Podcasts offer opportunities to get your music played. But the best ones to submit music to aren’t necessarily music-related podcasts, which get buried with submissions.
As you know, podcasts are audio shows available on the Internet that fans can access via their devices. Because fans often subscribe to hear each new episode as they come out, many podcasts end up getting dedicated listenerships, some with thousands or even hundreds of thousands of listeners.
Podcasts are an excellent way to get your music into new ears and gain fans because there aren’t as many barriers to getting your music played. And they’re a great place to submit music, even if you’re just starting out.
That said, there are some pros and cons to the format which you should understand before you submit your music. On the plus side, there is a universe of podcasts about every topic you can imagine. And since it’s an audio format, there are plenty of podcasts that like to play songs in the middle of the episode. Many are informal, so it might just take an email to get yourself played, which bypasses many of the submission issues we’ve talked about in our other “Get Heard and Seen” posts.
On the minus side, this method of getting heard doesn’t pay royalties. They “pay” you in attribution and plugging your songs and merch. This should be done within the podcast as well as links in the description text. (You might be able to earn a commission or generate an ongoing license fee by creating custom music for podcasts, which we’ll talk about in this post). Still, if you’re starting out, you are unlikely to make much revenue in royalties at first, and your bigger issue is to get a bigger fanbase that will buy merch, support you via Patreon, and come to your live shows.
There are four types of podcast opportunities available
- Music podcasts. There are many music-based podcasts, each usually focused on a particular genre or style of music. But another type you might try are local podcasts in your city or region. It may be easier to get played on those shows because fewer musicians are submitting to them. Note that many music podcasts charge musicians to get their music on their show, and it’s questionable if it’s worth it to spend that money when there are so many other free options available for getting heard.
- Podcast talk shows. The majority of podcasts are not music related, instead, they’re talk shows. However, all of them can play music and are excellent targets since many have very large audiences. Most talk-show podcasts are informally run and are happy to play music that matches the topic they’re covering. An email with a high-quality version of one of your songs can get your music added to a show and played for their large audience. For example, our own band was played on a marijuana podcast where a single email we sent with our song, “Who’s Got The Bong Now?” got us played. Just go through your songs and see which ones match to a podcast’s theme or topic, especially if you have lyrics that relate. If you create instrumental music, match the mood with the type of podcast.
- Podcast themes, beds, and bumpers. Podcasts need incidental audio, just like radio shows do. This includes theme songs, beds (background music to talk over), and bumpers (audio snippets played in between segments). You might get commissioned to write music for them or license songs you’ve already written for their use.
- Your podcast. There’s no reason you can’t run your own podcast to highlight your music. For example, The Brobdinagian Bards created a Celtic music podcast and became a go-to podcast for the genre. Although they featured Irish and Scottish music from many bands and singers, they naturally featured their own as well. You can have a music podcast or make a talk show related to your music.
Prep steps to get your music played
- MP3s & WAVs. You’ll need high-quality, mastered, high-bitrate MP3s and WAVs of your music ready to send to these outlets. Since podcasts are MP3s, give them a high-quality WAV version of your song. There’s nothing worse than hearing your song garbled because the MP3 you sent them got re-encoded as an MP3 a second time.
- Readable intro bullets. To make it easy on the podcaster to promote your name, music, and links, create a one- or two-sentence intro with that information so that they can read it during the podcast when they talk about the song. If your name is hard to pronounce, give them a phonetic spelling.
- Copy-and-paste description text. You should go one step further by providing the podcaster copy-and-paste text for their podcast description. Your text should include your song title and artist name, as well as links to your website or where it can be streamed or purchased. Keep it short, but make it intriguing so people will want to click on it.
- Simple tracking system (spreadsheet). You’ll need to keep track of who, where, and when you sent your music and supporting material (press/media materials such as a fact sheet and your bio). A simple spreadsheet works fine such as Google Sheets (which is free).
How to make money
If you create incidental audio for the podcaster, such as a theme song, beds, or bumpers, you can try and negotiate a commission or license fee. As for royalties, most podcasts will not generate any, even though, technically, podcasts should trigger a mechanical royalty. Some podcasts are also posted to YouTube or Facebook Video and, if you’ve added yourself to their AdShare system, it can be picked up and will generate some video royalties. (This is just one of the royalties we cover in the 14 registrations you should do to protect your music and ensure you get all the money that’s owed you. See the “Licensing and Royalties” chapter of our book, Making Money With Music.)
How to get played
Once you have everything prepared, here’s how you can get yourself played on podcasts.
1. Make a list of targeted podcasts to submit to
- Music podcasts. Most podcasts have a homepage and music podcasts will almost always include a submission link for musicians. Some are pay-for-play, and you should be a bit skeptical of any that do this. We suggest targeting regional or city-based podcasts for music because they are inclined to feature local artists.
- Podcast talk shows. Although the webpage for these podcasts will usually have a “contact us” link, they probably won’ have music submission instructions because they don’t normally play music. Ironically, these make them better targets because they may be happy to hear from artists who make music aligned with the topics they cover. Like we mentioned, match your lyrics or themes with the podcast’s content and offer the song for their show. Choose podcasts with larger listenerships if you can, since a single placement can get you in front of tens of thousands of listeners!
- Podcast themes, beds, and bumpers. You’ll likely be making these opportunities yourself by reaching out directly to podcasters and asking them if they are looking for a theme song or incidental music. If you want to make yourself available generally, you can advertise your services on sites like Fiverr and Upwork as well on the many forums where podcasters talk about podcast production and seek help and advice.
- Your podcast. Naturally, for your own podcast, you just need to find places within your show to play your music. The “submission” comes from submitting your podcast to as many podcast directories as possible so you can get new listeners and promote the podcast.
2. Submit your music to your targeted list
Once you’ve done your research, completed your target list, and updated your spreadsheet, it’s time to start emailing and submitting. Don’t forget to add the dates of where and when you submitted to your spreadsheet.
3. Keep tabs of the submissions
After submitting, keep track of the responses in your spreadsheet. Some are automated systems, but if a person gets back to you, be sure to use good PR techniques, like being politely persistent, to increase the likelihood of being played.
4. Set up an automated alert
Make sure to create search alerts with your artist name and the name of the songs that are part of your podcast campaign to track placement and plays. You can do this with services like Google Alerts.
What to do once you’re played
Once you’ve gotten played:
- Share on social media. As always, when you see that you’ve been played, share the news with your fans on social media. Podcasts love getting mentioned because it ends up cross-promoting their show.
- Send thank-yous and update your spreadsheet to include these contacts. Don’t forget to send a thank you to the podcaster and keep in touch with them going forward. You may even want to send them more songs.
- Ladder up and out. When you get played, be sure to publicize it and use your success as a reason to reach out to anyone else who hasn’t responded or played you. Provide proof people like and play your music. Also, use it as a trigger to reach out to new opportunities, along with links to proof of coverage. Each play you get builds momentum and can be enough to convince others to give your music a spin, which grows your audience and your name recognition. Then, the next time you drop a new track, your universe of contacts is bigger than it was before.
Read the rest of the “Get Seen and Heard” series.
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.
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