The Song Exploder podcast is a must-listen for music nerds: each episode strips down a song to its bare components and the artists explain how they were made. Unusually, the podcasts are filled with licensed music, often stems of tracks like isolated vocals, or moments of magic usually hidden in the mix.
In a now-deleted series of tweets, founder Hrishikesh Hirway explained that the music licensing fees needed mean that he can no longer keep all the episodes online. “I’ve always hoped they’d all be available forever, but the reality of music licensing makes that impossible. As the podcast approaches 200 episodes, it’s just too expensive to keep all of them afloat.”
This is despite, he says, publishers and labels offering him reasonable licensing deals. If this really is the case (his tweets on the subject were soon removed, so maybe change is afoot), it’s a sad moment if a system designed to reward musical creators disrupts a well-loved podcast celebrating artists’ work.
It also poses questions over how podcasters make money: creating innovative podcasts should not be prohibitively expensive. It could also spark conversation about the future of licensing: if fans use Song Exploder to geek out over their favourite music, surely licensing systems should encourage any enhanced fan-artist connectivity, and find a way to keep good projects like this alive.
Whilst licensing is bringing in enormous incomes from DSPs, it’s perhaps important not to forget about the smaller projects that help bake-in both fandom and a wider appreciation of music, for the sake of the music industry’s long-term success.
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