Licensing Music Legally, and At a Price You'll Love!

For when you want to cover someone else's songs

By: Deeann D. Mathews 21 Dec | 2016


So, you are a prolific songwriter – but what do you do when you are performing somebody else's song, and people want you to cover it? They don't care whether it's on CD, digital download, or interactive streaming – they want YOU, singing that song!

The challenge: you're not sure how to get the licenses you need to release your music legally.

Have no fear: you're reading the right article. Before you finish, you will know how to release your music in the United States as a CD, a digital download, or in interactive streaming format, for between zero money upfront and $25.

Yes, read it again. You can legally release a cover song your fans love to hear you sing for no more than $25, and sometimes, much, much less.

If you want to release an audio recording of you covering that song your fans love, you'll need what is called a mechanical license. Here are the steps to getting that license:

  1. Find out who wrote the song, and who published it

  2. Either go to the publishing company directly, OR...

  3. Go to Songfile or Loudr  —and yes, the hashtag is important. These are the services many publishers use to handle their licensing requests

  4. Fill out the licensing form – who wrote it, who published it, what way you want to release it, and when

At this point, one of two things will happen. The first thing is that your total cost will be worked out – generally, the licensing fee will be $15, and then you can license a song for digital downloads or physical release for 9.1 cents per copy of the song. That is, you can release 100 copies for $9.10 – add that to $15, and you get $24.10. That's how you license and release that song your fans love for under $25. You can extend or add on to your license if you need to. If you want to release your song in interactive streaming format, the rates are as low as one cent per copy! And, if you use Loudr's distribution, they will allow you to pay licensing fees from your sales as you go, bringing your upfront cost to ZERO.

The second thing that can happen is that the song you want to use is old enough so that it is in the public domain – that is, it is no longer being licensed and is available for FREE, now and forever. 

But what if you want to release your song as a music video? That requires a synchronization license, which allows you to “synch” the music you want to cover with moving images (such as on videos, TV, movies, and commercials). Again, you can write to publishing companies directly, and, depending on how you describe your project, you can generally get away under $100. Also check out Rumblefish and see if the song you want to use is available there.

Deeann D. Mathews is a #composer, songwriter, and music teacher living in San Francisco, and also the author of The Freedom Guide for Music Creatorsclick the link and get her book on Amazon!



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