Music Is Being Left on the Sidelines of the Podcast Revolution
On July 12, Calvin Powers of the American Music Show podcast announced that after 452 episodes, and many songs, albums, and artists supported through his popular podcast, he was having to close up shop.
“A few days ago, I received an email from the Recording Industry Association of America notifying me that I have been hosting ‘unauthorized recordings.’ The email mentioned that they were acting on behalf of a specific label … I was instructed to take down the unauthorized recordings immediately. At about the same time, they sent a DMCA take down notice to Libsyn, which hosts the show’s MP3 files. And Libsyn is in the process of doing it.”
As Calvin went on to explain, his efforts were in no way malicious, he never made any money off of his podcast, and he always received permissions from the right people before playing any song. “I have _always_ played only the songs that have been submitted to the show by singers, bands, and labels, looking to expand the market for their albums. It has always been my explicit goal to introduce new listeners to new music. I only play music that has been submitted to the show per the music submission policy.”
Calvin’s story is common, but doesn’t only affect the grassroots podcasters and internet DJs doing what they can to give back to the music by helping to spread the word. It affects the biggest podcasts and audio creators in the world. Joe Rogan’s The Joe Rogan Experience is so massive with its millions of daily listeners and viewers, the audience dwarfs most cable channels in audience. However Joe Rogan cannot play music on the podcast, or the episodes can be demonetized, or even pulled off of certain formats.
This happens for all sorts of audio and video creators on YouTube and beyond. It’s an issue country music critic and commentator Grady Smith has to commonly contend with as he tries to promote and comment on music. YouTube creator Brodie Moss of the popular Australian-based fishing and wildlife channel YBS Youngbloods opened one of his recent episodes explaining how it would likely get demonetized on YouTube since he included so much music, but wanted to include it anyway because it works so well in the presentation.
Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic moving most entertainment indoors and online, the ability for podcasters to introduce music and influence appeal to engaged audiences has never been greater. However it has never been more hard to compile the right permissions and authorizations to use music in this widely-engaged media. Not only does this hurdle eliminate an important promotional tool for artists, it’s also overlooking a potential direct revenue source.
As podcast.co explains, there really is no true way to feature music in a podcast or video without a proper license. There is no “10 second rule” that some podcasters work under, believing as long as they keep it to small snippets, they’re in the clear. It also doesn’t matter if you have permission from the specific artist, or credit them somewhere for the song. If a bot instructed from a label or publisher finds any part of a song in an audio presentation, it has the possibility of raising a flag. And since the human element has been taken out of the review process even for larger content creators, there are few options to override vetos. You can’t even get away with featuring music even if you’re not making any money on your podcast or video. Not-for-profit or otherwise, it’s illegal to play copyrighted material without express permissions through a licensing contract to play music.
And of course, those licensing contracts regularly price out would-be podcasters, while even some of the most all-encompassing agreements still have holes in what you can and can’t play, with many major artists and labels opting out of having their music featured. That is why even as we have seen the podcast market grow dramatically, it has done so solely along the interview and commentary approach—not shows that feature a mix of music and commentary, or music primarily. Chris Shiflett of The Foo Fighters has one of the hottest independent country and roots music podcasts around in Walking The Floor. But it’s based around interviews.
Of course, this has been a known issue for years. But how it continues to persist in an era where you can stream any song on Spotify and it only generates fractions of a penny for the artist, and when synced-up tracks on Tik-Tok featured in 30 second snippets are the most influential data point on Billboard’s music charts, and growth in podcasting continues to be exponential and outpace traditional media, is quite mind boggling.
Everybody wants artists and songwriters to be credited and compensated, especially podcasters and content creators who are directly motivated by supporting good music. But by attempting to protect their creators and copyrights, labels and rights owners are leaving themselves and their artists on the sidelines of one of the most revolutionary moments in audio entertainment since the phonograph and the radio. Of course, we can’t return to the early Wild West days of the internet when songs were being used without permissions and no credit was given to creators. But with the continued loss of market share by radio, and even other traditional entertainment media like television and movies to consumers binge watching/listening and subscribing to podcasts, music needs to move forward to be a partner in the space.
