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Podcast Music 101
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When it comes to podcasts, music is a golden ticket to quickly inject your show with personality, genre, and mood that matches your style. Don’t get me wrong – nothing is more important than the presenter and the writing behind what is being said – but listeners are fickle things, with short attention spans – especially when it comes to finding new content to listen to. If you’re not hooking your listener within the first 30 seconds, there’s a good chance they’ll turn off long before the episode ends.
Music is also a humdinger for hiding a multitude of sins – got background noise and/or clicks in your vocal track? Hear them become barely noticeable in a blink of an eye!
1. Intro Music
This music needs to sum everything your show is about. This is your business card in musical form. You want this music to be so much ‘you’ that when people listen to it on its own, all they think about is you.
Okay Decision time! How are you planning on using this intro music?
This (below) is where you sum up your podcast and everything about you in 30 seconds or less. This translates to using an intro track which you’ll speak over the top of it. Things to look out for when selecting music: energy levels, minimal melody, and percussion is your friend.
This one (below) is more straightforward, and requires less work for you. The melody is super important here, as it’s most likely to pop up throughout your show, and it’s what people will most likely hum when they think about your show:
As always, make sure it matches your personality, energy levels, and genre – and it doesn’t get boring on repeat listens.
Length of intro’s vary from show to show – but basically if you’re unsure, 30 seconds is a good and safe place to play in!
2. Outro Music
Super similar to intro music, but also not. What we’re after is a matching pair. Basically the music needs to sound like a variation of the intro (but if this is impossible to find, just reuse the intro music).
This (below) way makes the mixing a little easier on your end – no playing with levels, just record yourself speaking over the top, save it, and then plonk it at the end of your show – work once, reap the rewards forever.
As you’re playing out the show – by that I mean fade it in gradually in during the last 20 seconds of your vocal audio, then let it play out until the track ends.
Now, getting custom music makes this part an absolute breeze, but not all budgets can go that route. So if you’re looking at stock music sites, some tips: find music that matches your podcast genre, your energy-levels, and above all, make sure that if you plan on speaking over the music then practise doing so before you buy it – it’ll solve a lot of heartache when the track is too busy to hear anything over it.
Secondly, read the fine print! Some companies love podcasts, but a lot don’t! Their license practices for youtube doesn’t automatically translate the same for podcasts, so be careful!
Okay, now onto the more technical tracks…
3. Stinger Track
This is your jingle and/or short riff version for your show. It is a fantastic little workhorse of a track that can break up segments or inform listeners that an ad break is incoming. Use this as a tool to give your show natural pauses to help flow.
Every show’s format is different but to give you an example:
Introduction to your show
As mentioned before, you can also use stinger tracks to ‘book end’ (play it before and after) ads. If you’re doing this, make the stinger track short, like no more than 5 seconds short.
Also, be weary of your show’s mood at any given point, especially if you’re true crime – playing something perky to end a segment just when you’ve been talking about a murder is an own goal, and your listeners won’t appreciate it – so you may want to have use more than 1 stinger track in your show.
4. Background Ambience Track
This is your best friend – it can cover all your audio sins, and it brings emotion and depth to a segment. The name is self explanatory – it provides background ambience which won’t distract from the vocal track playing over it:
Less is most definitely more. Use it at important parts of your show, and try not to exceed 5 minutes at a time. It’s really easy to fall into thinking that you should have music playing all the time, but that can make your show too ‘busy’ and can switch a listener off. Using it sparingly will bring attention to the parts of your show where you use it.
When trying to find background ambience tracks, you want to look for something that is minimal on melodies, minimal on percussion, and can be played for around 3-5 minutes dependant on need. Remember you’re playing this underneath your vocals, so the aim is something that sets the scene, nothing more – your narration is the star of the show, not the other way round.