Music is a surefire way to amp up and polish your podcast. Your podcast soundscape not only reinforces your brand personality but can help to immerse your listeners in whatever podcast world you’ve created for them.
Luckily, there are a number of platforms with a huge offering of royalty-free music for your podcast out there. The only hitch? You’ll need to wrap your head around different music licenses and copyright laws to ensure you don’t find yourself in any legal trouble.
In this guide, we’ll break down the various music licenses you’re likely to encounter and explore the best (paid and free) places to find royalty-free music for your podcast.
- Creative Commons, Royalty-free, copy-right-free, and public domain are not the same thing. It pays to know your licenses!
- For free ready-to-use music try: Free Music Archive, Freebeats.io, Silverman Studio Music, Incompetech, or Pixabay.
- For paid ready-to-use music try: Audio Jungle, Audio Blocks, Epidemic Sounds, PremiumBeat, or Pond5.
Why do I need music for my podcast?
It’s ok if you’re still feeling skeptical. If you’ve already recorded an engaging and vibrant podcast, you may be wondering what a jingle can add.
Well, on-brand intro, segment change, and outro music can actually really benefit your podcast and add that extra something.
Podcast Intro Music
An intro song helps set the mood and invite your listeners into your podcast universe. Plus, if you find something catchy and memorable, your podcast jingle will become a brand signifier.
Podcast Segment Change Music
Segment change music helps your listeners by structuring your podcast, punctuating transitions between different parts of your episode.
Podcast Outro Music
Once your podcast episode has come to an end, you’ll want to thank your audience for listening and gently remind them to subscribe. Outro music maintains continuity between the main and concluding segment and generally ensures your entire episode is polished.
What is the difference between creative commons, royalty-free, and public domain music for my podcast?
Creative Commons Music
You can use most Creative Commons music without permission, as long as you credit the artist.
Under the umbrella of ‘Creative Commons’ are a number of different types of licenses, so ensure to check exactly what you can and can’t do with any given track.
One thing to take particular note of is whether the artist has stipulated No Derivatives Works license, which means you are not allowed to manipulate, change or transform their work.
N.B: Creative Commons licenses do vary especially in relation to commercial use, so always make sure to read the small print before you start using it for your podcast.
This means that you don’t pay royalties to the artist every time you play or use their music. However, royalty-free music is not the same as ‘copyright-free’. When you pay for the song, you’re essentially buying the license to use that music.
Creative Commons music is royalty-free, but royalty-free music also refers to songs for which you make a one-time payment, or that you subscribe to use.
You’ll often hear copyright-free and royalty-free used interchangeably, but beware, they’re not the same thing. Copyright-free music, like the name suggests, has no copyright. It’s rare to stumble across completely copyright-free music because most tracks will have some sort of copyright.
Public Domain Music
When a song’s copyright inevitably lapses, that piece of music enters what is known as the ‘public domain’, which means that you can use it for any purpose.
You can find royalty-free tracks for free, for an initial license fee, or for a subscription, depending on the service you’re using.
Podcast Music Myth-buster
“If I only play 10 seconds of a song, it’s ok”
We’ve all heard this one before. Unfortunately, it’s not true. You must gain permission or purchase the rights to use a song before including it in your podcast.
“If I credit the artist, it’s ok”
It’s true that with certain types of licenses attribution is all it takes. However, this isn’t the case for all music out there, so ensure to check the specific requirements of any music you choose to use.
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Top 10 Places to Find Music for Your Podcast
Free music for your podcast
- Big collection of royalty-free music for free. Free Music Archive boasts a huge collection of music from all over the world for free.
- No need to credit. You don’t need to credit the artist to use their tracks.
- User-friendly & Easy Search Function. You can search FMA’s collection by genre, popularity, and application.
- Weekly/Monthly/All-Time Top Charts. Save yourself time by browsing their most popular tracks.
- Free royalty-free music for attribution. You can use all the Silverman Sound’s music for any purpose as long as you credit the artist.
- Search by genre, mood, and purpose.
- Dated website and interface. The Silverman Sound’s website feels a little bit retro and the search function is not that user-friendly.
- Free Royalty-free beats if you follow them on social. Freebeats has a wide range of music on offer, all you have to do is give them a follow on social media.
- WAV files available for members. If you join as a member, you get access to the WAV files of their beats.
- Filter by genre. You can browse their beats by type: Rap, R&B, Hip-Hop, and more.
- Free Royalty free music for attribution. You can use Incompetech’s Kevin MacLeod’s music for any purpose as long as you give them credit. If you’d prefer not to, you can purchase a license.
- Search by ‘feels’, tempo, genre, or length. Specific search filters help you find the perfect track for your podcast.
- Download all of the music on the site at once. Incompetech has the unique option to blindly download their whole collection at once if that’s what you’re after.
- Free Royalty Free Music. No credit is required to use Pixabay’s music.
- User-friendly interface. Pixabay’s website is sleek and easy to use.
- Search by duration, genre, mood, and movement. Pixabay’s detailed filters help you to refine your search and find the perfect track.
