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The challenge with podcast music-licensing: annual renewals


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If you read our report of the event we ran with the BPI in June, you’ll already be well aware that licensing music for podcasts is… challenging. Now Billboard has published an interesting feature outlining some of those problems in more detail.

It explains some of the basics: for example that licensing a song for a podcast is like a sync deal, so needs permission from the recording and composition rightsholders.

But the part that stood out to us: “An annual track license generally costs between $500 and $2,000 for the master recording, plus the same amount for publishing, sources say, and must be renewed for a podcast to remain online”.

Now imagine the admin (let alone the mounting costs) for a podcast that puts out shows on a weekly or even daily basis.

That’s not an argument for rightsholders not to be compensated for use of music in shows that can reach wide audiences, but the annual-renewal model seems fraught with challenges: we’ve seen some catalogue games ‘deleted’ by their developers because their music licences elapsed, and the games weren’t generating enough revenues any more to make renewals pay off. Could the same thing be happening for older podcasts?

One bright spot (which Billboard points out) is that experienced sync supervisors are starting to work with podcast producers, to ensure their licensing is sorted out properly. But there is a question about whether new, independent and niche podcasters will continue to steer clear of music for fear of future, recurring licensing costs that they can’t afford.

Stuart Dredge

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