Studio #11 Creative uses of music in podcasts
Today I’m talking all about music and the different ways that it can be used to help you enhance your podcast. From an intro to outro, from ambience to accent, music can help you create an immersive experience for your listener.
I reached out to some of my favorite podcast producers and shows, and secured permission to share examples from The Daily, a production of the New York Times, Heavyweight, an amazing show from Gimlet Media, and one of the funniest and best produced podcasts around, the I Am Rapaport Stereo podcast.
All of these clips have something in common. They all use music effectively to make the listening experience more enjoyable, more immersive, and more interesting. I’ll be dissecting each of their approaches to incorporating music into their shows, and share some tips on how you can use music creatively in your own show.
First up is The Daily.
It’s a podcast that, not surprisingly, I start my day with, each and every day. It masterfully uses music in subtle ways to establish mood, or feeling for each episode.
Many times the music changes segment to segment, or serves as a bridge between segments. In the following clip, from the May 23rd episode of The Daily, the shows host, Michael Barbaro concludes the show with a segment on the Manchester terror attack, which occurred during a performance by Ariana Grande.
Listen to the subtle use of music laid underneath Michael’s monologue in this audio clip from the Manchester police.
The Daily often uses music to serve as a transition from one segment to the next. Upbeat music might be used to describe a hectic news day at the Times, while slower more somber music may be incorporated to set a mood or tone, like you heard in the clip about the Manchester terror attack. The Daily uses subtle accents, variations on the show’s theme music and ambience created by audio clips from the news to great effect.
The next example of creative use of music, comes from the show Heavyweight by Gimlet Media.
Heavyweight has become one of my favorite podcasts, in large part due to the scoring done for each episode. The show is about people who live life with regret, over not doing something in a particular moment, or who always wondered “What if?” In this clip from Heavyweight, episode number 7, entitled Julia, a woman recalls being bullied in school by other girls.
Heavyweight also uses music to transition between thoughts, or to be played in length without the spoken word to add space and time for the listen to consider what was just said.
The I AM RAPAPORT STERO PODCAST is among the best that I’ve heard from a production stand point. The quality of the audio is always on point, with credit going to the podcast’s production team, Jordan Winter and Miles Davis. It’s quickly become the benchmark that I try to reach when it comes to audio quality. This show was the first that really made me realize just how much podcasts can benefit from having a strong musical score.
Of course, every show takes on the personality of it’s host, but the I AM RAPAPORT show really stands out from others, due to the use of its music. Much like a movie with a really great soundtrack, the podcast has its own soundtrack, which you can listen to courtesy of the 2015, 2016 Podcast Co-Host of the Year, Gerald Moody.
G-Moody has his own SoundCloud page so you can check out more of his music yourself.
Whether you use it to serve as a bridge between segments, to set the mood, or to be a canvas to speak over the top of, great music just makes your podcast more interesting, more alive, and more immersive.
Finding great music
You might be thinking,this is cool, but where do I find music to use?
Obviously partnering with someone who can compose music is ideal. But not everyone has a musical friend, or a connection to a composer. The one place that I like to go to find music is a website called Marmoset Music. Marmoset is based out of Portland, so they’re local to me. But they have a great website that is set up for artists to license their work for film, radio, and podcast use.
It’s the place where I got the musical intro for Studio. And I’ve used them for many other podcasts and work projects. I hope to have some of the folks from Marmoset on the show very soon, but in the meantime, give them a look. Prices are reasonable, and they’ve got a great search feature to help you narrow down exactly what you’re looking for. You can even download temporary tracks, to drop into your own podcast to see what it will sound like before you buy.
Have fun and experiment with adding music to your podcast
Consider using music in your next podcast. Maybe think about ways that you can break up a segment, or add emotional weight to something that you’re talking about. If you’re doing a narrative podcast, using music is pretty much essential. But even if you’re doing a monologue style podcast, like Studio, adding a little music to your podcast can always make it sound a little more interesting, a little more fun, and just a little bit more of an experience.
Definitely check out the three shows that were mentioned, they are well worth your time. If you’re using music to great effect in your podcast, I’d like to hear about it. Or, if you know of another podcast that uses it, I’d love to hear about that too. Music is something that’s important to all of us. I think everyone I know loves music. And there’s no reason to not include more music into your podcast!