Paid/Subscription-based Music for Your Podcast
- Royalty-free music and audio tracks starting at $1. Audio jungle has a huge range of music on offer for a comparatively cheaper price although prices do vary.
Note: When you pay for a song using Audiojungle, the license only permits you to use it in ‘one end product’, which means if you want to use a certain track in every single episode, your bill is going to rack up.
- Search by genre or ‘music pack’. Audiojungle’s curated ‘packs’ help you to find similar songs which fit into certain categories.
- Royalty-free music subscription service. Pay just $20/month and get unlimited access to and downloads of Audio Blocks’ entire collection forever.
- Search by mood, instrument, genre, vocals, duration, and more. Easily find what you’re looking for with Audio Block’s detailed search filters.
- Royalty-free music subscription service. All rights are included in your monthly subscription, so you never have to worry about usage rights.
- Personal subscription begins at $15/month.
- Commercial subscription begins at $55/month.
- As many downloads as you like. Unlike many other subscription-based services, Epidemic Sound lets you download as much as you want from their collection of 30,000 tracks and 90,000 sound effects.
- Single-track license purchase available. If you don’t want to commit to a monthly subscription, opt for the one-time purchase instead.
- Varied Download Options. If you want to only download the bass or melody of a particular track - you can!
- Search by similar track, genre, mood, length, and bpm.
- User-friendly website. Epidemic Sound’s website and search interface are super user-friendly, meaning you’ll find your music in no time.
Royalty-free music for a one-time fee or subscription:
- Monthly Subscription of $64.95. PremiumBeat’s basic subscription starts at $64.95 which gets you 5 standard licenses.
- Single purchase of $49. If you’d prefer not to commit to a monthly subscription, you can make a one-time payment of $49 for the standard license to a song of your choice.
- Wide range of genres. PremiumBeat breaks down their collection into a number of detailed genres helping you to pinpoint exactly what you’re going for.
- Search by genre, mood, or collection. PremiumBeat’s search function is extremely detailed. They also curate ‘collections that relate to specific moods, events, and contexts - helping you to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Royalty-free music for a one-time fee or subscription.
- One-time fee varies from song to song. Pond5 has a wide price range, so they have something on offer for every budget.
- Monthly subscription starts at $199. This gives you 10 downloads per month, which can roll over if you don’t use them all.
- Search by ‘keywords’, genre and collections. Find exactly what you’re looking for with Pond5’s detailed search filters.
Bonus Tips: How to choose the best music for your podcast
Think about what mood and vibe you’re going for
The music you choose for your podcast should align with the mood you’re trying to set and the vibe you want to create. If you’re recording a true-crime podcast, for example, you’ll want music that effectively builds suspense and really immerses your listener in the stories you’re telling.
Think about your podcast brand and personality
In many ways, your intro music is an emblem of your podcast, so you’ve got to pick it carefully. You’ll want to find a piece that really reflects your podcast show, and gets your listeners excited to hear what you’ve got to say.
Think about what the music is doing
Consider the aim of a particular track. Is it introducing your show? Marking a transition? Adding emotion? These factors will all impact the genre and type of music that will work best.
Examples of good podcast intro-music
The New York Times’ The Daily deep dives into different current affairs issues five days a week, interviewing key figures and experts in relevant fields. It’s a fast-paced show, which often grapples with serious, heavy, or sensitive themes.
Listen to their theme music here
Why The Daily’s theme music works:
- Recognizable. If you’ve ever listened to The Daily, you’ll recognize their theme music immediately.
- It’s a versatile instrumental track combination of piano, drums, guitar, and viola. The Daily often changes their theme music slightly by recombining the different ‘stems’ (the different instrumental elements) to match the specific episode. You can read this whole article about why and how they do this.
For example, in this particular episode at whistleblowers at Boeing, the more minimal version of the intro music matches the somber tone of the matter at hand.
- It’s emotional and evocative. The Daily’s intro song gets the listener into the headspace to listen to some complex and at times heavy, content.
Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday is an uplifting, spiritual awakening type podcast that aims to help you connect with the world around you. In each episode, Oprah is in discussion with well-known inspiring figures on a certain topic. Her discussions can range from extremely emotional personal life experiences to more abstract musings on life.
Why Super Soul Sunday’s theme music works:
- It’s a simple beat. The simplicity of the intro-music itself lets Oprah’s words shine and set the mood.
- It builds tension. The undulating beat builds a certain excitement or tension in the listener for what Oprah has in store for the episode.
Serial is an investigative podcast from the creators of This American Life which centers around a real story. Series one, for example, focuses on 1999 the disappearance of Hae Min Lee. So the themes at play can be pretty dark.
Why Serial’s theme music works:
- It’s an instrumental. The theme song is fairly simple but extremely recognizable.
- It’s haunting and suspenseful. Matching the themes at hand perfectly, Serial’s intro music builds tension, points to the darker elements that will be discussed, and haunts the listener.
As we’ve seen, music is a great way to add some flare and personality to your podcast. Plus, with the number of royalty-free music services out there, it’s really not that hard to get your hands on some quality tracks.
Once you’ve settled on the type of music you’re going for and thought about your budget, it’s time to get browsing. There’s a lot of music out there, so good luck.