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Podcasting Licensed Music – It’s Time

Podcasting Licensed Music – It’s Time

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Written By

Tom Webster

Know the Author

March 6, 2024

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Last week, I had the great honor of speaking at CRS in Nashville, an annual meeting of the country radio and records industries that continues to be one of my absolute favorite events to speak at. My first CRS was 30 years ago! The reason why I keep coming back is the amazing relationship that country artists have with country radio – there is a deep passion for the artists on the radio side, an incredible sense of gratitude from the artists for the help of radio in making their careers, and a mutual love and respect for what makes Country special.

I spoke about the great need for Country radio and records (and every music format) to take podcasting seriously and remove the hurdles that would allow what I think is an incredible flow of creativity (and revenue) the likes of which podcasting has yet to see. We still listen to a LOT more music than spoken word, and enabling music in podcasts could grow the audience for both in enormous ways.  I thought it was a pretty decent, economical plea for the case, so here’s a shortened version of what I said to the assembled stars of Country:

In the ever-evolving landscape of media and entertainment, the intersection of radio, podcasting, and music presents a unique opportunity for innovation and growth. As someone who has been deeply entrenched in the world of podcasting for over two decades, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of this medium. Yet, despite its exponential growth and the burgeoning opportunities it presents, a significant hurdle remains: the integration of music into podcasting. It’s a challenge that, if overcome, could unlock untold potential for creators, industries, and audiences alike.  I’ve spent a considerable portion of my career advocating for the podcasting space through my work at Edison Research and now at Sounds Profitable. Today, I want to make a case for why the radio and record industries should unite to solve the issue of music in podcasting.

First, let’s consider the landscape. Podcasting has grown from a niche medium to a mainstream form of entertainment, with its audience expanding year over year. This growth isn’t just in numbers; it’s in diversity, in content, and in the ways people engage with podcasts. Yet, music, one of the most universal forms of expression and connection, remains conspicuously underrepresented in this space. The reason? A complex web of licensing issues that stifles creativity and leaves a gaping hole in what could otherwise be a rich tapestry of audio content. Stated more plainly, if you podcast licensed music, a lawyer will shoot you in the face.

The potential for music in podcasting is immense. Imagine podcasts that dissect classic albums track by track, that tell the stories behind iconic songs, or that explore the intricacies of musical genres from around the world. These aren’t just hypotheticals; there’s a real, pent-up demand for this content. Sounds Profitable has conducted research that shows music is significantly more popular among video podcast viewers than it is in the broader podcast listening audience. This discrepancy isn’t due to a lack of interest but to a lack of supply, constrained by the current licensing framework.

The irony here is palpable. On platforms like YouTube, music thrives. Cover songs, reaction videos, and in-depth analyses garner millions of views, creating ecosystems of content that benefit creators, original artists, and audiences. Yet, this vibrant interplay of music and content creation is virtually absent in podcasting. It’s a missed opportunity of colossal proportions, not just in terms of content richness but also in financial terms. Podcasting, with its higher CPMs and more intimate engagement between creators and audiences, offers a lucrative avenue for monetization that is currently being underutilized.

So, why should the radio and record industries care? For starters, both industries have a vested interest in the promotion and distribution of music. Radio has long been a cornerstone of music discovery, while record labels are the gatekeepers of music’s commercialization. Podcasting represents a new frontier for both. For radio, it’s an opportunity to extend its reach, to innovate in content creation, and to deepen its relationship with listeners. For the record industry, it’s a chance to tap into a growing audience, to find new revenue streams, and to breathe new life into back catalogs.

Moreover, solving the music licensing issue in podcasting could serve as a model for future collaborations between these industries. It’s a chance to set precedents, to innovate in rights management, and to create a more sustainable ecosystem for music in the digital age. The technology exists, the demand is undeniable, and the benefits are mutual. What’s needed is a willingness to collaborate, to rethink traditional models, and to embrace the possibilities of this new medium.

I understand that this is no small task. The complexities of music licensing are daunting, and the stakes are high. But the potential rewards are too significant to ignore. By coming together to address this challenge, the radio and record industries can unlock a new era of content creation, one that honors the legacy of music while embracing the future of audio entertainment.

In my years of advocating for podcasting, I’ve seen the medium overcome numerous obstacles and exceed expectations time and again. I’ve seen it grow from a niche hobby to a cultural phenomenon. Now, I believe we stand on the brink of its next great evolution. But to realize this potential, we need to address the elephant in the room. We need to make music in podcasting not just possible, but thriving.

To the radio and record industries, I say this: let’s come together. Let’s harness our collective expertise, our passion for music, and our vision for the future. Let’s solve the issue of music in podcasting, not just for the benefit of our industries, but for the creators who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and for the audiences who are hungry for content that moves, inspires, and connects.

 In many ways, love for music is what brings us all together—creators, industries, and audiences. It’s the universal language that transcends barriers and unites us. By solving the issue of music in podcasting, we’re not just opening up new avenues for content and monetization; we’re affirming our shared commitment to the power of music to bring us all closer. Let’s make it happen.

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  • AudioPlus is a UK Audio Sales House for Brands & Creators.

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About the author

Tom Webster is a Partner at Sounds Profitable, dedicated to setting the course for the future of the audio business. He is a 25-year veteran audio researcher and trusted advisor to the biggest companies in podcasting, and has dedicated his career to the advancement of podcasting for networks and individuals alike. He has been the co-author and driver behind some of audio’s most influential studies, from the Infinite Dial® series to Share of Ear® and the Podcast Consumer Tracker. Webster has led hundreds of audience research projects on six continents, for some of the most listened-to podcasts and syndicated radio shows in the world. He’s done a card trick for Paula Abdul, shared a martini with Tom Jones, and sold vinyl to Christopher Walken.

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