How to use music in your podcast

The sweet symphony of podcasting…

Have you ever listened to a podcast without any music whatsoever? It’s like eating ice cream without a flavor – it’s just ice. Music is a crucial ingredient in any podcast recipe. It sets the tone, creates the vibe, and helps with transitions and narrative movement. It replaces the visual aspects that you’d have in a video, carrying forward all the “thousand words” that are in any picture and transmitting them via audio. That audio must be crafted and contained, holding the symbolism that would be in the video of another work. A video director has the tools of lighting, setting, blocking, and facial expressions, where the podcaster must use their own set of tools: music and sound design.

Over the years, podcasting has become a popular medium for storytelling, sharing ideas and creating communities. With so many podcasts available, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is by how you incorporate music into your podcast, and to ensure that you maintain a professional sheen. For this, many high-profile podcasts like This American Life and Radiolab hire their own music crews, from writers to musicians, who compose and perform music for each episode.

But that takes a lot of capital, and most podcasters are running on a budget. Luckily in today’s world, there are options like royalty free stock music. Smartsound Cloud offers huge flexibility in your production options to mold the music to your needs without having to foot the bill for a pro level orchestra. In this blog post, we’ll go over some ways that you can use stock music, and more specifically Smartsound Cloud’s app, to create the right mood for your podcast.


This is Marketing 101, folks. Knowing your audience and having a clear definition of who they are is the first step to any successful business. Some things to consider in regards to your audience:

  1. Age range – Younger folk might prefer younger music, and vice versa.
  2. Interests – If your podcast is focused on fitness, for example, it probably should be upbeat and engaging.
  3. Cultural background – Music more than anything is an expression of culture. Don’t play K-pop for an American Baptist Christian podcast.
  4. Reason to listen – Are they listening to get serious information or have a good time?
  5. Solitude – Most people listen to podcasts alone, and they listen to learn something, not for the music.

Consider these factors to choose the right stock music that will enhance your podcast and keep your listeners engaged. The goal here is to create a cohesive listening experience that resonates with your audience. Which directly takes me to…


These first two pieces to consider are a bit of a sturm und drang. Your intended audience might prefer a music style, but that also has to balance with what kind of image you want to promote and display. Though these two things more often than not match, they don’t always.

Consider the genre of your podcast. If you’re hosting a true crime podcast, you might want to use something darker and more ominous. If you’re hosting a comedy podcast, you might want something more upbeat and lighthearted. And consider what kind of topics you’re discussing, are they more serious or are they lighter? The music should reflect that, and reinforce it to glue your podcast into a single, cohesive listening experience.

It’s definitely good to be objective about your podcast’s mood and style, since maybe your actual style is not your imaginary style. Here it might be important to engage the help of some friends and/or family, ask them to listen to an episode or two, and ask them what they think your style is and what kind of music would match it.


This is the seminal lesson in all podcast soundtrack creation. Don’t distract your listeners from the most important thing: the voices of you and your guests. Music needs to take a backseat, and as such shouldn’t be distracting or too noticeable. You want it to create atmosphere and vibe, not to be the atmosphere and vibe. If you’re going to have music playing while you speak, be sure to use audio ducking. There are two ways to do this, which we’ve gone over in a previous blog here.

Another trick here is to make sure you’ve removed any distracting elements. If the guitar is playing virtuoso, or if you’ve got some blaring, ecstatic horns, then use Smartsound Cloud’s mixer to remove them. Likewise, if there’s something in the frequency range that’s too close to your voice, it might muddy up your words even if the music is turned down – often synths and cymbals are culprits here. Experiment until you have your voice perfectly clear.


A common advice for track lengths when using most services is to get a 90-second track and a two-and-a-half minute track. Luckily, with Smartsound Cloud, you can adjust your track to literally any length you need. If your intro is 90-seconds, make it so. If you have a 14-minute discussion and need some background music, then drag it out to 14 minutes. Adjusting the length in our app is really just a matter of a click and a drag and the algorithm will line up all the respective parts seamlessly for you.

You’ll need tracks with different energy levels. For the intro you can have the episode’s full theme with all the instruments, for transitions and background you should trim it down a bit. With Smartsound Cloud, there’s a mixer for all the tracks which allows you to easily remove an instrument or make it louder. There are also several variations for each track that you can choose from. Then for the finale, you can bring back all the instrumentation and choose the most exciting variation.


As mentioned above, music can also be used to transition between segments or to introduce a new topic. It can help break up the monotony of a long podcast and keep your listeners engaged. Be sure to have a toned down version for the transition so as not to be too distracting or take away from the climax. Just having the bass does wonders in this regard. With Smartsound Cloud’s app, use the mixer to lower all the elements but the bass.


This ties into the “mood and style” a great deal. You can give the piece a real sense of setting. Does it take place in the American South, during a certain time period? Then maybe blues or jazz might work the best. Does it take place in Latin America Maybe Latin music or reggae, depending on the atmosphere you want to set. Music brings both the dimensionalities of time and place, so you can use it to make that placement.


If you don’t want to get too complex with composing your soundtrack, you can always opt for the “punctuation” approach. Think of the phrases of your podcast like you would text in a story. Each sentence ends with a period, and sometimes it’s broken apart by a comma. Then the larger groupings of words are separated by a paragraph break. The music goes at all those junctions. A comma being the smallest – a transition marker – a podcast turn having a longer bit of music, and the paragraph breaks even longer.


You know in those old detective and thriller movies, when the bad guy or plot has been revealed, the music suddenly cues in, DUN DUN DUN! Here you can borrow from that cue. When you’re introducing the twist or the catch, cue some music to heighten the suspense. You’ll hear This American Life do that all the time. Add the drum beat or bass or synth from the track you chose as a theme. Easy enough to do this with Smartsound Cloud – in the app just drop all the mix except the drums.


Sound goes much further than just music. Since your senses are greatly limited by the medium, you need to use all the tools you can. Sound effects are another important element of adding atmosphere, punctuation, and mood. If you’re talking about a garage, add tool sounds. If you’re talking about a café, some coffee bean grinding machine noises would suit. You don’t have to physically be at the location and record there to transport your listeners there. Take them with you on your imaginary journey by using sound effects. And lucky for you, Smartsound Cloud has plenty of them (and adds 500 more biweekly).


Don’t ever limit yourself. Produce and experiment. Once you find the right combination that fits your work, stick with it and make it the style. Don’t worry, these things can take time, and be sure to enlist the help of your audience, or your friends and family. Ask them what they think, what they would do. Eventually you’ll be able to tune your podcast to the right mix of voice and sound that you’ve been looking for. Good luck and happy podcasting!

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