Licensing music for use in podcasts is tough: in most countries there isn’t a standard (or blanket) licensing system to help shows use music while paying royalties to its rightsholders and creators. That’s why podcasters tend to either avoid using music altogether; get a friend to compose some original tracks for them; strike deals with individual (indie) artists who control their rights; or just use music and hope they won’t get in trouble for it. It’s not an ideal state of affairs.

In the US, SoundExchange is trying to do something about that. It’s working with B2B firm SourceAudio to launch ‘one-stop music licensing for podcasts’ through a site called PodcastMusic. That’s already a thing before this partnership: it has a catalogue of more than 700k production and ‘music-bed’ tracks for use in podcasts. However, now that catalogue will be swelled by commercial tracks, with SoundExchange promising “a global license for all rights needed to use feature music in a podcast, including master use, performance, synchronisation, and mechanical rights”.

Here’s the caveat: the service won’t launch until 2020, with SoundExchange saying that rightsholders will be able to take part “on a voluntary basis”. They’re being asked to fill in a form so that someone from PodcastMusic can get in touch. The initiative will be followed closely by collecting societies around the world, who may be putting their own licensing schemes in place for the fast-growing podcast market. With predictions of more than one billion podcast listeners globally in 2020 and $1.04bn of podcast advertising revenues in the US alone in 2021, it’s a market worth serving better.

You can read more about this market in the ‘Pod Only Knows’ report that Music Ally recently co-published with the BPI, as well as in our writeup of that report’s launch event in June, when a panel were blunt about the challenges in licensing music for podcasts. “Rights are a disaster,” said broadcaster and writer Miranda Sawyer, who reviews podcasts for the Observer newspaper in the UK. “We need to get to the point where there’s a blanket licence like TV has,” agreed Chris Baughen, managing editor Global Player at radio group Global. Perhaps there’s light at the end of this tunnel though.

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