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Music Licensing for Digital Downloads

When to get permission

If you distribute digital downloads (such as MP3s on iTunes), make sure to get permission for any songs you did not write, recordings made by other people (such as samples, karaoke tracks, or backing tracks), and reprinted lyrics or music notes (if any). Licenses should be secured before you distribute your downloads. Reputable distributors will require proof of licensing before they distribute your music. You do not need to license songs that you wrote yourself or songs that you know are in the public domain.

    How to get permission

    It is important to note that underlying what most people think of as a “song” is actually two components: the composition (music notes and lyrics that make up a song, created by the composers) and the original recorded audio (recording of musicians playing the song, created by the artists). Often the composers and artists are the same people, but not always. These song components can be owned separately by different entities. For this reason, there are two types of licenses to protect the two types of creations: 1) a mechanical license (audio-only) or synchronization license (video) for the composer to protect the composition, and 2) a master license for the recording artist to protect the original recording. It’s important to understand both components, and both types of licenses when obtaining permission for a “song”:

    1) Composition
    (mechanical or synchronization rights)

    The composition is the music notes and lyrics that define a song. The rights to the composition are usually owned by the composer or their publisher. Permission is obtained through a mechanical license (audio-only) or synchronization license (video).

    2) Recording
    (master rights)

    The recording is a recorded performance of the composition (song). The rights to the recording are usually owned by the artist or their record label. Permission is obtained through a master license.

    If you own the rights to the recording, such as if you recorded a cover song, Easy Song Licensing can help you get 100% of the permission you need for the composition (mechanical rights) quickly and easily in 1-2 business days through our Cover Song Licensing service. Master licenses and print licenses are custom-negotiated upfront with the copyright holder, and are a bit more complex. For these types of licenses, check out our Custom Licensing services or contact us.

    How the royalties are paid

    For digital downloads, royalties are paid upfront to the copyright holder based on the number of anticipated downloads. We suggest licensing what you think you will distribute in one year. It’s up to you to monitor your actual downloads and make sure you do not exceed what you have licensed. You can do this by watching the sales reports that your distribution service provides (CD Baby, Tunecore, Symphonic). When you hire us, we collect the royalties from you, and then send 100% of them on to the copyright holder. If you need to reorder, you can get a new license for additional units. Our fees are half-price on reorders to make it easier to choose a lower initial quantity if you wish.

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    Relevant music licenses you might need

    Mechanical License

    Read More

    Print License

    Read More

    Synchronization License

    Read More

    Public Performance License

    Read More

    Master License

    Read More

    Theatrical License

    Read More

    About CopyrightNotary.com

    Copyright Notary helps indie artists, corporations, churches, schools, community groups, and individuals get permission to use copyrighted music for all types of uses. Its Cover Song Licensing service makes it easy to get 100% of the permission required to release a new version of any song in 1-2 business days. Through its Custom Licensing services, Copyright Notary offers music rights clearances for any use, with dedicated, personal assistance from an experienced specialist. Committed to accuracy and transparency, Copyright Notary adds value to the music industry through innovation, education, and efficient rights administration.

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