Analogy time: Music is to podcasts what good lighting is to video. Meaning, it's really important.
We beat the podcasting drum pretty loud around here, and we're not ashamed of it. You might have heard us talk about it on our own podcast. Yes, we podcast about podcasting. You might have read about it on our blog. We've got your podcast content strategy here. Your FAQ here. We got you covered on how to start.
What haven't we covered?
The production side of podcasting does seem to generate the most anxiety and questions. And one of those production areas is the intro and outro music, along with other musical elements, like transitions. But there are so many resources at hand that it shouldn't be the case. This is the internet, after all.
Warning: do not use copyrighted music! For a brief review of how to avoid copyright issues, see our Common Sense Guide to Copyright Online guide.
Yes, you know Wistia as an awesome video hosting site, but did you know you can go there for music? It's true! Wistia's got a small but mighty collection of royalty-free music that you should check out when you're searching for the perfect tunes to play on your podcast. As of right now there are eight completely free tracks you can use without worry, and they've even got a fun blog post about the process of creating this music. All you have to do is provide your email address, and you'll have fun music in your inbox before you know it.
Cost: Free! (Woohoo!)
I asked Michael Reynolds, SpinWeb's CEO and host of SpinRadio, what his go-to music resource is: "I generally use Tune Fruit. I paid $100 per song for the music we use on SpinRadio."
Tunefruit is pretty brilliant. It's a carefully curated collection, and their categories range from acoustic to world music, so no matter what you're looking for, you'll probably find something that will work for you. The website is fun, funky, and easy to navigate, and they allow you to sample the track before you buy it.
Cost: There's a five tier pricing system, and the prices range from $20 for use in student projects to $500 for regional broadcast. A bargain for unique and original music!
The main benefit of the Free Music Archive is right there in the name...it's free. It was foundedy by the freeform radio station WFMU, and its curators are found all over the world. The music has been approved for sharing by the artists, and there's even a virtual tip jar if you're really enjoying what you've heard from a particular musician.
PremiumBeat's got a huge catalog of royalty free music and sound effects available for purchase; the music found there was created exclusively for PremiumBeat, so it's definitely original. You can search the site by genre, mood, or popularity, and if you choose to use PremiumBeat, you'll be in good company; the folks at NASA use them when they create videos of the amazing stuff they do every day.
Cost: PremiumBeat uses a two-tier system; you can purchase a Standard License,$49, for non-commercially distributed projects, or a Premium License,$199, which is meant for use on TV, radio, theaters, and points of sale.
Fresh out of England, Beatsuite is a giant collection of curated royalty-free music, but these wily Brits offer a cool twist: if you can't find the music you're searching for, you can pop into their studio and CREATE YOUR OWN. (WHAAAT?) Like their colleagues, they provide a preview prior to purchase, and their offerings are ready to use as soon as you've downloaded them.
Cost: Beatsuite's $80 standard license covers pretty much everything but broadcast radio and television and mass distribution; if you're looking for that, you'll have to contact them for a personalized quote.
Soundcloud is, at heart, a social media site, but instead of sharing pictures of their babies or their lunch, these folks share music they've created. (Pretty cool, right?) However, proceed with caution; there's a ton of original and awesome music, but not all of this music is classified under the umbrella of "Creative Commons". You can do a search for royalty-free music, but the only way to be SURE that it's legal to use the music is to contact the creator and ask permission.
Cost: The cost of music on Soundcloud varies; some artists might not mind you using their music for free, but others might ask for payment.
These sites will give you plenty of options for legal music to use in your podcast.
Music Production & Editing
You have your music files and now you're ready to get to work. What next?
You still have to put it all together! While this is not a full-length tutorial on the fine tunings of production, I don't want to leave you hanging. The next step is recording and editing your final audio file. You'll need an app for that.
GarageBand for Mac
If you're on a Mac, you can use GarageBand. It's easy and free. You simply load in your voice track and add music at the beginning and end, fade out, fade in.
Once you do this the first time, you then have a template and can make a copy of a previous episode and replace the voice track.
Audacity for Windows
If you're on a PC you can use Audacity, which is also free.
Spreaker Studio for Windows and Mac
If you want a smooth studio experience, download the Spreaker Studio desktop app.
You can do all of your recording, drag and drop your intro/outro music files, add sound effects, and even bring in callers on Skype to join a conversation. This is probably the best option for those who don't want to get into the nitty gritty of learning a new audio editing tool like GarageBand or Audacity.
Don't let a little thing like music keep you from starting your podcast! You can do it, and if you need help, just let us know!