There have been some attempts to create stopgaps in the podcast medium for song permissions. In 2019, SoundExchange and SourceAudio announced a partnership in order to help the “rapidly growing podcast industry to secure music with fully integrated, global licenses.” On the beta version of a service, PodcastMusic.com offers 700,000 production and music bed tracks to the podcast community. However, podcasters have to select songs from the specific library of audio, much of which is not specific songs from artists that podcasters may want to feature or promote.
There are more all-inclusive licenses available, but the economics to buy into them are impossible for grassroots podcasters, and even unattainable for many for-profit audio creators. There are also services like Gimmie Country that do allow podcasters to choose their own songs and play them with permissions secured, and sync that together with audio segments. But those shows can’t be archived or played on-demand. It’s a one shot live stream like a radio show, while much of the success of podcasting is due to on demand capability.
What’s so frustrating for many podcasters or would-be podcasters is making music available in a way that is still fair to rights holders but economical to the public is so intuitive. Many have asked why Saving Country Music has never launched a podcast. It’s because it’s been put off for the day when a reasonable way to feature actual music on the format arrives. Over a decade later, we’re still waiting.
Everybody wants musicians and songwriters to be compensated for their work, and everyone from grassroots podcasters to YouTube creators are more than willing to do what they can to remain on the right side of copyright laws. But without a reasonable rights solution, and with the way navigating rights and licenses is such a land mine of legalese and copyright bots, music will remain locked out of the fastest-rising and most engaging audio mediums of our generation.
July 23, 2020 @ 8:18 am
I’m not sure there’s anyone talking about this better than Rick Beato. Here is just one instance:
The streaming model seems to have saved the industry to some degree, but the industry was late to the party because it was resistant to the changing landscape. Not to say it’s taking the same loss as a result of this, but it’s mindset expressed here seems similar to right before Napster temporarily brought it to it’s knees.
I am kind of curious as to what the commenters who think that taking a picture outside a generic building, or inside a non-descript soda fountain amounts to “stealing” and “injury,” have to tell us about this.
July 23, 2020 @ 11:18 pm
Rick’s great. Heaps of musical knowledge and a very honest and earnest opinion on the state of copyright
July 24, 2020 @ 10:52 pm
I agree with how rick sees fair use, he straight up says he doesn’t expect to be compensated when using someones work. He is putting all the work in on videos that will earn them money then they want it down. It is ridiculous.
July 30, 2020 @ 2:39 pm
I’m in agreement with you, and I wonder about that too.
July 23, 2020 @ 8:26 am
As an alternative, there are those of us that own all of our publishing and all the rights to our music. Granted, it would be a lot of extra work for podcasters to seek us out, but the DIY artists are here and hungry.
July 23, 2020 @ 8:44 am
This is the thing. It only takes one song, and one complaint to bring the entire house down. The Americana Music Show had 452 episodes. Think of all the time it took to put all of that together. One complaint from one label about one song (that he had permission to use), now ALL of that is gone. The server gets a DCMA notice, and ALL music is pulled, the vast majority of which is probably independent artists who own all of their copyrights. Even scarier, there’s no human involvement in the process. A bot picks up on a snippet of music, and the takedown begins.
July 23, 2020 @ 8:50 am
Listen to what Don Henley had to say about this, when he testified before Congress. It’s not just coming from bots.
There’s a snippet of it in the video I linked.
July 23, 2020 @ 10:51 am
I’ll have to find the Don Henley quote, but I have no problem with creators wanting compensation and recognition for their work. I’m 100% for that. But to take down 428 podcast episodes where all the songs were posted with permission because one label has a problem with one song is the perfect example of how egregious this issue has become. If the song is in a video, don’t take it down or demonetize it, share some of that revenue with the rights owner for the song used. It’s a win win.
I would be more than happy to pay a reasonable licensing fee to feature music on a podcast. I would not only promote these artists work, but pay into a system where artists get paid per play, no different than what they do on Spotify, Apple Music, etc., except it would be of more value to the artist, because it would be increasing their audience as opposed to eating into physical sales.
