There can be no doubt that music is an incredibly powerful tool. It stirs emotion, sets the scene, and can transport listeners to another time and place. And for podcast creators, music and sound effects can really take a show to the next level.
Whether it’s a catchy intro that grabs the attention of new listeners, spooky sound effects that perfectly complement your fiction podcast, or fun jingles that help you seamlessly transition to your different segments, music and sound effects are an integral part of the podcast-listening experience.
However, adding music and sound effects to your podcast is not a straightforward procedure, and that’s because of a little thing called Copyright. Copyright laws and music licensing prevent the wrongful use of another’s creative work without the correct permissions and/or payment agreements. It is, therefore, illegal to use copyrighted music on your podcast.
It must be stated, however, that there is a growing “grey area” when it comes to using music under what is known as “fair use.” Which, in its simplest form, means that if you are using a piece of music for a purpose that differs from the original purpose of the piece, then your use is “fair” and, should it come to that, the courts would likely rule that you don’t need a license.
But, for the purpose of this post, we’re focusing on music and sound effects you would use to enhance the audio experience of your show, meaning that the music and sound effects would be functioning in their intended use, and so, copyright laws would certainly apply.
Now, back to the ins and outs of using music and sound effects on your podcast…
There are 3 legal provisions that allow podcast creators to safely add music and/or sound effects to their podcast:
1. Creative Commons – permission for use granted by the original creator provided credit is given.
2. Royalty Free – once-off payment in exchange for lifetime usage.
3. Music in the Public Domain – copyright has expired and can be freely used.
The term “podsafe” has been coined by the podcast community and refers to any work which, through its licensing, specifically allows the use of the work in podcasting, regardless of restrictions the same work might have in other realms.¹ You’ll see this word pop up throughout the post.
We will mainly be focusing on royalty-free music on this post.
In its simplest form, and as has been mentioned above, royalty free is a license that requires a once-off payment in exchange for lifetime usage of whatever’s being purchased. This gives you the right to use the music that others have created for your own creative purposes. And making sure that you use royalty free music on your podcast will not only ensure that you always stay on the right side of the law, but will also give you the piece of mind knowing that the music and sound effects you use on your show are totally podsafe!
Now that we know what type of music and sound effects you can safely use on your podcast, the question becomes, where do you find such items? The answer? KEEP READING!
We’ve handpicked 12 of the top sites that offer royalty free music and sound effects podcast creators can safely use on their podcast. And with a mix of free and paid options, there will be something for every type of podcast host with any type of podcast on this list!
Soundsnap is part of our creative arsenal here at We Edit Podcasts and we love their massive library of sound effects! Soundsnap is the largest professional sound effects library available on the internet and is powered by creatives of all types, from the recordists and designers who create their content to the developers and curators who keep their catalog organized, functional and just plain fun to use. Soundsnap has been used worldwide by companies like Pixar, Vice, HBO, BBC, Discovery, Microsoft, PlayStation, and many more.
We’re proud to call Soundsnap a partner at We Edit Podcasts. Head over to our Partners page to find out how you can get access to a 1 free month trial.
Incompetech has a few highly noteworthy characteristics. Number 1, it is one of the more well-known sites which offer royalty-free music, which can largely be attributed to Number 2, the fact that the over 2,000 pieces of music on the site have been composed by one composer and musician, Kevin MacLeod. Which is impressive! But what is perhaps more impressive is that he has made all of his pieces freely available under a Creative Commons (see definition above) copyright license.
Incompetech features music from a wide range of genres, so you’re sure to find something to suit your show! And as has been mentioned, the music is free to use (although, an optional donation of $5 per piece is suggested and greatly appreciated!), but credit must be given to Kevin MacLeod, so be sure to do this correctly if you use any of his music on your show. For podcasts, credits for the music should be voiced on the show, usually at the end of your episodes.
3. Free Music Archive
The Free Music Archive offers free access to open licensed, original music, and is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by WFMU, the most renowned freeform radio station in America. The Free Music Archive is a platform for collaboration between curators and artists, and provides a legal and technological framework for curators, artists, and listeners to harness the potential of music sharing. All music found in the Free Music Archive is free for use to anyone and everyone, and their library of songs can also be accessed on Android or iOS devices through the FMA app.
