When we will finally get music in podcasts? Well, that’s complicated.

[This was my weekend column for GlobalNews.ca. -AC]

One of the most frustrating things about my Ongoing History of New Music podcasts is our inability to use full songs. The most we can do without getting into any kind of trouble is offering short clips to illustrate points made by the narrative.

Even this is officially verboten. There’s a myth that it’s permissible to use 30 seconds of a song in a podcast without incurring the wrath of rightsholders. The truth is that you’re not supposed to use any amount of any song in a podcast. Here’s why.

When an artist signs a deal with a record label, it is granted the sole and exclusive right to distribute that artist’s music. When a podcaster includes a song in a production, the podcaster becomes a de facto distributor of a digital file of that song. That breaches the rights owned by the label and also opens the podcaster to charges of unauthorized duplication of a copyrighted work.

In other words, piracy.

Yes, there are podcasters who flout the rules and include songs in their shows anyway. But this is a Very Bad Idea and does open them to all kinds of legal action.

And yet, here’s the crazy thing: There is no legal mechanism for us to secure permission to include music in podcasts — any podcasts — even though you might be willing to pay some kind of licensing fee.

Keep reading.

UPDATE: Podnews, which graciously included a link to the Global story in today’s newsletter, has this guide to using commercial music in podcasts. [SPOILER: You can’t.]

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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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