July 23, 2020 @ 11:11 am
Actually what you suggested about a fair fee was exactly what I was thinking. I didn’t present Henley as someone who’s right about the issue. More so that it’s complicated with many different interests and voices involved. He describes a room of 40 employees at universal whose sole job is it to play wack a mole with take down notices. My point was it’s not just bots, there’s a large human element behind this as well. But I do understand that due to the massive scope, some automation is required. I agree with you though, there are some good solutions that could make this beneficial for all involved. It doesn’t seem that hard to solve, and the stakeholders need to more quickly adapt with the times, for their own good.
July 23, 2020 @ 11:36 am
The thing is, by not offering reasonable license options, they are encouraging podcasters and YouTubers to break the rules, which means major labels have to spend money and resources to catch bad actors as opposed to making revenue by bringing everyone into compliance. Of course there will always be people trying to cheat the system. But many cheat it now because there’s no other viable option.
July 23, 2020 @ 11:56 am
Good point…kind of like selling digital albums on iTunes for $15-$18 instead of something reasonable led to people breaking the rules by file sharing. Streaming may have it’s faults, but from the consumers perspective, at least it’s a reasonable and viable option. I’m assuming there are people out there smarter than me at least, who can solve this and even make some money in the process. Some people see problems as opportunities.
July 24, 2020 @ 3:28 am
Hey Johnny your new album rules!
July 24, 2020 @ 6:20 am
Thanks a million!
July 30, 2020 @ 4:38 pm
Hi Johnny, I listened to the mini samples on your site. I am diametrically opposed to spotify (because I believe it rips off musicians unfairly) and usually listen to music in my car via USB stick containing mp3’s and the like. So whats the best way to buy your album? Im not an itunes/apple person
July 23, 2020 @ 8:34 am
The music industry has always been a few steps behind technology, which is why it is in the state it is today.
July 23, 2020 @ 9:13 am
Yeah, the other day it took I think three attempts for Michael Palmisano to YouTube a reaction on a Jonny Lang song. It’s silly for the record company to fight it; it was going to be nothing but good PR.
And even if a review is not going to be entirely favorable, it still gets an artist’s name in front of prospective listeners. I’d think that would be valuable in an era when radio is so impenetrable.
July 23, 2020 @ 9:49 am
My wife was in a kayak the other day. She did a live Facebook video. She was listening to music in the background. Facebook hit her up with a message later that the video contained a song that was copyrighted, etc.. They even named the song. Didn’t take it down though.
July 23, 2020 @ 10:05 am
She says they partially muted and gave a list of countries that might have problems if she posted or something. I am bad with the details on it.
July 23, 2020 @ 10:57 am
Not surprised about Facebook. They are doing a lot of nefarious censorship all around. Orwellian stuff. But don’t take my word, do some research.
July 23, 2020 @ 10:57 am
Facebook, Tik-Tok, Instagram, and others have signed licensing deals with major labels so that users can feature music in content, and not only does this result in (very) incremental payments for creators, it helps promote them, as well as feed into charting systems. Lil Nas X had a #1 song and became a multi-millionaire almost solely due to social media plays. Rights vary by countries, so that’s probably why she saw the warning.
But podcasters are locked out entirely. Unless you buy a license that is rarely economically viable in any business model, you can’t play music. It’s ludicrous.
July 23, 2020 @ 11:21 am
What does this have to do with Audacity?
July 23, 2020 @ 11:37 am
I needed an image that was fair to post that symbolized podcasting. Many podcasters use Audacity, so it fit the bill.
July 23, 2020 @ 1:48 pm
Because can you believe the audacity of the music industry?
Saul V. Ambulando
July 23, 2020 @ 11:28 am
Is this why WB Walker seems to have stopped posting episodes?
July 23, 2020 @ 11:40 am
WB Walker said on a recent episode that he had to stop mostly because he got sober, and needed to get right with podcasting again. But he works off the same model the Americana Music Show did, which was gaining permission directly from the artists. Hypothetically, if the wrong bot caught a song and a label wanted to take issue with it, he could face the same fate. That is why this issue is so important. Think of how important WB Walker has been to helping launch careers. That’s what is at stake here.
