Did BMI Give Radio The OK To Play Music in Podcasts?

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At the very end of the BMI/RMLC press release, “podcasts” are included as a platform in which music in the BMI catalogue is “covered” by the scope of this new agreement. Does that mean one of your hosts can start a music podcast tomorrow without fear of breaking any copyright laws? The answer…it’s complicated.

Podcasts would be a great way to launch new music or play deeper tracks from a newly released album. In light of much tighter radio playlists, and mountains of commercials listeners to have to sit through, a podcast is an ideal platform to fill that gap.

Because of how complicated this issue is, we are still a long way from that ever happening.

First, here’s how BMI clarified podcast coverage for radio from its Thursday press release. “Any BMI music associated with a radio station’s podcast, a podcast produced by a radio station, is now covered.” That statement could lead some to believe it’s ok to play music in podcasts. It’s not.

The BMI coverage is only good for the songwriter portion of the music. So if you start a music podcast, you may still be putting your radio station at risk. The BMI license does not cover the artist/label side, and everyone knows how aggressive that group has been coming after radio for a share of its over-the-air revenue.

Music in podcasts was a major topic for discussion at Podcast Movement in 2019. Doug Reed at Podcastmusic.com has been working directly with record labels to try to make music available to podcasters. However, even those deals do not come close to a podcaster being able to play an hour of music that include full songs.

At last check, here’s what Reed and his team were working on: “Podcasters that want to add a song to their show (as bumper music only) leading into their content will have to pay between $10 to $20 per episode for a license. If you record four episodes per month, it’ll cost you between $40 and $80 per month. That license is only for podcasters with under 5,000 downloads per episode. If you have more than 5,000 downloads the cost will scale up at a price to be determined at a later date.” 

Broadcast Attorney David Oxenford has written about it extensively in many of his blogs over the years. He gets into the specific coverage you would need in this column HERE. And if you really want a lesson in podcast copyright, read through his slide presentation HERE from Podcast Movement 2018.

This issue gets even more confusing. The podcasting industry is still trying to determine what a download is compared to a stream. And everyone is trying to figure out how that fits into the copyright confusion. As attorney Gordon Firemark pointed out to us yesterday, “some have argued that when a podcast “streams” it’s actually a ‘progressive’ download, so not really a “performance.”

Then there’s trying to understand the issues surrounding mechanical licences, master use licenses and understanding who Harry Fox is. For now the safest bet is to avoid playing music in podcasts. That way you are guaranteed to avoid any copyright violation issues.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder what licence does iHeart Radio and other radio stations use to podscast music. Is it the same broadcasting licence as on the air?

  2. Clearly the answer is to use music that is not under license. This is what most YouTubers and podcasters resort to doing. In the end, they find that using the same 20 tunes that are on nearly every low budget video or podcast is better than,

    Not using any music at all;
    Trying to figure out how to deal with the legal morass.

    Ultimately the lesson is that ASCAP/BMI have litigated themselves into a situation where most people just try to avoid dealing with them. Their inability to come up with common sense, affordable licensing has left people doing without them. They’ve litigated themselves into oblivion to anyone but the largest of companies.

    • It is really a shame that a PodCast generating ZERO $$$$ is treated this way, I mena who had $80.00 or more per month to play 5 song to 50 people who may be tuned in. ASCAP and BMI are greedy hogs.

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