Your podcast introduction is the first impression listeners have of you. It sets the tone of your podcast, introduces you, and creates curiosity.
At most, this needs to happen within 20 seconds. People discover podcasts like they flip through television channels. If you don’t work fast to grab their attention, they’re not going to stick around long.
There are three important elements to a great podcast intro:
- Music (or Sound Effects)
- Copy (read Podcast Intros – A 3-Part Formula for help writing effective copy for your podcast intro)
- Voice Talent (read How To Get The Podcast Intro You Want for helpful information about working with voice talent)
Music is where a lot of podcasters go wrong. A quick search for “royalty-free music” will get you hundreds of thousands of songs you can use for a one-time licensing fee. Along with a high-quality download of the music itself, you’ll also receive the needed paperwork should anybody question your legal right to use it.
But just because the music you use is legal, doesn't mean it's a good match for your podcast. Unless you get lucky, you’re going to have to do a little digging to find the right music for your podcast intro and imaging. Like a stock photo site, there's a lot of filler to work through on royalty-free music sites.
A few minutes going through search results for common podcast subjects such as "inspirational" and "business" and you’re likely to hear music you’ve heard other podcasters use or something that's so close it might as well be. This is because most people either don’t have the patience to go through enough music to find something great or because most people don’t think the music they use is important.
The music you use for your podcast is important. It's what sets the mood for everything you do.
Podcast Intro Music – What to Look (and Listen) For
1. Real instruments.
This is important — especially with drums and horns. You want something that sounds like it was made by a human, not a machine.
What do "fake instruments" sound like? Imagine an employee training video or network marketing sales pitch from 20 years ago. Search "corporate" on major royalty-free music sites and you’ll get dozens of examples of this.
Like your podcast, music connects with people because of its imperfections. Avoid music that sounds like it came from a sterile laboratory.
The one exception to computer-generated sounds and drum machines is if you’re looking for music in any of the major electronic genres, such as house, techno, or dubstep. Computer-generated sounds and drum machines work in these genres because music in these genres is supposed to be made on a computer.
2. Number of Downloads
Major royalty-free music sites let you know how many times the songs on their sites have been licensed. Like the podcast charts on Apple Podcasts, download numbers can be a good way to find something of quality, because cream rises to the top, but it’s also a good way to end up with something being used by a competitor.
Better safe than sorry. But know other people using the same music you choose is always a risk.
Because royalty-free music isn’t custom product, even if you’re the first person to license a song, it’s highly likely that somebody else will also license. Although most of the music licensed on royalty-free sites will be for non-podcast applications that none of your listeners will ever find, there is always a chance that a competitor will use your song, whether by accident or on purpose.
It's a fine song, but it's been purchased from Audio Jungle almost 5000 times, it's probably also selling on other royalty-free sites, and it's been used on dozens of podcasts. This could create confusion among listeners if somebody is subscribed to more than one of them.
3. Stylistic Similarity
You don’t hear circus music before a funeral, even if the dead guy is a clown.
Music sets the mood. If you’re somebody with a lot of energy, you don’t want the music that introduces you to be something else. If you’re laid back and mellow, that needs to be reflected in the music you choose. You also need to consider how the music matches the topic you talk about as well.
Imagine this… You download a new podcast. The intro music is high energy, arena rock with big drums and screaming guitars.
The voiceover guy comes on…and he’s shouting!
“YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE HOUSE OF EXCELLENCE!!! GET READY!!! HERE’S YOUR HOST… THE MOST EXCELLENT MAN IN THE WORLD!!!”
Then the slickly produced intro fades out and a thin voice cuts through the background hiss…
“Ummmm… Hello everybody. Ummmm… Welcome to House of Excellence, the podcast about being excellent.”
Not a match.
This is an extreme example, but you hear similar things all the time. If you’re going to go with music that sounds bold and confident, use it as a tool to bring out your boldness and confidence. If your music sounds serious and authoritative, back that up with how you present yourself.
Music sets the mood, but don’t expect it to carry your entire show for you.
You want music you can talk over. Avoid any songs with vocals, even simple background hooks.
An example… You’ve got an inspirational podcast, you looked up "inspirational" on a royalty-free site, and you find an upbeat song with the catchy vocal "You can do whatever you want" repeated over and over again.
It’s a good stylistic match for the subject and may work for some parts of your podcast, but anything you say while it's playing is going to get lost. Listeners can only pay attention to one person speaking at a time.
5. Get to the Point
Like your podcast itself, the music you use needs to get to the point. Nobody is going to sit through a long intro waiting for you (or a voiceover person) to have a point in which to break in.
Play your music, make your point, and get on with the show. Your intro should have no more than three seconds of music before the announcer comes in.
As a side note, the music you use also needs to complete the point. That means a strong beginning and strong ending that listeners can count on. Don’t use something that could go on forever and just fade it out whenever you need to talk.
Podcast Intro Music – Where to Find It
To find the perfect intro music for your podcast, try these sites: