Media Morph: Podsafe music

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How it began: As podcasting flourishes, podcast jockeys find themselves in a bind. They can say anything: from the merely racy to the all-out obscene. But when it comes to music, strict rules apply. All Recording Industry Association of America music-most of what is broadcast on traditional media-is off-limits without permissions and fees. Podsafe music encompasses all free, downloadable, non-RIAA audio and music that are legal to use on podcasts.

Who's doing it: Hundreds of Web sites, blogs and podcasts offer free music. Some of the better known aggregates: Podcast NYC's Podsafe Music and Adam Curry's PodSafe Music Network, as well as Staccato, The Revolution and The Great American Music Hour. While podsafe music is free to use on podcasts, it is still protected. Nonprofit content-sharing venture Creative Commons provides much of the licensing that protect musicians' work by requiring attribution and forbidding use in commercial works.

Anthem: "On a Podcast" is the name of a song by Cruisebox (find it at and on the band's next CD, titled "Tell the FCC to Stick it"). With both an explicit and a squeaky-clean version downloaded more than 1 million times already, the pop song with lyrics that praise the power of podcasting seems destined for cult, if not actual crossover, fame.

Who's using it: Musical artists just getting started; smaller labels and indie producers looking for undiscovered talent; podcasters; and the musically curious. It's only a matter of time before radio stations, marketers, ad agencies, and others start trolling the sites for cutting-edge, undiscovered talent.

What's the future: While podcasters would like to use RIAA tunes, don't count on the RIAA opening up. That will either force podsafe music to remain indie, or in the extreme, become so popular that bands flock to join, forcing the RIAA to reconsider its rigid digital-music-rights stance.

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