Do you have a favorite podcast? Likely you’re interested in the theme or subject matter or captivated by the hosts’ interplay. If you think about it, though, you probably know the theme music by heart. Once it starts, your anticipation builds, and you know something interesting is coming.
The theme doesn’t have to be long or complex (in audio, time is usually of the essence) but it has to be catchy, memorable, and “right” for the show. If you’re starting a podcast, you’ve probably done a lot of web searching to see what mic you should buy, how to find interesting guests, how to design a logo, and so on. If you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about your theme or background music, though, these five reasons will make you realize you need to buy background music for your podcast.
1. Music Sets Your Podcast’s Tone
When you listen to a podcast, you may be commuting, jogging, or at the gym. It helps to have music to transition from your world to the world of your podcast. We live in a world of distraction. Music sets the right tone in an economical and effective way.
Think about a hugely popular podcast like “Making Sense,” by Sam Harris. The music Harris chooses is an excellent example of podcast background and intro music. It evokes powerful emotions and moods. Those moods are captivating, serious, and centering. Most important, they are right for the show. Harris is a public intellectual and meditator. The tone of his music matches that perfectly, getting you into the right headspace to receive the interviews or ideas he wants to share.
Similarly, “Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown” is the actress’s podcast about mental health issues. This could feel heavy, but she often covers serious topics in a lighthearted, relatable way. The theme music (featuring simple vocals) is upbeat, short, and funny, foreshadowing the tone of her show while priming you to feel like you are about to learn something useful in an entertaining fashion.
2. Music Gives Your Podcast Emotion
If you listen mostly to nonfiction podcasts you may think they are primarily about information. Yet even science-based podcasts like Radiolab use music extensively and are noted for their music and sound design. Audio is an intimate medium, and a medium of storytelling. No matter how fact-based your podcast is, you are still telling a story and taking your audience on an emotional journey. Music is the language of emotion. It helps communicate feelings without words. This is important, too, and allows your audience to meditate on a fact you’ve just shared. Music can also drive home a point you’re making.
As noted in Psychology Today, “music offers a resource for emotion regulation. People use music to achieve various goals, such as to energize, maintain focus on a task, and reduce boredom”, and “music has the ability to evoke powerful emotional responses such as chills and thrills in listeners.” It’s one thing to talk about emotions, but you also want your audience to feel things. Music is a way to access your listeners’ emotions instantaneously and directly. Music underlines the emotions you want your audience to feel.
If you are working on a narrative podcast, music is even more obviously important. The horror genre is synonymous with certain kinds of ominous, suspenseful music. But dramas, comedies, thrillers, and period pieces are all associated with their own different kinds of music.
You can also have fun working against genre expectations. Try lighthearted music as a counterpoint to a scary or horror-filled scene. It can be tricky to achieve the right tone, but the important thing is to enjoy the process and have fun finding the music that enhances your podcast’s material.
Music can also act emotionally by stimulating memories. If you’re working on a show that relies on a sense of nostalgia, choosing your music carefully can bring audiences into your time period and show in a very real way.
3. Music Provides a Sense of Place
To state the obvious, podcasts are an all-audio medium. That means that you need to find audio equivalents for the usual visual cues as to location. If you’re working on a partly-scripted or fictional podcast, you may need to tell your audience that you’re in Tokyo, New York, or the Old West. Music is the most economical and also most enjoyable way to sweep your audience along with you and set the scene. Even a couple of seconds of fiddle playing can tell us that we’re in Appalachia.
Of course, the categories of emotion and location are not mutually exclusive. The haunting strains of Appalachian fiddle music are both emotionally evocative and highly effective at putting you in a particular locale. Similarly, music can provide a sense of wonder and excitement while also evoking an imaginative landscape for your listeners. The landscape can be both geographic and emotional.
4. Music Helps Transitions
As you assemble the elements of your podcast you may need a rapid way to transition between different segments. For example, you may need to move from content to advertising, or between different topics if your podcast is a talk show. Music is a fast and effective palate cleanser. Every second matters in audio. Music helps pace a show, allowing quick changes or allowing you a few moments of extra time when you need an emotionally effective filler rather than have dead air. Two seconds of silence can feel like an eternity, making your audience feel like the show is already over, as a listener. Music turns dead air into a dynamic and powerful element of your show.
Music allows you to make a rapid transition while maintaining your audience’s interest. It can even increase your audience’s interest if you use music with the right tempo and tone. It can take some trial and error, as music and the way we respond to timing is very much about fine distinctions — but it’s worth it to find the exact right amount of music (one bar? Two?) to put a transition between your show’s segments.
5. Music Helps With Pace
The right background music can help keep your podcast moving along nicely. Movies, TV, and podcasts can all benefit from the subtle use of music to add a sense of pace and underscore the emotions and moments of importance. Even if your show is all interview-based, you can’t just have a wall of words and expect your audience to always be engaged. Music can keep things moving along and make your podcast go down easily. That’s particularly important if your podcast is over half an hour long. If you have to earn your audience’s interest and maintain it, music helps keep your audience on the hook. This is important, with so much competition for your listeners’ attention.
6. Music Can Help You Focus
Your listeners may not realize this is why you’re using music, but according to some Stanford researchers, music can help you to focus. Choosing the right music can be a sneaky secret weapon to make your audience really listen to what you’re saying. Think about the hypnotic music on shows like Lost and how those short bursts of music were compelling enough to keep you focused from the get-go.
If you want to grab your audience’s attention, music provides a brilliantly effective shortcut. In the words of University of California, Davis scientist Dr. Petr Janata, “there’s something about music… that appears to be very stimulating for the brain and body.” In other words, music has a visceral and real impact on your ability to focus.
7. Music Makes Your Podcast Fun
Of course, this is related to pace, emotion, and focus, but it’s worth pointing out that music makes us happy. This is a compelling reason for listeners to keep coming back to your podcast. If your podcast has potentially dry or heavy subject matter (like economics or mental health), background music or audio that makes your audience feel good could be an essential way of making your material compelling and appealing.
If you’ve wondered if you need backwground music for your podcast, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Podcasts feel naked without music. If you wonder where to find music, Stock Music should be your first port of call.
Stock Music has hundreds of background music tracks to choose from. They are conveniently organized by:
- Mood (e.g., Happy, Meditative, Edgy)
- Genre (e.g., Rock, Classical, Funk)
- Instrumentation (Electric Guitar, Drums, Violin)
- Tempo/Beats Per Minute (BPM)
- Vocals (Male, Female, Choir, Instrumental)
The tracks are well-curated and organized. They make it as easy as possible for you to audition and find the right tracks for your project.
Copyright can be a headache. Fortunately, Stock Music has completely royalty-free music. You can use it without limits. The works are public domain worldwide in perpetuity and have all necessary copyright clearances already taken care of for use on all social platforms. All the legalities are taken care of. That means all you need to do is focus on the overall mood, feeling, and pace you want to achieve with your podcast. Finding uncopyrighted background music for your podcast is a fun process. You’ll love how much more compelling your show is with stock audio background music. Happy listening!