Efforts to get big music companies to craft a license mechanism that would allow some of music’s biggest hits to be used in podcasts have stalled as it appears the major record labels have concluded the potential money to made right now is just not worth the effort.
“Over the last 18 months, in our talks with the people that represent those rights, I don’t know if they are convinced there is enough money in podcasting right now to set a precedent on the licensing,” said Doug Reed, EVP at PodcastMusic.com which has been working for the past several years to make hit records accessible to podcasters.
At Podcast Movement on Thursday, Greg Riddle, a music licensing consultant who works with PodcastMusic, agreed. He said they have gotten as far as drafting contracts, only to be derailed by the details. “One fairly well-known act was ready to go, and their publishing entity decided they wanted to be paid by every podcaster by a paper check mailed to them,” he said.
It is a far different tune than when the last in-person Podcast Movement was held two years ago in Orlando. Then it appeared it was only a matter of months before PodcastMusic would be able to expand its production library to include the addition of pop records. At the time, it had a tentative deal to license songs on a per-episode basis although Reed conceded at the time that rights holders expressed branding concerns about having their music tied to controversial content.
That did not transpire and while it is unclear what happened, attorney Gordon Firemark, who works with a number of podcasters and hosts the Entertainment Law Update podcast, said Thursday that music licensing remains a “work in progress” for the industry. “There are some companies in the music business that are like giant supertankers and getting them to change course is a colossally longtail kind of project,” he said.
Indie Artist Opportunity
Facing ongoing resistance among the major labels, some experts think there is an obvious opening for podcasters to embrace the indie artist community.
“The big artists don’t need the money, they don’t need the exposure,” said Riggle. But he said that is not the case for unsigned or up-and-coming acts. “They want to work with you, they want to be part of this community,” Riggle explained “And for the indie vibe that podcast has, what a great way for people with like-minded sensibilities to work together and everybody benefits.” He said because indie artists need to be discovered, podcasts can be a great way for them to get more exposure than they might be able to find on a social network.
“I’m excited that podcasting can make independent music more discoverable, even at radio,” said Riggle. “You may be in a position where local radio is actually taking note of the kind of podcasts you’re doing. That act might have an opportunity to be part of that radio station’s digital platform, and I’m sure they will thank you for that connection.”
Courtney Dash, one-half of the indie country act Hadley Park, said such exposure would be welcome. But she said they also have limited time and resources, and that means podcasters need to realize they will need to pay something. “You have to offer us something – and that something is your audience is big enough that when you are cross-promoting it on your social [media] then it is worth it for us,” said Dash at the Nashville conference. She said indie artists also want to associate with podcasters or shows that fit with their brand.
“Don’t be afraid of the no,” advised Nicole Hoglund, Managing Director of the music crowdfunding platform Bandwagon and a co-host of the 94twenty podcast. “Artists are going to sometimes say no because it doesn’t fit the brand that they’re trying to fit for themselves, and as podcasters you have every right if an independent artist comes to pitch you and you just don’t think it’s going to fit with your brand, to say no back.”
Seeing an opportunity, Reed said PodcastMusic is already talking with some indie artists and hopes to bring more of them into the fold in the coming months.