Is This Thing on Podcast

Should I charge the artist?

Thinking on from my “Would you pay” post I thought this might be an interesting topic for discussion.

Should artists pay me for playing their music on my podcast?

Let me put forward my case.

I currently have well over 1200 subscribers to the podcast. That’s over 1200 music fans, not many artists as the feedback I get is that not many of them listen to music podcasts. These are subscribers I have actively sought out using Twitter, blogs and other social media sites. It’s taken a lot of time and effort to build up these numbers and it’s a constant job.

I always mention the artists I play and link to their websites and relevant sites where people can buy their music AND email the artists to alert them that they have been played and to check the links are accurate.

I maintain a Google Artists Group for artists that have submitted music and post regular bulletins.

I enjoy regular contact with artists giving them advice on various aspects of promotion and selling their music.

I co-host on other podcasts and play tracks that have been sent to me.

I produce a lite, shorter version of he podcast for inclusion in other podcasts and radio shows.

Artists have sold tracks/albums, been played on other podcasts as a direct result of being played on Is This Thing On? Podcast.

Not forgetting the actual podcast production itself!

So, should I charge and if not, why not?

33 replies on “Should I charge the artist?”

The problem with charging all bands for airtime is that it could very well put-off very good artists who are financially stretched already. For those who are more established and willing to pay a fee, perhaps a “sponsored artists of the week” spot would be appropriate? Maybe their music could get the prime spot of intro track or 1st played track on the show… that may make it more attractive to a paying artist.

As both an accountant and a music lover, my immediate concern would be that if you were to charge bands / musicians to play their songs (other than possibly based on actual results – for you to take a % of any sales that it could be demonstrated that you had generated for them would be a different thing entirely imho) this would immediately and unavoidably lead to a playlist that was based on those who could afford to pay rather than any artistic merit; and could potentially, ultimately lead to a playlist that was based on those who could afford to pay the most,/i> – at which point you’d have ceased to be part of the alternative and just become another part of the mainstream, with playlists that have been created by accountants rather than music lovers…..

Most artists could afford £2 couldn’t they?

I wouldn’t compromise on quality and wouldn’t play a track I didn’t think was any good. People would stop listening and therefore the service to the artists would be diminished. They would stop paying.

I’m sure they could Nick – but once the precedent had been set, how long would it be before everyone who produced a podcast started charging, and it became an issue of which artists could afford to pay the largest number of £2’s…. and £5’s…. and £10’s…?

I’m not intending to question your personal integrity at all Nick, but the sad fact is that far more people currently listen to mainstream radio broadcasts with their payola-based playlists than listen to podcasts and my concern is that once money starts to play a role in the podcast world it will rapidly end up heading in the same direction.

I’d like to know:

What sort of feedback do you get from listeners – eg. how many comments/emails from listeners saying how much they enjoy the show. I’m wondering how engaged the audience is.

On average how many artists get further mentions/traffic to their sites? How many sell tracks as a result of your playing them? How many recieve play elsewhere?

Basically, is it possible to quantify the benefits to the artist? I’m in no doubt that all these things happen of course, I’m just wondering if we can put a figure to it.

I don’t get emails from listeners but I do get many tweets and comments on Facebook.

It’s impossible to quantify your second question. I find out by doing google searches on the podcast and from feedback from artists and podcasters.

Many podcasters don’t even inform the artists when they have been played, let alone tell other podcasters that they heard the track on their show.

IMHO I would be put off with the idea for now. Most musicians would be put off but I would no doubt if they mentioned that they were on your show and their fans/followers went on to your show, you would get paid that way if you charge subscribers.
For example, If U2 sent you a new song and mentioned that it would be paid on your show before they went for general release, you would have a big audience paying just for your subscription.

I can tell by looking at the bandcamp statistics that we had a spike in downloads after We Sell Seashells appeared on your podcast (thank you) – it’s hard being sure about cause and effect but it seems likely it were the trigger.

Charging artists sounds less off to me than charging listeners – we are after all getting publicity, and if we know there’s a receptive audience out there then that’s surely worth a nominal fee.

It would require tact on your part if someone sent you a track that you didn’t like and paid for it to be played … but I’m sure you’re up to that 🙂


Of course the big difference between your podcast and commercial/bbc radio is that you recieve no income, whereas they make money from advertising or the (In my opinion incredibly cheap – less than a daily copy of the Sun ‘Newspaper’) license fee.

