Bands: How to get the most out of podcasting

My friend Doc Wu at the Buffalo Live! Music Podcast graciously agreed to let me use this guide about podcasts. I have adapted it slightly for my own pages.

Okay so we’ve done a podcast together or maybe you’re just a musician who’s curious about podcasts and how they might be a tool in promoting yourself.

Obviously, a podcast will bring your music to an audience, usually according to whatever theme the podcast follows, whether it’s a musical genre, geographic focus, a Podsafe directory, or just because it catches the podcaster’s attention.

For the Sake of the Song is a bit unique among podcasts. It’s focus is on live performances and interviews with musicians, along with pre-recorded tracks. Many podcasters either never meet the musicians or only deal with them via email. If we’ve done a podcast, I’ve probably met with you, done an interview, recorded a show and (most importantly) received your permission to use all of that in a podcast. We have a person to person agreement.

A little bit about copyright. Rather than take a standard “all rights reserved” approach to my music an my podcast, For the Sake of the Song is released under a Creative Commons license that states you are free to copy and share the files, provided you don’t make derivative works of them, or sell them and give the creators credit for the show. Specifically, it is the Creative Commons LicenseCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada license.

The beauty of creative commons licensing is that they have made it extremely easy for you to choose which rights you wish to share, and which you wish to reserve as a “content creator”. This makes it very simple for people to understand how they can use your works. I highly recommend it for any author, blogger, songwriter or musician who wishes to share their works. The bottom line for myself as a musician is: I want to share my music as widely as possible, but if there are any commercial uses for it, I would like my fare share.

On the other hand, this podcast is relatively small and since it is focused on local music, so the audience is also somewhat limited. Many other podcasts are much larger and more widely listened to.

Way back in the early days of podcasting (like a year ago) podcasters didn’t give much thought to copyright issues. They just played the music they liked and hoped it was appreciated. Like all good things, that came to an end and some of the larger podcasts were told to stop using copyrighted music or else pay licensing fees. The only problem was, there isn’t a fee structure set for podcasts. They were too new and weren’t anticipated by the people who set the fee system up. Streaming audio licenses didn’t fit, either did broadcast radio licensing. To this day there still isn’t a podcast license where a podcaster can legally play copyrighted music. The few who do, either are part of a broadcast company and are covered under their license or pay through the nose to get a streaming audio license.

Podcasters didn’t give up though. They realised that while they may never be able to play the big names, (Why would they want to? Broadcast radio is already doing that!) they could work with independant musicians who still controlled the rights to their own music. They formed the Podsafe Music Network, and similar sites, where musicians can grant permission to any member podcaster to play certain songs royalty-free in exchange for promotional value. The podcasters agreed to certain things as well, to announce the artist and song names and to whenever possible, let the listener know where they can buy the CD. The Podsafe Music Network is even working on providing direct digital sales of music to listeners on behalf of the artist.

Since I work with local music and not many local musicians are in the PMN, I rely on the direct granting of permission by the artist. This is why I can’t do cover bands or play a cover of another artists song – the performer can’t give me that right.

But, many other podcasts play music from the PMN exclusively. There are other sources of “Podsafe” music as well. Most unsigned or indie artists, or even those represented by small, progressive labels, can still grant permission to a podcaster to play their music and many do.

So, with that as background, how can you, the musician, songwriter and artist make the most of getting your songs played in a podcast?

First of all, we do the podcast. That’s straightforward. But once done, let your fans know it’s there. Put a link to it on your website, mention it at your shows, send a MySpace bulletin about it etc. The more people you drive to the podcast the more people hear it. It also causes my podcast listenership to grow. That’s fine for me, but it also makes it more likely for someone to discover it by accident and hear your band on it. You are always welcome to use my site to promote your music.

Second, let the podcast sell your CD. Make sure there is an online way for people who listen to the podcast to buy your music. If you’re not big enough to show up on, get your CD out to an online seller like CD Baby. Or even Itunes. I will always provide links to your website and to any place a listener can buy your CD. Just get me the information.

Third, consider putting some of your songs into a “podsafe” category. Join the Podsafe Music Network and put a few songs in there. I’m just one small podcast. If you get lucky and get played by one of the bigger podcasts, you may see results quickly. A number of bands and musicians have been very successful in using podcasts to promote their music. You may have song samples on your website or myspace page, but that doesn’t automatically grant permission to a podcaster to play them. Put the same songs (perhaps in a higher bitrate) into a podsafe directory and then they know for sure you allow it.

I saw a statistic (I can’t remember the source or the exact numbers, so I won’t attempt to quote it, but) that said the most avid podcast listeners were podcasters themselves. I can believe that. What that means to you is once your music is in a podcast, other podcasters are likely to hear it as well. If it is “podsafe” they can play it in their own podcast as well.

Some Podsafe music directories that might fit your needs:

Finally, get to know podcasts. Listen to some and find ones that fit your music style. Then email them and ask them to play your music. Send them a CD. Usually, they will be happy to do so and it may make a fan out of the podcast owner.

Here’s a couple of interesting articles I recently found:
Link: MySpace for Musicians
Link: The Art Of Podcasting

Jay Moonah, of the Toronto band Uncle Seth, has a lot of information on using podcasts to promote your music. Check out his Online Music Marketing podcast for ideas.