However, certain tracks may have stricter licenses but this will be stipulated on a track-by-track basis, so make sure you read the fine print of each piece you download. All tracks require credit to the original artist.
4. Audio Jungle
Audio Jungle, a subsidiary of the great Envato Market, offers royalty free music and audio tracks from as little as $1! Their royalty-free music and sound effects are completely podsafe and are of top quality. And with the current number of 1,496,461 tracks and sounds available from their community of musicians and sound engineers, you are guaranteed to find something that will work perfectly on your show! And every month there are new freebies ready for you to enjoy.
Again, be sure to read the T’s and C’s for both the music and sound effects as these tend to differ in terms of permissions for use.
5. Epidemic Sound
Another popular choice when it comes to sourcing royalty free music is Epidemic Sound. With Epidemic Sound, you get full access for unlimited play and streams, and as all the rights are included, you do not need to worry about royalties. With your monthly subscription, you get full access to over 32 000 tracks & 60 000 sound effects. Epidemic Sound have made it their mission to find and work with the most talented musicians in the industry, and through these collaborations, you can get your hands and your audience’s ears on some amazing music or sound effects which will really take your podcast to the next level.
PremiumBeat is a Shutterstock company which serves to provide exclusive, high-quality tracks and sound effects for use in all sorts of video and audio projects. All their royalty-free tracks are handpicked by music industry experts. The site boasts an extensive collection of royalty free music, making it really easy for podcast creators to find the perfect intro, outro, or background score to build their podcast’s unique identity. All of their tracks are 100% exclusive and copyright clear, completely podsafe, as well as being safe for use on video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. Their library of tracks is vast and covers a variety of genres, so there will certainly be something to suit your podcast.
7. 99 Sounds
99Sounds is an indie sound design label launched by Bedroom Producers Blog in 2014. Their mission is to provide free sound effects and sample libraries of commercial quality, at no charge. All of their products will always be 100% royalty-free and offered as such for music and video production, game development, and any similar creative projects. They have a whole host of sound libraries so you will really be spoiled for choice!
Next up, we have ccMixter, which is a community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses. With this license, you are free to download and sample from music on their site and share the results with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Some songs might have certain restrictions, depending on their specific licenses. Each submission is marked clearly with the license that applies to it. This site is unique in the sense that the intended purpose is for collaborations between musicians, singers, and DJs. So if you’re looking for something really unique, this could be the site for you.
Soundstripe’s byline is, “the unlimited, royalty free music creators need to produce exceptional work” gives you a great idea of what they are about! They offer a great variety of high-quality songs, and their unlimited licensing model is one-of-a-kind in the industry. Soundstripe represents only the best musical talent and they make it possible for content creators to have access to a growing collection of royalty free music for an unbeatable price. They hand-select every song that goes into their catalog and meticulously curate each playlist with the most relevant songs. Although they are specifically aimed to provide music for video content creators, their collection is a great source of music for podcasters.
Storyblocks (formerly Audioblocks) offers a unique unlimited downloads subscription model with no restrictions or hidden fees. Their plans are affordable, and all tracks provided come with the right to use them royalty free for personal or commercial projects. And with unlimited access to more than 73,000 music tracks and sound effects, and no download caps, this is a great resource in the podcaster’s arsenal.
SoundBible offers thousands of free sound effects, sound clips, and straight up sounds, and is, therefore, a great source for copyright free sounds. These sounds can be used in a variety of sound projects including Video Sound Scores, Movie Scoring, Game Design, Powerpoint Presentations, Prank Calls, Sound Boards, and the list goes on. But just so that there is no confusion, the specific license for each clip is clearly marked right next to it.
Last up, we have Freesound. The site has curated a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, and sound effects released under Creative Commons licenses that allow podcast creators to reuse them. Freesound also aims to create an open database of sounds that can be used for scientific research and be integrated into third-party applications. You need to create an account in order to download their audio offerings, but once that is complete, the process is really straightforward.
Music can add wonderful depth and color to your podcast episodes, but you need to make sure you’re doing this without breaking any laws. You want to make sure you do all of this by the book, not only for the integrity of your podcast, but particularly if you also share content to other sites like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or any of the other social media sites. Many of these sites have barriers in place to prevent copyrighted material from being uploaded, so you definitely don’t want to run the risk of your content being pulled from these sites!
1. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podsafe