I wouldn’t pay to be played on those radio stations (not that it was going to happen anyway) and wouldn’t feel guilty about it because by providing good music to interest their listeners they justify their income from other sources.

A podcast is a different proposition – you find this wonderful music to entertain your listeners with no income but goodwill.

It is more than reasonable to expect an income, but I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. I’m not sure you will until you do a few experiments and try out some of the options.

In short.

You should not charge us artist.

I would NOT pay to get played on the radio … I would not pay not get played on a podcast. You know I love your podcast and I respect and admire what you are doing.
Therefore I participate in spreading the message as much as I can when me or my band(s) gets featured, and even (most often) if we’re not.

As a listener I have to trust that the music that get’s picked is hand picked by YOU because YOU think it’s worth it. It’s personal. I trust you. If I know bands have to pay… well… then that changes the game. Then it’s about the money rather than playing good music… (you know what I mean.. I hope).

I know about online radio stations (podcasts?) here in Iceland that have to pay to a STEF which is a part of the “Nordisk Copyright Bureau” –

If you get played on these channels then you get paid (if you wrote the song).
I’m guessing you’re not paying to such a service and or sending them your playlists so the can pay the songwriters (and performers? (depending))?

You mention all the work you do. …. But as an musician you sure must know about all the work that goes into songwriting, making demos, rehearsing, pre-production, then the actual recording and the production. I’m not mentioning countless hours spent practicing on the instrument(s), and/or studying it at school… etc etc…
The all the money (and work hours therefore) spend on gear and what not … to get you “there”.


I wish you all the best with your podcast and it would be fantastic if you could get some income from it. How about selling ads… ads on the blog and in the podcast?
Or even a TIP button (pay pal) on the blog

I’ll think I’ll stop now… 🙂
Love and respect!

I think Podcasts are just still so new. Do you deserve a revenue stream for your hard work? Yes. I agree with other comments that the intent behind you selecting music for your audience is diminished if it’s all pay to play. Would I pay? Yes. But would you be happy playing my entire back catalog a track a week, and would your fans continue to subscribe? There are three parts of the equation. One of them wants to be paid and the other two don’t want to be the source of the income. But ultimately, no artists and no listeners equals no point to the podcast. I think good old advertising and sponsorship is the way to go. So perhaps an artist would want to sponsor podcasts for a say a month. 10 pounds? A play every week of the month and a jingle? But then you lose exclusivity if there is more than one sponsor. So you’re capped at 10 pounds (or whatever you decide). It would be interesting to see if downloads and traffic spike via repetition.

If you charge artists you are limiting your “unadulterated” search for music to kids with cash and as success rises the price will also and eventually you will need to charge a pretty penny for a slot on your show. This does a disservice to your listeners. Likewise, charging your listeners does a disservice to your musicians. If you want to earn money from this podcasting bit, you should run commercials and charge ad space. Television and Radio have been doing this for quite a long time and it appears to be successful for the most part.

Another option for you to add a little flow to your cash is to sell your lite version to other casters. Trouble with that, though, is you have to be wildly successful for anyone to advertise your show in order to increase their own listenership.

A lot of people come together to accomplish greater things, however, and it could be that your talent is stretched as far as it can go. I suggest working with someone(s) with an equal amount of passion for the subject to accomplish your dream. This does two things: first, it adds talents you don’t possess to your show, increasing the overall value to both listeners and musicians, as well as to your cashflow as listenership increases and advertising space becomes a coveted commodity; and second it allows you to share the burden of all the behind the scenes work with a team.

The problem with the above mentioned option is that most people do not have enough self-confidence to work well with others. It becomes a constant battle of what is right for the show and what the people want and who is right…blah blah blah. So finding the right person(s) as well as being the right person is important. You have one advantage, and that is that this is your baby , so you get the final vote as to what happens how and when and where… Etc.

One last option is to ask for donations from both listeners and musicians alike. Most musicians will be happy to give a donation in return for having their music played, especially in the sort of venue you seek to share. But, even this will ultimately limit listeners and musicians to your show because some people will feel obligated to donate but be unable to justify the “expense” even if it is just a few bucks.

