Several years ago – maybe longer than I’d care to admit – I was a part of the morning news show at my high school. Unfortunately, technology has made much of what I learned obsolete. However, there are a couple of things that haven’t really changed after all these years.
For starters, there’s making sure you stay on the good side of the law, including obeying copyright laws. For example, when we made video introductions, we were only allowed to use around 10-seconds of a song – which we could loop until the show went live. Since we were a small town school, we may have bent the rules a little bit. But the idea was there. We couldn’t play a song for an extended period of time if we didn’t have permission.
Today, many podcasters are facing the same concerns when it comes to creating an intro or outro. Just because podcasting is a newer form of media than television or radio, the laws are essentially the same when it comes to copyright when using music for an intro, bumper, or outro.
The other thing that hasn’t changed is just how effective an intro can be to get your audience interested in your content. When I made an intro that featured a number of my fellow students acting foolish, my classmates loved it. Every morning they got to see themselves on TV. It was engaging, made them feel important and gained their full attention.
So, how exactly can you go about in creating an awesome podcast intro that will hook your listeners and not get you into any trouble?
How to Remain Legal
Before we get much further, let’s do a quick review on how to keep your podcast legal. According to Gordon Firemark, attorney and author of The Podcast, Blog and New Media Producer’s Legal Survival Guide, you should practice the following tips:
Understand Copyright Law Basics
Firemark notes that “copyright is a ‘bundle of rights’ belonging to the ‘author’ of a work of expression.” This means when someone creates a piece of work – a song, poem, photograph – it becomes their property and they are have to give their permission to reproduce, republish or redistribute the work. You should review the Copyright Basics from the U.S. Copyright office, as well as Copyright Infringement and Remedies.
Once you understand the basics of copyright law and what is or isn’t copyright infringement, it should make keeping your podcast legal a bit easier.
Don’t Always Rely on “Fair Use”
Stanford University defines “fair use” as the “copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work.” In other words, you can use copyrighted material without permission if you are using the material for the following situations: “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research” based on the following conditions from the U.S. Copyright Office:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
Just keep in mind that “fair use” is a defense, which means that a lawsuit has already been filed. To avoid this, it’s always better to ask permission to use copyrighted material instead of relying on fair use.
This is pretty obvious, but if you really want to use a song that is copyrighted for your intro, do the right thing and get permission. While you probably won’t be able to secure your favorite Stones track – unless you want to pay top dollar – at least you don’t have to worry about getting sued for illegally using a song or noise effect during your podcast.
Why Intros Are Important
At this point you may be bored with all of this legal talk. But, there’s a reason why you’ve stuck around thus far. Podcasting intros are important. After all, your intro will be the first impression listeners will have of your podcast. And, as I mentioned earlier, your introduction is a great way to pull in your audience.
Research showed the attention span of adults was around 12 seconds back in 2000. Today that number has decreased to 8 seconds. This means that you have a 7-second challenge to make an impression. The podcast medium may give you a little more leeway, but top podcasters still suggest keeping your intro between 10 and 30 seconds.
Elements of an Awesome Podcast Intro
So, how do you make a great impression for your podcasting audience? For starters, keep you podcast short and simple – again, you don’t want to have an intro longer than 30 seconds. You also want to be unique and provide listeners with a summary of the podcast.
During this short amount of time, you need to include the following, according to Daniel Lewis from The Audacity to Podcast.
- Podcast name
- Episode Title
- Music/Sound Effects
- Names of the Hosts
- Podcast Explanation
Dan recommends you include these elements in every podcast episode. However, there are times when you may also have to include information like a network ID, recorded date, name of your sponsors, or disclaimers if the episode contains sensitive material.
When you have all of the above information, it shouldn’t be a problem to recite it time and time again. But, if you’re just starting out, then you should write an opening script. Jeffrey Powers from How to Record Podcasts created a perfect example of an opening script:
You are listening to ____________ podcast: episode ___. Today we’re talking ____________. So let’s get started. (Intro Music break 2-3 seconds). Hey, everybody. _____________ here. Welcome to _____________ podcast. If this is your first time listening, then thanks for coming. The __________ podcast is produced every _________ for your enjoyment and show notes are found at __________(website). Come back often and feel free to add the podcast to your favorite RSS feed or iTunes. You can also follow me on Twitter @________ and Facebook. All links are in the show notes. Now, let’s get into the show.
