Tips for Choosing the Right Podcast Music

The Act of Balancing Music and Conversation

When choosing music for your podcast, bear in mind that it plays an essential part in the user experience. You want to use music to enhance the listening experience, not override the message or story you are trying to tell. It is all about balance, and if you succeed in combining music and conversation in your podcast, you have created a good foundation for monetizing your show.

Podcast music has three functions:

  1. Setting the theme
  2. Preparing the listener for individual features or segments within the podcast
  3. Introducing and promoting new music to entertain or educate the listener



Find the Right Music Style for Your Podcast

First of all, you need to know your theme and then select the music appropriate to your style, tone, and topics. You should brand your podcast by choosing an opening tune that your audience will over time associate with your show. You can utilize musical cues to signal different themes, such as having a particular theme play every time you introduce a guest. When you use musical cues, it helps create a flow that facilitates the listening experience. Thereby, you create an audio style that the listeners will identify with your podcast over time.

Having a specific musical theme will help you create your podcast brand. If you have the resources, it is good to hire a composer or audio branding agency to compose a customized piece for your show. If you don’t have the budget for it, you can instead find free music in various musical genres.


How to Select the Music

Sound effects and music can be very effective in podcast branding, as they make it easy for you to set your show apart from other podcasts. The voice-over is another tool that helps your audience identify with your particular podcast, so it is vital to create an official host voice for the show and use it consistently.

When you select music for the show, always have your theme and target audience in mind. Each podcast is unique, and your choice of music should reflect this. Remember that people react instinctively to music, but it can be challenging to insert the music appropriately. First of all, you should consider the topic and the tone of the show – serious or fun – before choosing the music. As a rule of thumb, try to think of your music as emotional clues or triggers that guide the audience to what they should feel or how they should react at certain times during the show.

To use an example, let us say the topic of your podcast is finance, more specifically, the stock market. In this case, the music could be energetic with a declamatory or slightly bombastic anthem. You might use sound effects associated with stock trade, such as the opening bell of the stock exchange, mixed with the background noise of people talking, clocks ticking, the sound of a heart beating faster, etc. The podcast host might have an authoritative or excitable voice to keep listeners on the edge of their seats.

By partnering with a musician, you can acquire Podsafe music, but you do need to give the musician credit for the work during the show. You can find various independent artists who have made their songs available as Podsafe music, solely requiring airplay and publicity in return. You can also subscribe to sound effect libraries for a small fee.

After you have selected the music and the sound effects you want to use, you can then edit the chosen audio into the podcast in a seamless way.



Be Careful with Copyright

When it comes to copyrighted music, you need to watch your step to avoid any violation. The following scenarios are just some of the arguments often used in the industry that can get you into a lot of trouble with copyright law:

  • “I own the CD”
  • “I’ve talked over the song’s intro”
  • “I only played for 10 seconds”
  • “The artist gave permission” (You will still need permission from the label – and in some cases even the musician’s union)


Customized Music Can Make Your Podcast Unique

You can choose to use completely original songs customized for your show. This can help underline the podcast’s theme and be achieved by collaborating with an independent songwriter or composer. The strength of original music is the possibility of accurately translating your podcast theme into music and using it to reflect a deeper meaning or support the emotional reaction to the show’s content.

When you choose the music for your podcast, it is important to make sure that the music accurately matches the tone of your show. Whether you decide to use copyrighted music, Podsafe, or customized musical content, the music needs to be in line with your overall theme and the emotions you want your audience to connect with. To get the inspiration, you can try to listen to similar podcasts to analyze their use of music. Find out what works and imitate that while still creating your own unique show.

Of course, there is no rule which dictates that you have to use music to make a compelling soundscape for your podcast. You can also choose to use sound simply for certain effects and create the right ambiance for your show.



Establish the Podcast Atmosphere Through the Ambiance

Ambiance determines the atmosphere of your show. It generally consists of the sounds present in your recording environment and is created from all the audio elements that pervade your podcast. You can create ambiance organically by recording not in a studio but on a location connected to your show’s topic. 

Another way to create ambiance is through music. Background music can provide the backdrop of heavy dialogue, and if you use the same tracks for each episode of your show, it helps set the tone and give your audience a sense of familiarity when they tune in.


Use Sound Effects to Convey Emotions and Authenticity

Sound effects can help your listeners visualize the topics while still enabling you to record intelligible dialogue. Sounds like slamming doors, birds singing, or traffic noise can be used to great effect. When you use sound effects the right way, it helps create the illusion that your podcast has been recorded on location rather than in an artificial environment. Even though it is a fabricated reality, it can still make the show feel more authentic.

You can also use sound effects to create atmosphere, emotional reactions, and tension. They can be used to convey a certain impression of the podcast host and other people involved in the show. This can be done simply by emphasizing certain sounds, such as circus noises to make a person sound silly or foolish, whistling to make someone seem carefree, or a ticking clock to make characters sound like they are in a hurry.

There is a wide range of possibilities for choosing the sound and music for your podcast. All you need to do is consider your options based on the impression you want to convey to your listeners.

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