Bottom line is there is little money in doing what you love to do, and that, in my opinion is what makes it so great. When you do it because your heart won’t let you not do it, it goes further. Having the means to do it, however, is quite the challenge. Charge advertisers. There’s my dollar and fit-two cents.

Not sure how many of you read this
There were a few artists suggesting that if I got payed then so should they. I wanted to flip things and see how artists would feel.

In truth I would never NEVER charge artists for playing their tunes.
I would say that podcasts are NOT that new, I know people that have been making them for over seven years.
Times are changing and many things that were once free will have to start to charge to survive. Bandcamp is now charging a fee, Revebnation now has special paid for enhancements and that just off the top of my head. I spend time and energy making my podcast, time and energy that could be spent promoting MY music (Mrs Nick’s main gripe…) that is music that I sell. I plan on adding more features to the podcast and that takes time and energy.

I’m not a fan of adverts and I don’t like them in other podcasts. What if the advertisers started to dictate what kind of music I played or didn’t like some of the things I talked about or objected to me getting drunk?!?!?!?!

Doesn’t bear thinking about!

On that it was very niche and they supplied email addresses.

I wouldn’t bother with it again but was worth a go for a £1o 🙂

I haven’t done any research per say. I listen to a lot that have adverts, which I don’t like to hear as things like van hire in San Francisco is irrelevant to me so pretty pointless. I do pay a subscription to another.
There are ones that one can donate to but I’m not that keen as the donations could be sporadic..

First, I compliment those who responded before me. I don’t read a lot of of public commentary on the Web, but when I do it’s generally a disappointment. Your listenership were kind and put forth thoughtful responses. I think it’s very sad that artists are beset on all sides. In radio it was called “payola” and it was both illegal and immoral. The previous responses covered the reasons it is inadvisable. “Sigi” covered some of the other expenses that artists must lay out. I would point out that these investments are no longer as good as the lottery tickets that they were in the best of times. That is to say that if every venue that was formerly a potential revenue stream for artists is now taking money from them, there is no incentive for them to pay for exposure. With all due respect to the one respondent who detected an “uptick” in sales, I think even two pounds is unsupportable. Keep in mind that in the U.S., thanks to our friends in SAG/AFTRA, artists are now paid for internet plays at the rate of ONE-BILLIONTH OF ONE HUNDREDTH OF ONE U.S. DOLLAR PER PLAY. So, if you were to play one of my tunes 50 out of 52 weeks per year, with 1200 listeners each listening once, it would take 160 years for me to earn one U.S. penny, assuming you pay at all for the use of my music. Meanwhile, I’ve invested X amount to get my music to the point that you would consider it. And of course, you wouldn’t play our tunes 50 out of 52 podcasts. When I go to a club (I live in Los Angeles), I am likely to be asked to pay to play (I did once). If I play, I must pay my band members. Yet the always unlikely goal of getting a viable record deal is more remote than ever. Getting paid for CD sales and/or downloads is also sketchy. So, we all see the problem. What is Nick’s solution?

I believe that as distasteful as advertising is, it can’t be more distasteful than advertising yourself to the people who make the music that is your raison d’etre. If you don’t want to advertise products that have little or nothing to do with your podcast, then be more selective about your advertisers. Those could of course include labels and artists. Public radio and TV in the U.S. must advertise themselves to obtain listener/viewer subscriptions and donations. That has proven to be a workable model. They also get some corporate sponsorship, but a. their programming is more expensive to produce/obtain; b. the listenership is the far greater source of support.

In short, I’d like to see the podcast be an example of something in favour of quality and ecouraging to the artists, rather than yet another way to milk those who aspire to to have their music heard outside of their front parlour.

Thanks for your comments Glen.

The problem I have with advertising is that the advertisers might try and influence the content.

Lets see what happens. I won’t be charging the artists and never will.

Just for the record. The advertisers that I allow on my podcast (and it is that way around – I allow them!) have no influence on the content. Never have. Never will.

I mean, honestly….. listen to my podcast. I play really leftfield stuff, but that’s my show. If they asked for influence I’d drop them, as an advertiser.

“There were a few artists suggesting that if I got payed then so should they. I wanted to flip things and see how artists would feel. ”

So, Nick, don’t you fear that if you charge the artists (because you have so many listeners), then the listeners will demand a share? 😉

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