Intro music is an essential part of the listener’s experience, but for you, the podcast, it’s invaluable.

That memorable tune always playing at the top of your podcast is not only an attention-getter, it’s the sonic signature of your show. That’s why you need podcast intro music that is appropriate for your theme and compliments the supporting topics.

Think of your podcast as one of your audience’s favorite TV shows. Now say one of your listeners loves “Parks & Recreation.” But if the catchy intro song was suddenly cut from every episode, they will no longer love it quite as much. 

Why? Because a crucial element is now missing: the mood.

Intro music establishes a bond between you and the listener before you ever start talking. Think of it as laying the groundwork, prepping the audience for your entrance. It is your unspoken hype machine, and listeners love it.

Podcast Intro Music 101

The wonderful folks at Buzzsprout made a great video on how to properly incorporate intro theme music into your podcast.

Here are the highlights, if you want to skip ahead:

  1. Podcast intro music increases the perceived quality of your show.
  2. But when not executed well, it can sound amateurish.
  3. So consider outsourcing the theme music to professional collections.
  4. These can be services like Soundstripe or AudioJungle.
  5. Or you can pay professional musicians that you find on platforms like SoundCloud.
  6. Keep in mind that music tastes are subjective and changing, don’t latch onto trends.
  7. A best practice is to match the music to the tone and personality of your show.
  8. Using “stingers” or snippets of music to transition between segments more effectively.

Best Practices For Podcast Music

1. To Pay or Not To Pay

When using music in your podcast content, you need to understand the difference between royalty free vs copyright music

Creators take a big risk by using copyrighted music on their podcasts, and this is a huge mistake. For those who are unaware, using copyrighted music on your podcast is COMPLETELY illegal. 

Record labels have teams and teams of lawyers to track down content creators who violate copyright laws, and it may even lead to your podcast content getting taken down.

For decades, the music licensing process has been a kind of maze that creators must navigate in order to get permission to use a particular song. You had to get approval from multiple copyright holders, and even if they all said yes, you still had to pay a hefty fee (plus royalties) for good measure. 

If you don’t want to endure that torturous process for a good podcast intro, then you should license music from an audio library that offers royalty-free songs. These companies negotiate with artists so you don’t have to, which gives you some peace of mind if your podcast starts to blow up — or if you don’t want to get sued. 

Another option is to find podcast music through a Creative Commons license. However, not all Creative Commons licenses allow for commercial use. It’s also possible to wait for older songs to enter the public domain, although these songs tend to be outdated, which is why they are rarely used.

The best option is licensing royalty-free music. You can get an inexpensive, radio-quality intro song that is timeless and serves the show’s theme and topics. And if it captures your audience’s attention, then it has paid for itself.

2. Always Check the Numbers

Alright, so you’ve found some incredible royalty-free music, and you’re excited to finally have a podcast intro that will stick in listeners’ minds. But how do you know that other podcasters aren’t already using it? 

Two prominent podcasts will rarely feature the same podcast intro music, but it is certainly possible. One way to avoid this kind of branding disaster is to check the royalty-free music website. More often than not, there will be information about how many times the music was purchased.

If you see that a song was purchased 10,000 times, you probably want to go in another direction. Oftentimes, the numbers on one music licensing site don’t account for the fact that the same music might be sold on other competing royalty-free music websites. Obviously, it’s in your best interest to choose something else, because you don’t want to be confused for another podcast. 

3. Use Networks

Let’s say that you are trying to find the perfect podcast music, but nothing is working out. 

Whenever you think that you have a song that fits, there is some issue or obstacle that pops up. (Usage terms different based on where you license music, so technicalities do come into play.)

Or maybe you just can’t find music that you can use that you feel genuinely fits your podcast’s theme or mood.

There is certainly one thing that you can do, and it will allow you to not have to deal with so much red tape. It’s simple, really: ask around! You may have some musician friends that would be honored to contribute their original music to be your podcast intro song — especially if they already believe in your vision for the podcast. 

If you don’t have any musician friends, get the word out on social media that you are looking for intro music for the podcast. Of course, you’ll have to negotiate regarding how the musician wants to be credited, any payment terms, and more. 

However, you may find that many talented musicians would jump at the chance for exposure on a promising podcast. If you go this route, remember to obtain explicit and written permission and terms from the artist(s).

That’s A Wrap

Music is essential for both the listener’s enjoyment and giving your podcast a professional touch. You can pay for premade recordings, provided you have checked the numbers or network for a custom theme. Wisely using these practices can only complement your podcast’s content.
Lastly, always remember that using podcast intro theme music is all about branding. No matter the topic or angle, you have to stand out to be successful. Even in more serious or scholarly podcasts, intro music gives the audience that all-important sound, your audio logo.