Podcasts once seemed destined to take over the world, and were the new big gimmick a few years ago. Since then, the format has carved out its own niche, and they remain a much-loved form of content, which listeners from across the world love.

These downloadable audio broadcasts tend to be informal, immersive and engaging, and provide a unique experience for the listener, beckoning them into a new world, or a deeper conversation than typically found in the media.

While informal chats like the Adam Buxton Show are always entertaining and can often be insightful, other popular shows like Radiolab and Serial take on a more structured approach, telling engaging stories, and using sound to enhance the show.

The one thing that the shows all have in common is the use of music to create an engaging experience, and truly immerse the listener in the story.

Starting a podcast and why background music matters

If you’re considering starting your own podcast – whether it’s as a hobby or for your business – you need to think carefully about your choice of background music.

It’s important that you avoid breaching any copyright laws, and have the full rights to use any music you use in your podcast. Popular music is often prohibitively expensive, however, which is why so many amateur podcasts and vlogs sound cheap and unprofessional – simply put, they’re using cheap and unprofessional music.

The music you use will define the tone and atmosphere of your entire broadcast, so this shouldn’t be something you take lightly.

The music will also serve as punctuation for your podcast, breaking up the segments, providing structure and creating user familiarity.

There are a lot of podcasts out there, and if you want yours to stand out, then you need to choose original music, that fits your style perfectly.

Simply rehashing cheap, or royalty free background music that’s ubiquitous across the internet will quickly turn listeners off, as it instantly screams out amateur.

You want to be creating a polished, professional podcast with its own identity, so don’t try and take a shortcut when it comes to the music you include.

Here are a few things to think about when choosing background music for your podcast:

  • Familiarity – Ideally, the music you use will be instantly identifiable with your podcast. To do this, it’s likely you’ll need an original composition.
  • Style – It’s no good having a jaunty clip of music leading into a heavy topic. Think about the atmosphere you want to create, and paint a soundscape for your listener.
  • What do others use? – Find some podcasts you love, and listen to how they use music and sound to achieve great effects.
  • Price – While you’re unlikely to be able to license music from pop’s biggest names, try calling in a favour from a musical friend, or look for up and coming artists who want to share their work with a wider audience. If you pay for some music, do your research, and don’t get ripped off.
  • Versions – If you do pay for an original composition, make sure you get a few different mixes of it – for example one without lyrics, one without drums and one with extra drum breaks. This way you can really make the most of your investment, and use your piece of music as the bedrock to your audio, without it sounding repetetive.