Guide To Licencing Your Music
If you plan to record a cover song for your release then you’re going to need to make some choices. Any composition not written by you requires a mechanical license before you can record and release it as an album track, single, or download.
1. What is a mechanical license?
Copyright Law requires artists and labels to obtain a mechanical license before distributing a recording containing any song or composition you didn’t write. Any time you reproduce and distribute a recording of a composition you do not control — through both physical and digital means — you need a mechanical license. Mechanical licenses are issued by the owner or controller of the composition. Typically, these are publishers acting on behalf of
songwriters or composers.
2. How does this work for physical CDs?
The publishing royalty is a statutory rate set by law at 9.1p per unit for all recordings up to five minutes, and 1.75p per minute if a track is over five minutes in length. For each physical CD manufactured that includes the cover song material, the royalties owed correspond to the statutory rate of 9.1¢ per pressing, per song. For instance, if you were to manufacture 1,000 CDs of an album containing two cover songs, the royalties owed would be £182
(1,000 CDs x 2 songs x 9.1p per song). Easy Song Licensing is a one-stop online tool that allows you to clear cover songs quickly and easily.
3. How does this work for digital?
The same statutory rate applies to digital downloads. For digital downloads, the royalties are calculated on the actual amount of downloads. For instance, if your album includes one cover song and is downloaded 500 times, the royalties owed are $45.50 (500 album downloads x 1 song x 9.1¢ per song). Additionally, if your cover songs are available as singles, the same rate applies to all downloaded single tracks of the song.
4. What is public domain?
Songs that are in the public domain do not require a license for you to record and distribute them. The public domain generally includes works that are ineligible for copyright protection or whose copyrights have expired, including songs or musical works first published in 1922 or earlier. PD Info Online is a good starting point to determine if a song falls into the public domain. One thing to keep in mind, even if a song is in the public domain, specific arrangements of songs can be copyrighted.