When I first read about podcasting music, or even podcasting talk with a little bit of music in the background, I didn’t think about the copyright and licensing implications. I also didn’t consider what happens when a podcast becomes popular, but the RIAA has shown with webcasting that they won’t stop until they have extracted every penny they can get from anyone who has at least one penny, so don’t think your safe just because your listening base is small.
Matt May and assorted commenters cover the podcasting and licensing issue well on Matt’s bestkungfu blog. Read Matt’s post for the details, but the short summary is that it’s going to cost you a lot if you want to include most forms of commercially released music in your podcast. Just for starters, the first song will most likely cost you more than $100. Once you get the songwriter rights out of the way, then your costs will be significant only if a lot of people are downloading your podcast. Yes, you read that right. You have track how many people download your podcast, because you have to pay these organizations a cut for each download.
So, what do you do? For starters, check out music that has been released under a Creative Commons license. Good places to start are the Audio section at Creative Commons and Matt May’s own Staccato podcast.
Matt’s article was brought to my attention by my wife, who runs the radio station at UC Berkeley. She said that Matt’s coverage of the issue basically looks correct.