Music in Speech Podcasts

Lasse comments on podcast music:

The Vision Thing and Software As She’s Developed so far represent the majority of my experience with podcasts. I have to ask, what’s with the corny intros and loud music? Otherwise, I love being able to “just listen” while cooking or otherwise spacing out a bit. (emphasis mine.)

Since I’m playing a track from the Creative Commons Wired CD that I’ve heard on other podcasts, I have to concede “corny” is pretty accurate. On my TODO list is to locate a good, original, track. But priority isn’t too high.

I think a little lead-in/fade-out track is useful to establish identity. (Please excuse complete ignorance of technical terms.) Websites and blogs can have flashy logos, colour schemes, layouts to help readers distinguish them from the other 8 million offerings. Podcasts can’t do that — I can’t guarantee that anyone listening to my podcast will ever see my website (that there are any listeners at all is possibly evidence some people have not yet discovered the CSS theme in here). As the podcast space gets crowded, unique theme music or “audicons”/”earcons” will be even more important than on radio today.

As for entire songs in the middle or at the end, I’m with Lasse there. One thing I don’t much like about talkback radio is when they suddenly introduce a song. Why does that happen, and is it relevant to podcasting? I’m guessing songs occur during radio because:

  • The presenter needs a break. But radio is often live; podcasts are never live, so the presenter can just press pause instead.
  • The listener needs a break. Even in radio, this is very coarse-grained reasoning. Perhaps a few people can take a break, but most probably don’t, or in any event aren’t in a position to schedule breaks based on the presenter’s timing. In podcasting, the few who do can always press pause, or rewind a few minutes when they want to resume listening.

Now I’ve heard people say “with podcasts, you can just fast-forward the music”. But isn’t a big benefit of podcasting that you can do other things. Lasse notes that he likes listening while cooking, and others have mentioned listening to podcasts while driving, gyming, cleaning. You don’t want to interrupt all that to fast-forward. Furthermore, for those podcasts that are running advertisement slots, the music only adds to the non-core factor (although hopefully the ad slots are new and relevant).

I do like listening to music, but if I want to do that, I’ll happily switch to a music podcast. (You can play actual music on an ipod? What next?) To me, entire songs just seem out of place in the middle of a podcast on business or current affairs or whatever..

As a side note, there’s a small issue with Creative Commons licenses that doesn’t help the situation. Many, or perhaps all, of the licenses on, and many elsewhere, require playback in their original form. I can see why artists request that, but unfortunately it rules them out of being used for title tracks, or having samples used to introduce a segment. Podcasters could mail for permission, but the objective of CC is to remove the need for explicit communication of that nature. I hope that sites like garageband will do what they can to inform artists about the implications of the CC options and make the technology easy for artists to nominate their tracks for sampling if they wish to do so.

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