Even if you just use it in the background and talk over it you still need permission.

You should also remember that copyright law applies to more than just music. If you cite an article, blog or other work, you should credit the source in your podcast and on your web site.

In the end, the best policy is to play it safe and consult a lawyer before you use a work if you have any doubt. More info on copyright, public domain and fair use is available here.

Royalty Free Music

Another option is to use music that doesn’t require you to pay royalties everytime you use it. This is called royalty free music. You pay one fee and then you have the right to use it as much as you like without paying more royalties or licensing fees.

If you look around a little, you can find music that you can buy in single tracks rather than having to buy a whole CD of music. Depending on the length and the style of the song, you can buy a track to use as your theme music for as little as $15.

Here are some good resources for finding royalty free music:

Once you pay the fee (buy it) it’s podsafe music for you.

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