Podcasting and Paying Royalties
March 24, 2008 4:18 PM   Subscribe

I do a little podcast that about ten people listen to. I just play a few songs and do intros for them. What I want to know is how do I find out if I am required to pay anybody to use their songs. Should I bother or just depend on being so small time that I don't have to worry about it? Also, what's a good piece of software for mixing my between song patter and my music? Right now I am using the software that comes with Nero.
posted by zzazazz to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Whether you have ten listeners or ten thousand, if you're including music you should have the appropriate license and pay the appropriate royalties. If your music comes out of a major label, it's effectively impossible to get such licenses (early innovators like Coverville notwithstanding).

Your safest bet is to focus on "podsafe" or Creative Commons licensed artists and music tracks... independent musicians who appreciate the exposure and commentary as much as the dollars and cents (depending on whether or not your podcast is making dollars and cents, of course).

Check out the Podsafe Music Network, GarageBand.com, ccMixter, and Magnatune. Many artists have differing use requirements, so be sure to read the terms. For the most part, they want credit and link love, but some may request nominal payment or request donations.
posted by pzarquon at 4:57 PM on March 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

As for software, Audacity is a popular option. It's basic, but it works, it's free, and there's versions for both Windows and Macs. Of course, if you're on a Mac, GarageBand will do everything you need, and more.
posted by pzarquon at 5:12 PM on March 24, 2008

If your music comes out of a major label, it's effectively impossible to get such licenses

Nonsense. Major label music can be legally broadcast on the internet the same way it is on the radio - through ASCAP. Now, is it financially worth it to pay the ASCAP fee for a measly 10 listeners? Well, that's for you and your fans to decide.

Here's an FAQ covering licensing of internet broadcasts through ASCAP.
posted by muddgirl at 5:17 PM on March 24, 2008

Muddgirl -- ASCAP covers the licensing of the songs (aka the compositions), but not the recordings. Radio stations have a blanket license for the recordings, but there is no such license for downloadable media. Each use must effectively be licensed individually, not unlike the licensing for use in say a TV commercial. If you have an ASCAP license (you'll need a BMI license, too), you can sing "My Way," but you can't play Sinatra's recording of it.

In other words, zzazazz, you're out of luck, unless you want to follow pzarquon's advice and use pre-cleared music.

The RIAA hasn't sued any podcasters yet, and there are lots using small amounts of major label music. That said, though, as a podcaster myself, I have chosen to use original music rather than risk being sued. I'm a significantly larger operation than ten listeners, though.

For answers prepared by real lawyers (IANAL), check out the Podcasting Legal Guide, which was put together in part by the EFF, and particularly the "Using Music" section.
posted by YoungAmerican at 5:26 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

A quick addition: remember that there are significant legal distinctions between most internet broadcasters, who are streaming, and podcasters, who are offering a download.
posted by YoungAmerican at 5:27 PM on March 24, 2008

Response by poster: Metafilter is the smartest community on the web. Thanks.
posted by zzazazz at 5:31 PM on March 24, 2008

You're right. I thought that my streaming broadcast was covered by ASCAP, but now I see that the individual licenses are covered by our broadcast host, LoudCity. Complicating factor: I assume that the RIAA looks at streaming internet radio much more favorably than podcasts. Is switching to an streaming radio model an option?
posted by muddgirl at 5:55 PM on March 24, 2008

I am similar to me, but I have about 200 listeners. I stick to indie stuff (my tastes run pretty strange anyway) and contact the band or the label. Sometimes I have to email the band, hit em up through myspace, and email the a couple of addresses at the label before anyone gets back to me. I have had one act I have been told 'no' by, but many who never respond. I save the response email and have it archived somewhere. A couple of times I have had a label ask if I had gotten a clearance. I have forwarded them the email clearance I had and usually made a new contact with a label for future stuff. Truthfully, your size it probably won't matter. But small bands doing vanity searches on Google will probably find you if you play their stuff and I like to be able to show that someone gave me an OK.

Get a USB headset and you can record your announcements with Audacity for free. I use ACID to piece them together. The new version is $50 on Amazon, but I am sure you could do it a little less intuitively on Audacity.

Hit me up on email or skype if you want to have a longer conversation about these issues.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 6:23 PM on March 24, 2008

I am similar to me..... duh you are too I think.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 6:26 PM on March 24, 2008

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