Jason Barker is Currently...
Posted on Monday, January 07, 2008 at 11:35 AM by Jason Barker
As I continue this miniseries on equipment choices I've made in creating GET WISDOM (I previously covered - starting with the first article - choosing a microphone, an interface, a channel strip, and recording software), I'd like to briefly address the importance of using podsafe music in your program.
As with the earlier articles, I need to emphasize that this discussion is purely my personal experience and opinions, and does not imply any formal recommendation from the Department of Youth Ministry or the Orthodox Christian Network.
You have undoubtedly noticed that all radio programs - and most podcasts - use music in their program: at the very least, they play a musical theme at the introduction of the program, and most will also play music at the end of the program. This theme music provides two very important functions: on radio it creates a distinct separation between the program and the content that precedes and follows the program, and for both radio programs and podcasts it creates a signature sound that creates a stronger link between the program and listeners. There are other functions of music in a program, of course, but music performs these two functions in almost all audio programming.
I use music in a minimum of four places in GET WISDOM: I play "Going Coastal" by Brian Beshears for the intro and outro to the program, "Garden of Eden" by Matthew Corbett and Mike Wilkie underneath Jani's life application segment, and "Glide Short" (an uncredited jingle that comes with GarageBand) under my segment break just before "Garden of Eden" begins playing. I've also played music under additional life application segments by Jani, as well as extended liturgical or patristic readings I've done during the program.
You will notice that all of these songs are modern. While Orthodox hymns are a seemingly obvious choice for intro and outro music for an Orthodox program, the Orthodox Word podcast is the only one I've heard that uses liturgical music for its theme. There is a very significant reason that you might find applicable for using a recording from a supplier of music for radio and podcasts instead of liturgical music: the issue of licensing.
If you have access to both a talented choir and professional audio recording equipment (as well as a suitable environment for recording), your decision regarding whether to use liturgical music will be dictated only by the sound you decide to create for your program, as well as your target audience and distribution circumstances. If you are like me, however, you will lack at least one of those two necessary criteria for a quality recording of liturgical music. This will mean that, in order to have a clear, professional sound in your program, you will need to use professionally recorded music.
When using professionally recorded music, you cannot simply rip a track from a compact disc or download a track from iTunes and use that in your program, because you will be violating the license that restricts your use of that song exclusively to personal listening without any form of redistribution. Therefore, for example, if you used a track from Chants from Balamand in your program without having received permission from Conciliar Press, you would be violating the license applied to the recording restricting you from doing anything more than playing the recording for your personal benefit and enjoyment.
The key is to either write and record your own music or, if you are as lacking in musical ability as me, to purchase podsafe music. A podsafe license allows you to play the purchased tracks in a podcast (and, in some cases, in a program played on Internet radio - if your program will be streamed on an online Orthodox radio station like The ARK, you will want to check the license before purchase to ensure that the license allows this additional use).
A simple search for podsafe music will bring up a number of businesses which specialize in selling music for use in podcasts. If you are certain that you will only use a very limited number of music tracks in your program, purchasing individual tracks from one of these sources may be best, because you will both limit your expense and be able to purchase precisely the songs you want to use in your program. If you expect to use more than a few songs in your program, however, the expense of purchasing individual tracks may quickly become prohibitive. I found myself in this situation: I knew that I would play at least two songs in each episode of GET WISDOM, but I also knew that I would somewhat regularly use additional tracks underneath unique segments in individual episodes.
I therefore chose to purchase a CD with a variety of podsafe musical tracks. I chose a CD which incorporated the largest number and widest variety of music - as well as several hundred production elements - for a relatively low price; this allows me to select additional tracks and elements to highlight or underscore special segments in the program without incurring additional expense. Both "Going Coastal" and "Garden of Eden" come from this collection, as well as other tracks I've played in GET WISDOM.
I should note that the podsafe CD I chose offers only tracks that are encoded as MP3s, meaning that each audio file is highly compressed. Ideally, the sources for your music should be in uncompressed WAV or AIFF formats, because including an MP3 into a program that will itself be compressed as an MP3 means that the original music MP3 will be compressed twice, thereby reducing the quality of its audio. Because a CD of WAV or AIFF files is significantly more expensive than this CD of MP3 files, I decided to put up with the somewhat reduced quality of the music in GET WISDOM in order to save money (and because, since music is a relatively minor part of the program, it would not be particularly noticeable).
There are music tracks distributed with a Creative Commons license that can be used for free in a podcast. However, because using these tracks will require including notices regarding the source of the music, and will also require agreeing to a number of stipulations regarding the licensing and distribution of your program (for example, a program incorporating content licensed through Creative Commons may not be eligible for streaming on an Internet radio station), I strongly recommend purchasing the music used on your program; you can purchase a podsafe music track in MP3 format from a number of companies for around $30 dollars.
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