How to commission custom podcast theme music - CCM009

by 1:02 PM 0 comments


What I do at the beginning of the theme music process is really give a lot of thought to the feel of the podcast.

  • What style of music would be most appropriate for that specific topic?
  • What sort of music will help to set the stage for the content?
  • What style will be more appealing to my target audience?

If it's a show about knitting then I don't want a heavy metal intro tune.

Then I think about instruments.

  • Do I want it to be piano-driven or guitar-based?
  • Acoustic or electric?
  • Or am I looking for something more orchestral?

I also take into account the tone of the host's delivery or if there's a cohost then consider the conversation style of the hosts and how they interact. If a solo show, you don't want a crazy rockin' intro if the host is super laid back and chill in their presentation style. It's too jolting for the listener's ear to have such a contrast. If multiple hosts, the same thing goes; if they have great banter and there is a humorous side to their conversation then you probably don't want a slow, classical-sounding orchestral piece. The goal is to complement the host's presentation style with the music. Once you've answered these types of questions then it's just a matter of explaining your vision to the composer.


If you still have trouble describing to the composer exactly what you're looking for then I'd suggest finding an existing piece of music that is similar to what you want and ask the composer to use it as a reference point. A quick Google search for a couple stylistic keywords plus “instrumental” or “soundtrack” or similar terms should net the results you want. The internet is full of theme music from popular shows as well as film scores so that's an easy place to go for a reference piece. Also, the YouTube Audio Library has lots of pieces of music broken down by genre and mood that can be used to find a starting point. Other stock music sites can help too. You can find a list of these sites at www.jdsutter.me/podcastmusic

All of the composers I've worked with have been able to come up with a great tune that fit the needs of the show. Now it may not happen on the first try. I've had to ask for them to take another stab at it on occasion, but a good composer will give you a rough "draft" of the piece for approval before they fully flesh out the instrumentation. Also keep in mind that the composer knows music (if you're using a pro, of course) so be open to how they may interpret your commission. Even if on first listen it may not match with what you heard in your head. They may just have come up with something that you might not have ever thought of.

Where to Find Composers
So where can you find a good composer? Well first, I’d start with any personal connections or references you might have. Or find a composer on SoundCloud whose work you like and reach out to them. You can also try Fiverr or such places, but I don't really recommend those platforms for this type of gig. You just never know what you’re going to get that way.

Here are a few of the composers that I've either worked with personally or have clients or colleagues who've used them.

Solomon Kim - http://solomonkim.me/
Gabe Miller - http://gabemillermusic.com/
Conner Savoca - https://connersavocacomposer.com/
Garrett Vandenberg - https://www.garrettvandenberg.com/
Sam Avendano - contact me

Also, keep in mind that if you have a musician friend you could always just see if they would be up for putting something together for you. One podcaster I know had a friend who played guitar come over to his studio and he just recorded him doing little riffs and strumming around for a few minutes then he took those and cut them into an intro and segment stingers and it sounds great. Now that may not be the best solution for every show, but it's an option to consider.

Cost
Regarding the cost, there's quite a range. It can depend on the complexity of the composition, the length of it, etc. It is a bit of an investment, but one that I think is worth it to have your show stand out and have its own unique sound. I am not opposed to using stock themes or loops for a show, but most times I believe a custom theme is the better option.

Couple Final Notes
Now I realize that some of the above questions are difficult to answer if one has yet to record an episode of their show so I often recommend to clients to record a few test pieces of audio to get a feel for the show's dynamics before commissioning a theme. These recordings may or may not actually be used in a publically released episode, but it will give an idea of what the show could sound like. At the very least, record a few runs at delivering the show opening that will be used with the theme to see how they would sound when mixed together.

Hopefully this has been helpful. I’d be happy to answer any other questions you might have regarding this topic.

Send your feedback to show@jdsutter.me.

J.D. Sutter

Founder of Porchlight Family Media

Podcaster, new media consultant, Android fan, audio drama reviewer and foodie.