12 of the best podcasts for music lovers

Podcast app on smartphone with headphones
(Image credit: Future)

How did this become a culture with such a voracious appetite for podcasts? Fifteen years ago nobody had even heard the word, and for a while after that, it appeared the concept would never take off. Nowadays, everyone and their mum (and every celebrity) seem to have a podcast. And the topics are as wide-ranging as you can think of; you can learn in weekly instalments about anything from insects to dentistry to music.

Almost everybody you meet has a recommendation for you, but it can be a rough tide to navigate since podcasts have become so ubiquitous – not to mention of such wildly varying value – and that’s no more the case with any other subject than music.

We’ve put together our pick of best music podcasts here, including some choice mixes, artist interviews and plenty of delving into theory, history and music culture. You can download many of these episodes, stream over websites, listen on dedicated podcast apps, or even through music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. So go forth and learn, discover and, most of all, enjoy.

Song Exploder

Song Exploder podcast

(Image credit: Song Exploder)

This has become one of the most listened-to and celebrated music podcasts going, even sparking a spin-off Netflix series! The premise is simple: an artist speaks about one of their songs, breaking it apart – exploding it, if you will – to explain how the track came to fruition. Song Exploder’s ever-growing popularity has meant it has welcomed R.E.M., Lindsey Buckingham and Kae Tempest during its 254 episodes thus far.

Resident Advisor

Resident Advisor

(Image credit: Resident Advisor)

If you’re on the hunt for an electronic mix, look no further than the RA Podcast. Its number counts 889 episodes and rising since Troy Pierce first took the reins in 2006, having hosted a variety of legends, heavyweights and emerging DJs along the way. The RA Exchange, meanwhile, is a series of 666 (so far) interviews with artists, labels and promoters discussing the electronic music landscape.

Switched On Pop

Switched On Pop

(Image credit: Switched On Pop)

Should you care about Ed Sheeran, Miley Cyrus, BTS and Justin Bieber? Can algorithms write pop songs? Why does every intro sound like it’s underwater? Did you know John Denver is huge in Asia? Although one can barely move for think pieces on classic records by critics’ darlings, the world of mainstream pop music has been somewhat neglected. To remedy that, musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding are here with Switched On Pop, a podcast where they explore the craft of creating some of the world’s biggest pop songs – and refreshingly, they do so with genuine love and admiration of their subject matter.

Monday Morning Mixtape

Monday Morning Mixtape

(Image credit: Stamp The Wax)

Okay, so this might not be a podcast in the truest sense, but Stamp The Wax’s Monday Morning Mixtape is a blissful weekly mix of laid-back sounds from around the world, easing you gently out of the weekend and back into work. It’s hosted on Mixcloud, which means you can download it from there using various apps as well as streaming from their website. 

There's a caption under each of the 396 mixtapes (to date) to give an indication of what you can expect in this week's offering, so even if you don't fancy "1968 spiritual and 1976 Romanian modal jazz to New York cool and 2002 free funk", for example, there are hundreds of others to choose from that will suit your mood and tastes. (395's "Alternative pop and deep Detroit groove to piano ballads and b-side soul" sure sounds good, no?)

BBC World Music Service

BBC World Music Service

(Image credit: BBC)

This next trio proves the BBC’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to music-related podcasts. Its World Music Service podcast is a predictably globetrotting selection of documentaries focusing on various artists and movements, with its sporadic episodes covering such varied subjects as Indian classical music, synth pioneer Yevgeny Murzin and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

You can download each episode as well as subscribe on BBC Sounds (all free, of course).

Composer of the Week

Composer of the Week

(Image credit: BBC)

A more regular podcast this time, Radio 3’s Composer of the Week does precisely what it says in the title: each Friday Donald Macleod takes a composer – some well known, others not so much – and views their life through their music. Expect to learn about Dora Pejacevic, Witold Lutoslawski and Errollyn Wallen just as much as Beethoven, Puccini and Bach.

Sound of Cinema

Sound of Cinema podcast

(Image credit: BBC)

The last of our BBC trio is Matthew Sweet’s weekly exploration of the world of film music. Rather than picking specific scores on which to focus, Sound of Cinema series generally delves into cultural movements, movie genres and sonic themes, often finding ties that, until being explained, you may not have heard.

Beats In Space

Beats In Space podcast

(Image credit: Beats In Space)

The creation of New York DJ Tim Sweeney, Beats In Space is a weekly radio show (as well as a record label) dating back to 1999 and is now broadcast on Apple Music every week. Already way past its thousandth edition, like the RA Podcast, this is a go-to for discovering new electronic music and the DJs responsible for pushing the envelope.

Reasonably Sound

Reasonably Sound

(Image credit: Reasonably Sound)

For those looking to get granular, the ever-fascinating Reasonably Sound isn’t focused only on music, but also with how certain sounds happen or are created and why we interpret them the way we do. There are episodes about the voice quality of Siri and Alexa digital assistants, the ecological effect of our shifting tastes when it comes to music (vinyl vs digital), and the secret of the "ice cream truck jingle". You won’t need a doctorate yourself to follow, thanks to some sympathetic explanation, but it can get quite science-heavy in parts so is perhaps not for the most casual of listeners.

Tiny Desk Concerts

NPR: Tiny Desk Concerts

(Image credit: NPR)

NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast, a weekly voyage of music discovery, could easily have made this list, but the Tiny Desk Concerts has become so iconic it would be remiss to leave it from this list. The concept again is simple: NPR gets some of the world’s most interesting and exciting artists, crams them into a small space and has them perform stripped-back versions of their work. And each episode is only around 15 minutes. You’ve likely seen a few on YouTube (Lizzo's is one of the most joyful), but their availability as audio-only makes them ideal for the commute.

The Horne Section Podcast

The Horne Section Podcast

(Image credit: The Horne Section)

Thank you to the reader who suggested this for inclusion – it's risky but we're here for it. If you're unacquainted with 'Little' Alex Horne, Greg Davies' sidekick-slash-slave on the brilliantly funny TV celebrity game show Taskmaster (and in fact even if you are), get ready to giggle as he showcases songs and compositions written and performed live by his rather talented band, The Horne Section, while they engage in a lot of "nonsense talking".

Will you get the latest instalment from Jesus and Jorge, the horses from Lagos? Will you finally learn whether Alex actually saw a UFO – because that is what he thinks he saw? And with whom will Alex hold a musical discussion this week? (Hint: it's usually a celebrity guest from a certain TV game show...)

Made by Music

Made by Music Cambridge Audio podcast

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

We told you everyone was doing a podcast now; even hi-fi brands are getting in on the action. London-based Cambridge Audio used this year's High End Munich show to launch an unusual product: a podcast series where music journalist Sean Hannam interviews legendary artists and producers about "the moments in music that shaped their lives and careers."

Hosted on Spotify, Made in Music is currently seven episodes in and has featured Boy George, Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), U.N.K.L.E.'s James Lavelle, producer Stephen Street and more talking about their musical history, the records that influenced them, and specific artists/bands and songs that were milestones in their career.


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