Saul V. Ambulando
July 23, 2020 @ 12:39 pm
Yep, no argument here. The two most important sources over my personal country music renaissance have been your site and WB Walker’s show. It was an event to get a new Old Soul Radio Show episode in my podcast feed, hop in my truck, and drive toward Oklahoma til the episode ended.
I know you mention the license(s) being prohibitively expensive for these programs to carry on their own, but I’d gladly pitch in on something like Patreon or Gumshoe if it meant the show would be able to keep going.
Frozen Alaskan Beard
July 25, 2020 @ 1:04 am
Cocaine & Rhinestones features countless music clips. How did TMC pull that off?
Trigger, you make a great argument for systematic change in the podcast industry. It’s time.
July 25, 2020 @ 10:17 am
In short, the music clips featured in Cocaine & Rhinestones are in violation of Copyright law, making any and all episodes susceptible to takedown notices and DCMA actions. Coe has talked about this specifically previously, saying that he tries to limit clips to a certain amount of seconds, but there are countless examples of podcasts getting pulled for much less. I don’t think Tyler Coe was being malicious, but he didn’t play by the rules. So far it hasn’t affect him, possibly one of the perks of not posting an episode in 3 years since the takedowns have only become the most aggressive recently. But it may not be a question of “if,” but “when.”
This is yet another example of why I have not chosen to get into the podcast business. Imagine trying to do a podcast on country music, but not being able to play any country music.
July 23, 2020 @ 1:17 pm
No sympathy with podcasts or anyone who uses a 3rd party to host their content.
Too many written blogs have been turned into podcasts. Seriously, information is for reading while listening to music.
And then the ‘influencers’ put their content on a free site, and complain when rules get enforced.
So yeah, valid point etc, but it also shows again that ease of creation has spawned an excess of trash that had made policing it a nightmare.
Please don’t ever do a podcast, Trig
July 23, 2020 @ 6:21 pm
I agree with you that the shift from print to podcast in some instances has been unfortunate. Though podcasts are easy to listen to, the information they contain is frozen in the audio format, unsearchable, and thus inaccessible for anyone but the people willing to listen. That’s why I haven’t engaged in that format. But if I did, I’d want to play actual music.
I can see a scenario where I engaged in some sort of multimedia in the future. But it wouldn’t be podcasting unless I could put music with it, and even then it wouldn’t be at the expense of print, it would be to enhance it, or to make my existing print media accessible to people who never read and only listen.
July 23, 2020 @ 7:36 pm
I host a weekly Grateful Dead themed Livestream called DeadStream on Mixcloud. I pay a monthly membership fee which goes to paying royalty and licensing fees. It’s strictly music recordings being played and I chat for a few min between sets. My show was getting pulled down when hosted on YouTube. The podcasting world needs to get something like this going ASAP. It’s not like they don’t have the collective capital and smarts to build a platform.
July 24, 2020 @ 3:41 am
I can see Zephaniah as a deadhead!
July 30, 2020 @ 8:24 am
I use MixCloud as well for my Podcast, “The Buster Mungus Diaries” and it works well. The audience is limited as its not the first stop on anyone’s PodCast search list, but I’m not getting any take down notices either.
July 30, 2020 @ 4:05 pm
Assumedly posting a link on Socials is allowed for audience building purposes?
July 30, 2020 @ 4:45 pm
Simply replying to a post by Zephaniah Ohora who brought up the subject up of using Mixcloud. I would suggest following and reading the thread properly.
July 23, 2020 @ 8:13 pm
Do you believe you’ve had enough?
July 23, 2020 @ 8:56 pm
I’ll never feel like I’ve had enough of the Grateful Dead. It’s unthinkable! (~);}
July 29, 2020 @ 10:20 am
Once again label and record executives dig in their heels and get left behind and have to catch up. They did it with CD, they did it with digital, and YouTube in all because they are afraid of not being able to make the same level of Millions they made in the last quarter or whatever.
And this bring to mind the Willie Nelson songs, “Write Your Own Songs” not specifically about this but definitely related. “We’re making you rich and you;re already lazy. So just sit on your ass and get richer or write your own songs.”