How to Use Music in Your Podcast?

Do you want to play my music in your podcast? Is there another musician you'd like to feature? I'm gonna share how to use music in your podcast.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Please contact your lawyer if you want to find actual details.

I host the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast. It's the largest podcast for Celtic music online. I also have the Pub Songs Podcast and was the founder of the Renaissance Festival Podcast (but I no longer own that show). I've been podcasting music podcasts since 2005. Yet, it wasn't until earlier this year that I finally called a lawyer to ask, “How can I legally add music to my podcasts?”

I searched the internet. Unfortunately, there was too much jargon and legalese. I never felt I understood the legal ramifications.  But I've been podcasting for 12 years, hopefully I'm doing something right. It turned out I was.

In addition to being a podcaster, I am also a musician who wants to get paid. I quit my day job in 2005 when I started podcasting. I now have a family to feed. So sure, it would be AWESOME if I could make money from having my music played in podcasts.

Where does podcasting stand in the great legal world of royalties?

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a downloaded media form. If it does not download to your computer or device, then it's technically not a podcast. Yes, there are podcast players you can get to play music “direct from a website”, but technically, those files are downloaded to the computer and played. So they are not considered “streaming”.

Can I play any song in my podcast?

A quick answer is no.

In fact, I don't think you have permission to play music in your podcast unless you

  • get permission from the artist, and/or
  • pay royalties to the artist.

But there are exceptions to every rule.

Types of Royalties Collected Online

Well there are basically two types of royalties that are paid from music being played on the internet:

  1. Streaming royalties
  2. Download royalties

If you have a streaming internet radio station, then you should be paying streaming royalties.

If you are a podcast, then standard royalty rate is the same as it is for songs that are downloaded–$0.091 per download.

Who collects the royalty money?

There are four methods for paying royalties online:

  1. SoundExchange
  2. PROs (Performance Rights Organizations)
  3. Songwriters
  4. Creative Commons

SoundExchange manages streaming internet royalties. They do NOT collect podcast royalties. You don't need to mess with them.

BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC collect performance royalties for songwriters. They mainly collect money from terrestrial radio play.I *think* they are also responsible for collecting download royalties, IF the song is NOT in the public domain.

The third method is paying money directly to songwriters.

The fourth method is if the artist makes the song freely available under a Creative Commons license. It may be free for your use or it may have limitations. Click the link for details.


I'm gonna lay down some examples to try and illustrate your music podcasting options:

  1. I wrote a song called “Name On My Soul”. It's 100% original. You cannot play it in your podcast unless I give you permission.If I give you permission, technically you still owe me royalties of 9.1 cents per download.  You can pay the me directly or you can go through one of the PROS or Harry Fox Association (I'm not sure which).

    OR I might offer the song under Creative Commons (which I do). So you can play the song freely with no royalties as long as you attribute it to me. I usually post a link to the band's website in the shownotes and  mention the band on the show.

  2. My album Scottish Songs of Drinking & Rebellion features “Green Grow the Rashes”. The song was written by Robert Burns in the 1700s. It is in the public domain. You basically follow the same rules as #1. You need permission from the artist to play the music.
  3. Brobdingnagian Bards covered a version of “Monster Mash”. The song was written by Leonard Capizzi and Robert Pickett. It is not in the public domain. So if you wanted to play that song, you would need to contact us for permission (either paid or via Creative Commons) and then you would need to go to PROs (or Harry Fox Agency, not sure which) to pay royalties to put it in your podcast.
  4. If the artist recorded the song prior to 1928, or if the recording is no longer covered by a copyright, then you are free to play the music.
  5. Parody. There's another weird category for comedy music–parodies. I don't know the laws for parody. But I do know it is very grey. I *think* it would fall under a similar category as #1 though. Brobdingnagian Bards cover a recording of “If I Had $1000000” by Barenaked Ladies. We pay royalties to the authors for the music. But the lyrics are our own.For you the podcaster, I believe you would need to do the same. Pay royalties for the music, and then royalties or permission from us to play the song in your podcast. But I'm not sure.

What did I do right?

Early on, I learned that I needed permission from the artists to play their music. So I created a form at to get the artists' permission to be played in the podcast. I ask the artists to give me permission to play their music without compensation. In exchange, I promote the artist in the podcast and offer a link to the band in the shownotes.

Any band who has been played on my podcast has given me written permission.

I also avoid any songs that I know are covers of someone else's music. This has taken a while for me to figure out because I don't usually look at CD jackets to see if the song is original, traditional or a cover. So there are some errors in the show. Nevertheless, most of the songs were completely cleared to be played in the podcast.

Once again, I want to remind you that I am not a lawyer. If you're uncertain, please contact one. Many will offer free advice on the phone. Others can guide you with your specific circumstance.

Can you play my music?

Hell yes!

I want as many people playing my music as possible. Yes, I would suggest that you contact me and make sure a particular song was written by me or is in the public domain (because not all are). But I would LOVE it if you would feature me. And I'm happy to give you a license. You can find more details about my licenses here.

If you're a podcaster and you would like music to be played on your podcast, contact me as well. I'm  happy to send you a link to download some.