Music Industry

Published on August 13th, 2019 | by Alan Cross


Is music about to legally come to podcasts?

One of the most frustrating things about my Ongoing History of New Music podcasts is that we cannot use full songs. In fact, the use of any amount of any song in a podcast is kinda dodgy. Here’s why.

When an artist signs a deal with a label, the label is granted the exclusive right to distribute that artist’s music. If we were to include that artist’s songs in a podcast, we’d become a distributor, opening us up to all kinds of legal action.

And here’s the crazy this: There is no legal mechanism for us to secure permission to include music in podcasts, even though we’re willing to pay some kind of licensing fee.

I’ve spent the last number of years speaking with various industry groups and record labels about the problem. “Don’t you realize how much money you’re leaving on the table? Can’t we figure this out? WE WANT TO PAY YOU!”

The reaction has been “Oh, yeah. I guess that’s true. Good point” And then–crickets.

Meanwhile, the podcasting world has been growing exponentially, with plenty of podcasts flouting licensing rules by including music, anyway.

It’s a mess.

HOWEVER, change seems to be in the air. An American organization called SoundExchange along with a company called PodcastMusic and other known as SourceAudio are apparently set to announce some kind of service that will “provide a new solution to the rapidly growing podcast industry to secure music with full integrated global licenses.”

It’s not ready yet. The service is set to launch in 2020 and that “participation…by publishers, labels, and other rights owners is on a voluntary basis.”

Ah. Digging into things a little deeper, it’s clear that PodcastMusic will not offer a blanket sort of music license as we see with radio stations, meaning that this appears to be a chaotic patchwork solution. It’ll be difficult to have music-intensive podcasts with, er, music. But it could be helpful for spoken word programming (i.e. shows like The Ongoing History) that use music in an educational/documentary sort of way.

A full announcement will be made Thursday. Meanwhile, you can read more here.

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About the Author

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.

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5 Responses to Is music about to legally come to podcasts?

  1. Tegan says:

    That still sounds fantastic! Pausing an episode of the ongoing history to hit up youtube or spotify to listen to a track is an awkward fix. And while a patchwork isn’t perfect, maybe it’ll help move things forward.

  2. Dave MacKinnon says:

    Fingers have been crossed (pun?) for this for many, many years.. Here’s hoping!

  3. Craig says:

    Is there no way to make each episode a playlist in a specific order and require downloading the songs separately? Or Streaming them in order…

    • Alan Cross says:

      Technically, yes. But the amount of time it would require to do this makes it impractical. There are other issues, too, involving report requirements and structures. Believe me, we’ve looked into this.

  4. Don Doucette says:

    Just another example of how the recording industry has their head in the sand and is slow to adapt.

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