Podcast Marketing? Music Is More Important Than You Think

Podcasts are here, and they are here to stay. With such easy entry requirements involved in creating a podcast, anyone can do it. All you need is a microphone and a voice. That's it. But with the rising volume of content being published, there are elements that can separate a great podcast from the crowd. The stories you tell and brand you build is critical in success, but there's more to the technical side than you think too.

Condenser microphone in a studio
Photographer: Jonathan Velasquez | Source: Unsplash

What is a podcast?

Put simply, a podcast is a recorded (usually audio) file that users can listen to using any podcast app, on their phone, computer or even smart devices like speakers and TVs. The huge benefit of this format is that the feed can be subscribed to and updated as soon as a new episode is released.

Think of it like radio, except the content is available on-demand, can be downloaded to listen offline and is always kept up to date when new episodes are released.

What to expect

A podcast can be a short episodic based show, from 15 to 30 minutes, or anywhere from 1 to 3 hours in what is commonly referred to as long-form media. This format is often a discussion based show with no particular agenda. Just good conversation with a number of topics covered between host and guests.

Branding your podcast

What separates an average show from a great show is audio branding. This can be in the form of an intro, Ident or Sting. Similar to that of a TV advert Jingle, the audio is a familiar burst of music anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds in length, that is played at the beginning of every episode.

When licensing royalty free music for podcasts, it's important to look at what edits are provided with a music track so they can be implemented correctly into your content.

For example:

Image provided by Mark Malekpour, Beatsuite.com

This royalty free music track includes 4 pre-cut 'Sting' versions of the main track ranging from 5 to 9 seconds that are short bursts of the main track. These Stings can be used as an Ident for the Intro to your Podcast.

The term Ident is short for 'Identifier' which comes from the days of radio broadcasts, and 'station identifiers'. If you're familiar with radio, you'll be able to pick out which radio station you're listening to by the burst of music played in-between shows.

The same method is used to brand a podcast and give it a unique identity. It also helps add a bit of shine to the content and if often used with vocals announcing the title or show name.

One great example of this is 'The Payments Podcast' which uses a 15 second opening Sting/Ident with a voiceover introducing the podcast. This is played at the beginning of every episode and as an outro at the end.

Many podcasts use a music track as an outro. This is played at the end of the show as a 'closing credits' sequence. As part of the 'branding' of a podcast, having a music track that is made up from the Sting/Ident used at the beginning helps to tie-up the audio identity of the content as one package. Plus, your audience will start to associate the sounds with you, which, of course, is great for branding.

Using background music

Depending on the nature of the content, music can also be used in the background. This is common when the show presented by only one person. Music is used to break up the silence and help keep listeners engaged.

If there is only one person speaking, with no additional sound, it can become very monotonous and hard to listen to. The use of background music helps 'dull' the silence and keep listeners interested. This is where loops come in.

A selection of loops is commonly packaged with a royalty free music pack, and is usually sections of the main track, pre-cut to play on a loop where required. Look at the waveform below for a regular music track:

Podcast background music
Background music waveform. Image provided by Mark Malekpour, Beatsuite.com

You can see in this waveform that there are quite intense moments and then quieter, slower moments of the music. When the presenter is speaking over the music track, their voice may be lost in the particularly loud sections, or they will need to lower the volume in parts, to match up with the quieter sections to accommodate the change in the track's structure.

Using music loops

If the track is 3 minutes long and the host is talking for 5 or 10 minutes, then the loop will need to be restarted. This can be disruptive for the listener, as we all tend to notice when something has stopped and started again. This is especially true when a track is made up of particular sections that build up, rise, climax, slow down etc it can become distracting.

This is where loops are used. Loops are particular sections of the main track, pre-cut so they can be played on a continuous loop with no audible sound of it finishing and restarting. It can be imported into a project, stretched and looped for as long as you need. Take a look at the waveform below:

A music loop waveform. Image provided by Mark Malekpour, Beatsuite.com

You will see the waveform is much more similar throughout. There are no hugely loud or quiet sections. This loop can be combined with other loops seamlessly to create a background soundtrack that is not as dynamic as the main music track, but still breaks up the silence while still allowing the presenter to speak over without interruption.

Make sure you have a strategy

As with any type of branding and marketing endeavour, you need to act strategically. Music use in podcasts is incredibly important, so don't just pick any old royalty free tune because it works. Sourcing good royalty free music that is packaged with stings and loops will help brand your content with a professional finish and separate it from the crowd.

Any genre or theme of music can be used in your podcast to suit your topic or audience, as long as it's not too overpowering. You wouldn't want a music loop app throughout the podcast when there's a group of people talking, would you?

And always keep your goals at the forefront of your mind - what are you trying to achieve? For example, if you're trying to establish yourself as thought leader and going it alone, the music you choose will differ greatly from brand awareness.

This is a guest post by Mark Malekpour, Beatsuite.com

This blog is a guest contribution written by Mark Malekpour, Content Manager at Beatsuite.com. Mark has over 15 years experience in music licensing, supervision, artist and product management, and now maintains and curates a library of music tracks while providing one to one music consultancy for clients looking for the perfect track for their project.

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