How to Find the Best Music for Podcasts (Free & Paid): 43 Places

Most people only think about music for their podcast intro.

While high-quality podcast intro music is important, it’s only one of the places where you can use the right sounds.

You can use podcast music for your intro, interludes before you introduce a sponsor, after you’ve taken a break, and at the end of episodes.

You can even use podcast music to emphasize points.

In this article, you’ll learn about dozens of places to find free and paid podcast music, the types of music you can use, and why it even matters.

Why music is so important for your podcast

Let’s get something clear. The content of your podcast will always be the most important aspect. You can have the best music but if your message doesn’t resonate, the podcast music you choose won’t make a difference.

With that being said, the music still matters. 

Podcasting is having its moment and because of that, production quality continues to rise. It’s the same movement that happened with videos and even blogging.

At first, it was acceptable to post grainy videos or 500-word blog posts. Now, the most successful YouTubers are using production crews. Award-winning blogs write long-form content with tons of rich media.

If you don’t want to get left behind, your podcast should strive for the same quality. Standards are improving by leaps and bounds.

Beyond keeping up with the Joneses, great podcast music has tangible benefits.

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Serves as a preview of what’s to come

Music is a funny thing. It conveys feelings and emotions. It can be exciting like Flight of the Bumblebee by Beethoven.

It can be suspenseful like Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit -Ondine.

Jon Leif produced Hekla which is about the fury of a volcano (It starts around the 2 minute mark).

All this is to share how emotions can be conveyed in music. It’s important to use the right music so your audience understands what’s coming.

Sets the tone of the content

Think back to the last time you watched a good horror movie. It’s almost guaranteed that the producers used music to set the tone for different scenes.

When the main character is running through the woods for dear life, there’s different music playing. When they go investigate after something falls in the house, another type of music plays. It’s there to enhance the scene and build anticipation.

Creates familiarity

Most people remember the original James Bond theme music.

It’s hard to mistake it because the franchise is so popular. More than that, we’re familiar with it after years of consistent exposure.

When you have great music and a loyal fan base, they become familiar with your signature tune. It evokes all the emotions associated with your podcast brand.

If you choose the right music and create the right content, you can tap into the familiarity principle. A psychological phenomenon whereby people develop a preference for things because they’re exposed to it often. This is part of the reason why children like their parents so much.

Where to find Free podcast music

Where to find paid podcast music

Simple tips for podcast intro music

Use a snippet

Intro music itself can be as long as you’d like. When you’re using it in front of an episode or as part of the outro, keep it concise. Even though your listeners may appreciate the music, it’s not what they came for. Chances are if music lasts more than 30-60 seconds, it’ll increase drop-offs. No one wants that so use a snippet of the best part of your music.

Keep it consistent with the rest of the show

I’m referring to the volume of your podcast intro music and the rest of the episode. Keep in mind, you record your episodes in one place and your music is recorded in another. They’re probably not going to be at the same volume.

It would be jarring for a listener if your intro is loud and exciting but your voice is low and muted. The same thing holds true in the opposite direction. If your intro is low and muted, it’ll be jarring if you’re
animated and loud when talking. Keep everything consistent.

Find a sound – not a song

Songs come and go. What was popular in the 90s may not be worth a mention today. Think about MC hammer and “U can’t touch this” AKA Hammer Time.

I couldn’t resist.

I digress.

Moving on.

A signature sound is timeless. After all, Beethoven is still being taught in music classes around the world. He lived around the same time the United States came into existence.

Think about the emotions you want people to feel and what you want to be remembered for. Is it excitement, suspense, passion, joy, etc.? Whatever the case, find a sound that helps you communicate it.

Always consider who your audience is

This is one of the most important factors when choosing your podcast music.

Who are you creating it for?

Is it a podcast for professionals and are you using it to grow your personal brand?

It is a podcast for your company that caters to C-level executives?

Do you have a playful tone or is it all business. These are the things to take into consideration because, as mentioned earlier, your music is just a reflection of you and your audience.

Classical music may not be the best choice if you’re targeting teenagers. Heavy metal probably wouldn’t be a good idea for a business audience.

Of course, if your brand lends itself to it then you can do almost anything. Just don’t go too far into left field.

Type of music you’re allowed to use

Unfortunately, you can’t use all the music you come across. The world is too complex and has too many laws. To stay safe and avoid being fined a bazillion dollars, there are specific types of podcast music you can use.

A lot of the work has been done for you with the list we compiled but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Royalty-free music

Don’t be confused by the word free here. Royalty-free music doesn’t mean it’s free to acquire. In a nutshell, royalty-free music is audio content you’ve purchased (or even gotten for free) that doesn’t require you to pay ongoing fees or royalties.

You pay for or otherwise acquire the music license once and are able to use it for as long as you want. So the free music there means free of royalty or free from ongoing charges based on usage. This is ideal if you don’t mind paying an initial fee to acquire the music.

Creative commons music

Creative Commons (CC) is a licensing system that allows you to use another creator’s work in specific ways. There are multiple types of CC licenses. Before using any work licensed under CC, take a look at the terms and conditions to make sure your use case is allowed.

Here are the most common types of licenses:

  • AttributionBy
    – must give credit to the original author of the work
  • NonCommercial
    – can use the work in any way as long as it’s not for commercial purposes
  • ShareAlike
    – The work can be used and modified but the finished work must be distributed
    on the same terms as the original
  • NoDerivatives
    – people can’t modify the work in any way.

Each one of these licenses can be combined. For example, a creator can license their work under AttributionBy and NonCommercial

For the complete list, visit the Creative Commons website.

Public domain music

Public domain music is the best because there are no restrictions on it. The problem is that it’s difficult to understand what music qualifies as public domain because each country has its own laws and they’re constantly changing.

In the United States, the copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the author. If it was created as a work for hire then the copyright lasts for 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation. The only way to go around this is when music was placed in the public domain by the creator.

Fair use laws

I’m not an attorney and I don’t pretend to have a solid grasp of copyright laws. Before you use someone else’s work, do contact a qualified legal professional to make sure it’s alright.

Now that we’ve got the disclaimer out of the way, Fair Use in music is an exception in copyright law that allows you to use someone else’s work without compensation or credit for noncommercial purposes. How much of the work and in which way you use it can get dicey.

For example, is your podcast a commercial endeavor because it has sponsors? Or is it free because you don’t charge the end-user? Those are good questions I don’t have the answers too.

A good rule of thumb is that when in doubt, throw it out. Or hire a competent attorney to help you verify where you stand.

Conclusion

This article has covered a lot of ground about podcast music. I’ve touched on why it’s so important, the conditions under which you can use it, and where to find free and paid music.

Your intro music is a reflection of your podcast and sets the expectations for what’s to come. Take as much time as you need to find the right one. If you can’t, invest in getting the music made for you.

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