Baby Steps on Podcast Music Licensing

Britain’s Association for Independent Music is launching a less expensive mechanical license arrangement for “bedroom” podcasters that opens up access to a small number of current tracks.

The biggest problem for podcasters that want to play music is the licensing double-whammy. Remember that you not only have to license the songs from the appropriate professional rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), you have to arrange for the mechanical license from the label itself. That’s because podcasts live on a listener’s hard drive — so someone’s got to pay a few cents per download to cover the traditional label payment.

At least in the UK, labels are making small steps at putting a cap on podcasters’ exposure to nasty bills and audits by putting some of their tracks under a blanket license.

Still, amateur podcasters have to invest heavily into their hobby, since licenses from ASCAP, BMI, and now AIM could still set you back over 1,000 pounds a year when combined.

If you’re deciding to reap the benefits of podcast promotion by declaring your music as “podsafe,” protect your podcaster buddies by making such a declaration in public on your web page or on your weblog. I’m scared that I’ll see a rollback announcement that a song folks thought was podsafe suddenly winds up under an RIAA umbrella when a band gets signed.

By using Creative Commons or making a similar public declaration, you can assure podcasters that they won’t be liable for retroactive licensing fees.

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