We take content ownership seriously, and want to guide you down the right path according to our Terms & Conditions. To put it simply, we need all podcasters to affirm that they have the relevant rights and permissions to publish all content found in their shows.

But creators are sometimes unclear about how or when they’re allowed to include music in their podcast. Firstly, there’s a difference between commercial music and any music whatsoever. There are plenty of music companies that will license their own music to your podcast for a hard cost or for a specific time period — this does NOT constitute commercial music and would therefore be allowed to be included in your show.

Commercial music, however, is broadly defined as, “any music produced that is being marketed directly to the general public by any medium” [as defined by the IMRO]. Less formally, it covers any music you can consume from a public channel — such as a streaming service.

Here are a series of FAQs that should help clarify what you’re allowed to do:

1. Can I use commercial music, even if my podcast doesn’t make money?

The fact that your podcast is not monetizable is irrelevant. You still don’t have the rights to use any commercial music on your podcast.

2. What if the music I include is less than 10 seconds long?

No, any music duration (even less than 10 seconds long) is not permitted. There is no minimum timeframe that is allowed.

3. The artists have personally granted me permission to use their music. Shouldn't that should be ok?

No. As James Cridland wrote in his podnews article, “The artists are just one part of the equation; you also need the permission from the record company, from the composers of the music, the publishers of the music, and in many cases a “mechanical” and “sync” right to allow you to copy the material.

David Oxenford highlights the licences required for using music in podcasts in the US. While he writes for the US market only, a publisher may also have separate deals with different companies in separate territories.

Additionally, if a musician signs with a collection agency, then they’ve assigned their rights to the collection agency, and in most cases they actually can’t give you special dispensation.”

4. What about the New York Times or other big broadcasters? I sometimes hear short clips of music in their podcasts?

Large publishers typically spend a pretty penny on their music licensing (we’re talking millions). It’s safe to say that this type of licensing is not feasible for most podcasters, unless you’re willing and able to spend millions for licensing.

5. What happens if I use commercial music anyway?

It’s a risk that we strongly advise against. A record label may wait for you to grow, and then file a takedown or lawsuit when they feel you’re in a better position to pay. You’re also risking your podcast being flagged for removal from many podcatchers, interrupting the availability of your show to all listeners.

Companies will soon have better technology to track down violations, too, so it’s unlikely your music snippet will go unnoticed. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re unsure or have doubts, you should probably steer clear.

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