Abstract image showing musical notes and sound waves with different podcast genres, illustrating the importance of podcast music selection.

The How and Why of Podcast Music Selection: Tips for Brands

Discover the Importance and Best Practices for Podcast Music Selection for Brands

Ok, let’s talk earworms — those little bits of tunes that bump around in your head on repeat until you play the song out loud. I get them all the time. I even have one in my head right now… lost cause// by KennyHoopla and grandson. I know I’m not special. 90% of people get them at least once a week. The more time you spend with music, the more you get them, too. 

So what does this have to do with branded podcasting? Hear me out: 

Diverse people reacting positively to a podcast, highlighting the impact of podcast music selection.

Wired for Music

When you think about it, audio marketing tools like jingles and branded podcasts leverage this idea of songs getting stuck in your head. Humans have exceptional brains when it comes to music. Chances are, if I played a snippet of a tune that meant something to you, not only would the tempo and the lyrics come back, but probably a whole lot of feelings and maybe even memories. I can’t listen to Dermot Kennedy’s Boston without being transported to Long Beach in Tofino, sitting in my car watching the waves and hearing the patter of rain on the windshield. (It rains a lot in BC, ok?).

The point is, considering how incredibly attuned to music our brains seem to be, of course, your podcast music selection is going to be crucial! Studies have shown that jingles — bah-da-bah-bah-baaah — do make a huge impact on our retention for brands. That’s why we love podcasting as a marketing tool. Audio is just so… effective.

BUT, picture this. From afar, you hear the opening notes of The Office. Dwight, Jim, Pam, Steve Carrell… It all comes flooding into your mind. As those comforting feelings of your favourite, ever-on-repeat sitcom start to enter your body — screeeeeeech — this is… a toothpaste ad?! 

Therein lies the problem.

Image depicting the process of securing exclusive music rights or commissioning original music for a podcast.

Don’t Borrow From the Library

When you hear an iconic song — something as important and identifiable as a theme song — to hear it used in a completely different context isn’t just a bit distracting… it’s viscerally uncomfortable. The more your “iconic” and identifiable song shows up in different contexts, the more its power is diminished. If everyone can use “your” song, and they’re using it in a lesser way, this is bad news because it harms brand affinity. And yet – we hear this all the time in the podcasting industry… the little ditties that underpin your spoken word podcast show end up in commercials, across other podcasts – all over the place. It can be very disconcerting!

How did we get to this point? 

As the branded podcasting and audio industry grows, it turns out production companies are borrowing from the same three, four, or maybe even five music libraries online. A music library is basically a website where you pay a subscription fee to access a “library” of songs. Your subscription fee also covers any licensing details, so you know you’re good to use that song. It’s all very efficient – but…

You can probably spot the issue. 

We’re all pulling from the same pool of songs. So that “perfect scene cut” or “snappy transition” or “catchy theme”  might just show up in someone else’s YouTube video on how to clean out your garage, or their ad for pots and pans. If your goal is to have your brand resonate with listeners and gain recall through audio, the reduction of a song’s value as it gets used across a variety of contexts is less than ideal.

Image showing confusion caused by mismatched music, highlighting the negative impact of poor podcast music selection.

Own Your Branded Podcasts’ Music

For smaller things like scene cuts or music used to enhance your soundscape, those already-included-in-my-subscription tunes will typically do the trick. However, if there’s something important, like the opening theme song for your award-winning branded podcast, you want to mitigate the power of the song being diminished. For that, we offer two solutions:

1. Get Exclusive Rights

If you’ve found a song you like in one of those libraries, reach out to the artist directly. See if you can pay them for exclusive rights to that song. Not only do you get to lock in the musical power of that tune, but you get to be just a little bit smug when it gets pulled from the library for your personal use. Can you say, VIP!? If that doesn’t work…

2. Commission That Same Artist

You already know you love the style and feel of an artist’s music and you have a sample of what you’re after — commission them to make a completely unique song for your show. That way, you know it’s never been used before and never will be outside of your intentions for it. Problem solved. 

While it can be a bit more expensive up front to own that song, the benefits outweigh the overhead by virtue of your listener’s brand association. So, if you’re a marketer who is ahead of the game and wants to tap into the power of the human mind x audio and brand recognition, these are a couple solutions. Let’s avoid that uncomfortable, dissociative experience of hearing the right tune in the wrong context, shall we? 

Speaking of audio experiences, this blog was based on Episode Four of our own branded podcast, How To Get Ahead In Podcasting. It’s all about audio dos and don’ts. You can listen to the full thing here.

5 Key Takeaways:

  1. Music is a Powerful Tool: Our brains are wired for music, making it a potent element in branded podcasts to enhance memory and emotional engagement.
  2. Avoid Generic Music Libraries: Using common music libraries can dilute the impact of your podcast’s music as the same tracks may be used elsewhere, reducing brand affinity.
  3. Exclusive Rights or Commissioned Music: Securing exclusive rights or commissioning original music ensures your podcast has unique, recognizable audio that strengthens brand recall.
  4. Music Selection and Context: Selecting music that aligns perfectly with your podcast’s content prevents jarring experiences for listeners and maintains the integrity of your brand’s audio identity.
  5. Enhanced Listener Experience: Thoughtful music selection and customization enhance the overall listener experience, making your podcast more memorable and impactful.

By: Laurissa Cebryk

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