A proposal that would allow music to be included in podcasts

Let’s be very, very clear. There is no legal way to include music in podcasts. Trust me. I’ve spoken to many, many people within the music industry and they’re all flummoxed as to how this can ever be possible.

Why? A couple of reasons.

  1. When an artist signs to a label, they give the label exclusive right to distribute their music. If a podcaster includes a song in a podcast–a downloadable form of media–that constitutes distribution and therefore violates the label’s right to exclusivity.
  2. Despite reports that nearly 20% of podcasts contain some kind of copyrighted music, there is no organization that (a) keeps track of music use in podcasts; and (b) can grant a blanket license to podcasters for legal use of music.
  3. And even if there were a way to keep track of music in podcasts and a way to pay for it, no one can agree on how much podcasters should pay.
  4. This also explains why so many podcasts only include short snippets of songs (my Ongoing History podcast included). Technically, we’re not supposed to do even that but given that there are millions of podcasters who are doing the same thing, it’s unlikely that any copyright holders will start some kind of crackdown. We hope.

It’s a mess. So much money is being left on the table for artists, labels, and publishers. What can be done?

Author and activist Corey Doctorow has a proposal that’s bound to get some reaction from the industry.

You can read the whole thing here, but these are the highlights:

  • A blanket license for the internet to be run by a new music collective based on user numbers.
  • “You pay the collecting society a monthly license fee that goes up with the number of users you have. If you have one user and Facebook has 2.5 billion users, then your license fee is 1/2,500,000,000 of Facebook’s fee.”
  • 50% of all proceeds should go directly to the artists.

It may not be perfect, but I don’t see too many other people proposing solutions to this problem.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “A proposal that would allow music to be included in podcasts

  • May 28, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    I think this framework makes a lot of sense, and would be beneficial to both the artists and podasters. The rate structure as well “should” actually be bone simple since (as far as I know) it actually already exists for entities such as wedding DJ’s. I would think that this would need to be a separate library of music from that resource for the simple reason as I can see some artists who might be fine with their song(s) being played at a wedding but perhaps not be used in a podcast, mainly because of the overwhelming number of political broadcasters online, and you’re only going to start an argument that blows the whole thing up for everyone the moment you start saying this political leaning group can’t access a song but this other one can (perhaps their is a side option for specifically music review/discussion casts? Nah – some asshole would exploit that one and be a major dick about it). Hopefully this gains some traction – I mean, we’re talking about making money here, and (generally) everyone wins. Again, set it up as an artist-opt-in scenario and it “should” work…….


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