As you can see, this is a simple and effective opening. It provides listeners with all the information that they need to know – podcast title, episode number and the name of the host. It even lets listeners know where to find the podcast and how to keep in touch with the host on social media.
How to Create Your Own Intro
Since you already have the equipment to record audio, and the basic knowledge of constructing an effective intro, you can begin to create your very own podcast intro. But, where can you find music to use legally? Here are ten places to begin your search.
Founded in 1986 by Marji Hazen of Ashland, Ohio, the Public Domain Information Project is a site where you can research and discover music in the public domain. Besides being a starting point for identifying royalty free music, you can also purchase recordings to license. This music may not be free, but the license will last for lifetime, so it may be worth the investment.
The Music Bakery is another site where you can purchase the license for a song. Each license includes a royalty-free, buyout license that you can use forever.
Unlike other companies that resell music, InstantMusicNow sells music directly from the song creators. You can purchase a MP3 for $9.95 for a 30 second clip, $14.95 for a 60 second clip or $19.95 for an extended clip.
Musopen has the goal of becoming the “largest online repository of music in the public domain.” This means that the free library of music found on the site aren’t protected by U.S. copyright law and free to use.
Since 1996 this site has been providing royalty free music for around $100 per license. What makes Partners In Rhyme stand out is that you can use the music for projects of all sizes since you don’t have to submit cue sheets.
Soundrangers has been a trusted source of professional royalty free sound effects, and production music as well, since 1998. In fact, customers have included major brands ranging from Disney to Google. Prices can fall anywhere between $10 to $300 depending on the type of license.
7. Neo Sounds
For a one-time fee you have a royalty-free license for a song that has already been cleared to be used for essentially any medium – such as your podcast to YouTube to traditional advertising on TV or radio if you wanted. One of the best perks with Neo Sounds is that you can download a demo version of a track and try it out before making a purchase.
Pond5 has a large collection of music tracks to video clips to stock images that are all royalty-free – in fact, the site currently has over 231,655 music tracks. Compared to other companies, Pond5 has a solid pricing for music tracks with some tracks starting as low as $5. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve come across a track that costs more than $100.
Shockwave-Sound is one of the pioneers in the royalty-free music, stock music and production music industry. Just like most of the other companies included in this list, you pay one set price – usually around $30 – for a track and its rights. Each purchase also comes with official Music License Certificate documents.
Composed of 50 podcasters from all over the world, the Association of Music Podcasting teams up with independent artists to help their fellow podcasters discover music via Creative Commons copyright licensing. The AMP also has a weekly podcast that features the best new music.
If you’re a Mac user and are using Garageband to record your podcast, then you can also use the sound library to create a podcast intro.
Hire Someone Else to Create Your Intro
If you don’t have the time, or just can’t get your intro to sound right, you can always leave it up to the pros. Here are five resources where you can have a professional create your intro.
Music Radio Creative
You still have to a little work here, but it will only take a few minutes. Music Radio Creative gives you package options to create a perfect intro for your podcast. You start off with a base clip – which costs around $25. Then you can select the voice for your voiceover that will read your custom podcast script. There are other options, and if you can’t brainstorm any ideas, Music Radio Creative will help you come up with a package tailor for your needs.
If you have the money in your budget, then you may want hire someone like Dan Lyons to create your custom podcast intro, outro, and even bumbers (those pieces of audio that contain calls-to-action). Dan, for example, charges $1,000 for 2 podcast intros, 2 podcast outros, 2 podcast bumpers and a piece of clean music if you need it.
If you don’t have the $1,000 to spend on Dan Lyons, you can use a cheaper alternative like Audiobag. For $189, you can have a 30-second intro and outro with sound effects and a voiceover from either “Jack” or “Cathy.” After your purchase, you send your script of up to 75 words, along with preferred genre of music, to the company and they’ll take care of the rest.
This an excellent site if you want to hire a voice actor for you podcast intro.
Whether you need a voice actor, audio editor, or someone to create your entire intro, this gig marketplace is worth exploring if you’re working on a tight budget.
Having a killer podcast intro is one of the best ways to grab the attention of your podcast listening audience – which is challenging since you only have a few seconds. For an effective intro, make sure you provide listeners with the most important details about your podcast, and make it stand out with some background music or a little jingle. But, before you hit publish, make sure the music you choose doesn’t violate any copyright laws.
If you’ve done a podcast in the past, how did you create your podcast intro? I would love to hear about our experiences in the comments below.
Featured Image: ShutterStock