podcast music220

The door is cracking open to music use in podcasts and that could open up new on-demand opportunities for radio stations. This is according to executives behind PodcastMusic.com, the just-announced licensing clearinghouse that will begin allowing podcasters to legally put songs in their shows starting next year.

Doug Reed, Executive VP of Music at SourceAudio, the company that’s partnered with SoundExchange to create PodcastMusic, said it intends to specifically target stations with the product, seeing as it an avenue to allow stations to create podcasts filled with music—especially utilizing newer acts that aren’t yet getting airplay. “We’re going to get all the rights for these folks and we’ll also have the ability to reach out to the label and arrange interviews,” said Reed, speaking at Jacobs Media’s “Broadcasters Meet Podcasters” event in Orlando. He said they’ll also make their pitch directly to broadcasters next month during the Radio Show in Dallas.

The radio component is just a piece of the still-developing service that is aimed primarily at podcasters. After years of frustration about not being able to access music legally, PodcastMusic’s backers told attendees of the Podcast Movement that many of the specific details of the service are still being hashed out, although the broad outline of the licensing mechanism is in place. Starting in 2020, PodcastMusic will expand its catalog of music beyond its current production library of about 700,000 works with the addition of pop songs.

Reed expects the bigger component will be podcasters with 5,000 downloads or less that want to drop snippets of songs into their shows or use music for bumpers. In order to keep prices “reasonable,” he expects to license songs on a per-episode basis for that class of shows for roughly $10 to $20. “It will be tiered pricing; it will go up the more downloads you get per episode,” he explained, cautioning that prices will “probably be all over the map” depending on how much each of the record labels and publishers demand. “Pop music is going to be a lot more expensive to use,” Reed predicted. “We’re hoping this is going to be a major offering, especially for the guys who aren’t getting a lot of radio airplay anymore.”

One potential gap in the PodcastMusic coverage is that it won’t allow creators to license a record to serve as a show’s primary theme music. Reed said rights holders have branding concerns and would be wary of the appearance that an artist was supporting a show’s particular editorial position—especially in these politically charged times. Instead, any show producer that wants to license theme music will still need to approach a record label directly.

“A lot of that is still being worked out,” said Reed. “Expect that some of the more higher-value copyrights out there are going to have some restrictions, but we just don’t know what they are yet.” Once it goes live, PodcastMusic will rely on digital watermarking technology and audits of shows that license music to ensure producers aren’t using more of a song than permitted.

Labels Show Interest In Podcasts

Unlike some other rights situations—including the one enjoyed by broadcast radio—there’s no requirement that record labels participate in PodcastMusic. SourceAudio President Andrew Harding said since the news of its plans broke, the company has heard from “dozens” of labels large and small expressing interest in licensing music.

Richard Conlon, Chief Corporate Development Officer at SoundExchange, which collects digital royalties for copyright owners including the big record labels, said there’s a realization in the music community that putting limits on music use wasn’t just a hurdle for podcasters. “It was impeding our rights owners from making more money,” he said.

Attorneys have long warned podcasters that music is strictly off-limits since the licensing process was too complex and expensive. Podcasters need two licenses to avoid potential take-down notices or legal action. They need a mechanical license that allows listeners to stream or download an episode, as well as a master use/sync license. That’s the license needed from a record label in order to legally use their sound recording. 

“The problem has always been that it’s not a question of not getting the rights to the music,” said attorney David Oxenford. “The problem for most pop music is finding the person who can say yes, so you can put it into a podcast.” 

PodcastMusic expects to beta launch this fall by licensing Christmas music to podcasters. Conlon said after years of waiting, podcasters should expect to see a step-by-step entry into the market: “For us it was the right time for a solution… and a solution that could be phased in.”