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Why You Should Never Use Commercial Music in Your Podcast
Why You Should Never Use Commercial Music in Your Podcast
Updated over a week ago

We take content ownership seriously, and want to guide you down the right path. 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. What should I do if any part of my content already contains commercial music? What’s the best way to handle this?

If any part of your content contains commercial music (for example your intro, outro, or another part of your episode), you can do the following:

  • Remove the snippet that contains the music, then re-upload this new audio file that does not contain the music.

  • Replace it with fully licensed music instead

  • If you have obtained consent or otherwise a license from the rights holder(s) (record label, composer, lyricist, publisher and artist) to use the music, you should be safe and won't need to remove or modify your content. Please double-check that the terms of the license for the use of such music gives you the full right to let Acast host and distribute the music globally without having to pay additional license fees.

2. 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.

3. What if the music I include is very short and less than 10 seconds long (for example only part of my intro or outro)?

Any music of any duration, even if it’s only a few seconds long, is not permitted unless you have consent or otherwise a license from all rights holders. There is no minimum timeframe that is allowed without consent/license.

4. 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.”

5. What about 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.

6. 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.

7. Will Acast remove my content right away, once you find it contains music rights violations?

Your podcast or episodes will NOT be deleted without warning. If we receive a takedown notice from a music rights-holder (or otherwise are made aware that any content infringes any copyright or other right), we will always notify the show owner and give them the opportunity to either settle the claim with the complaining party or remove the content in violation themselves.

It’s important to understand that Acast has a legal obligation to remove content from its platform if we are made aware that the content is infringing on any intellectual rights or is in conflict with any law. If the show owner does not remove the infringing content or settles the claim with the relevant rightsholders, Acast has no other alternative than to remove the content. Otherwise Acast may be liable for any infringement.

8. What exactly is a “take down and stay down” process?

This process ensures that any content flagged for a music rights violation is then blocked and cannot be re-uploaded into Acast.

In order for the content to be re-uploaded into Acast, the user will need to change the audio file first and then upload it again, or acquire a license for the music rights used.

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