Licensing for Podcasts – Yes, You Do Need a License!

  • Author : Katie Seline
  • podcast
  • podcast music licenses
  • performance rights

It’s easy to think that because we hear music on the radio all the time, that it’s ok to use music in a podcast. In reality, it is a complex issue. As podcasting becomes one of the top platforms for content consumption, many producers see music as a great way to enhance their podcasts just as they would with any other type of media they create. But just like any other platform, you need permission to use music.

Let’s go back to the basics. There are two sides to a song: the recording, and the underlying composition (music, lyrics). The recording is typically represented by a record label (or the artist themselves) and the composition is usually represented by one or more music publishers. In the case of a podcast, the use of a song requires both the use of the recording and the composition. As such, you need permission to use both sides.

Why Do I Need a Synch License If I’m Not Using Images?

Podcast licensing is still in its early days and is developing as it grows in demand. The music industry has organized and established that a synchronization license is needed as the “permission” for a podcast. Usually, these are the licenses that are issued when music is “synchronized” to an image – like for film and television. So this may seem confusing. But for a podcast, you are “synchronizing” to a larger work (the podcast itself as its own audio program).

Just like for film and tv, there is no set price or compulsory requirement to give permission for a synchronization license. And it is no different in the case of podcasts. Permission can be given or denied for any or no reason at all, and the price can vary depending on the popularity of the song. It all depends on the parties that own the rights. A podcast license from a publisher for a well-known song can range anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500. But a record label sometimes demands much more – ranging anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000. It all depends on several factors such as the popularity of the song, the popularity of the podcast, and whether the podcast makes money off of ads or sponsors, or subscriptions. And don’t forget – you need permission for each and every song you use.

But My Podcast Is About Music…

What if your podcast is about music, and what if you’re interviewing the artist themselves? Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t matter. That artist may have written their own songs, but they also may have signed away their rights to the songs to a music publisher in part or in full. The same goes for the recording. So you want to be absolutely sure that the artist controls the entirety of their music, otherwise, you will need permission from anyone who has a stake in their music. As for only playing small clips from a song? Duration doesn’t matter. A fair use argument could be made if you are playing a very short clip of a song you are discussing as part of your podcast (this is called de minimis use for all my copyright nerds), and commentary can aid in a fair use argument, but this is still risky and could be painful to deal with if a copyright owner takes notice.

And then there is public performance (handled by SOCAN in Canada, but each country has its own society). This is another permission that you need when it comes to music. Tariff 22F is going to be your jam if you’re dealing with SOCAN but this all depends on where your podcast is hosted. Platforms like Spotify and YouTube already have these licenses with SOCAN, as do some other hosting services. But this is absolutely something you want to verify before you start using music as part of your podcast.

Did this give you a headache? Let us help. If you have a perfect song in mind that you know will bring your podcast theme or story to the next level, we can sort all of this out for you. We will find out who needs to give permission and negotiate the best price for you so you don’t have to worry about a thing. Do you want to host your podcast on your own website? No problem! We’re all about getting that Tariff 22F license. And if in the end, the song you want is just too expensive, we can help you find something even better at a price you can afford. Contact us any time to help make your musical dreams come true.