"This episode was a bit boring, can we add some background music to make it more interesting?"
"I think this guest is going to put my audience to sleep, can we break it up by adding some music interludes throughout the interview?"
The above quotes are just a sample of questions we receive from time to time in the podcast editing world.
They will serve as inspiration for this article on whether or not you should add background music or transition music in your podcast episodes.
But first, please re-read the quotes and really let them sink in. Put yourself in the audience's shoes in both cases. Can you imagine that slapping some music into the episode would help you find it more engaging?
Music can be used in a variety of ways in podcast episodes. The most common is in an intro and outro context. Music in your intro and outro gives your podcast an audio signature, sets the tone, and helps separate the intro and outro portion from the actual episode content.
Similarly, music is often used during advertising and sponsorship portions of podcast episodes to once again communicate that a break from the normal content is occurring.
Mostly done in narrative and storytelling podcasts, music can be used to set the tone of a particular scene or segment. For example, playing triumphant music as an athlete describes their struggle and effort along the journey to winning a gold medal or somber music while a sad story is being told.
Some podcast hosts like to give a bit of breathing room at the end of thoughts or between topics by inserting a few seconds of music. This comes down to personal preference and style. There's no real data for or against the practice, though it's recommended to not do this too frequently in each episode, and keep the music duration short.
Podcasting is an art form, so it's difficult to categorize anything specifically as correct or incorrect. But, you've come here for our opinion.
We're confident in saying that using music to try to prop up an otherwise dull interview, mask poor sound quality, keep the audience awake, or any other scenario where music is acting as a band-aid for a crappy podcast episode just isn't cool.
As mentioned earlier, would this successfully fool you as a listener? Do you think adding music to an hour-long episode of drivel would keep you tuned in until the very end? Unlikely.
If you find yourself thinking an interview or episode is boring, and wanting to add some music to try and fix it, head back to the drawing board. Either make some cuts to keep only the most interesting parts, re-record the interview, or don't release it. Music is not a solution to your problem in these cases.
In today's world of ever-shortening attention spans, a drawn out intro sequence with 10 seconds of music between various elements such as a guest teaser, intro voiceover, host intro, ad, ends up being multiple minutes of stuff that some people just won't have the patience for. Respect your listeners' time.
Here are some Dos and Don'ts for using music in your podcast.
Hopefully this has helped shed some light on best practices for using music in your podcast episodes! For more help with your podcast, check out our podcast assessments.