If you’re new to the world of making music, licensing could be a bit confusing for you. However, not only is it important at the music creator level, it is also pivotal to how the entire industry is run.
In recent times, the issue of who has the rights to use music and for what purposes has been a major talking point for many people, including music creators, artists, and the consuming public. Access to music has been reduced to having an internet connection and a mobile device nowadays, which makes music licensing more important than ever before.
If you’re thinking about getting your first song published, there are a few things you need to know about music licensing to ensure you put yourself in the best position to earn from what you’ve created. First, let’s look at what music licensing is at its core.
What is Licensing?
A song, like any other product that is created for resale, belongs to the songwriter and other people who contributed to its creation. As a result, for the song to be played, whether in a public space or in a movie scene, a license must be bought from the owner. The same goes for public performances in situations where the performer is doing it to gain compensation. This license allows an individual or group to use the recording, but only for the purpose described in the license. So, getting a music license is simply buying the rights to use a music composition from the copyright owner(s).
How Music Licenses Work
To begin with, musical works are protected by copyright law, which aim to prevent unauthorized use, duplication and exploitation. It should be noted that in today’s music industry, the rights to a song is often held by more than one person and/or companies. Additionally, the rights to the recording of a song are often different from the copyright protecting the words written by the songwriter.
Either way, protection of these works under copyright law is available through Performing Rights Companies (PROs). Once your song is registered with one of these bodies, anyone who wants to use it has to buy a license from them on your behalf. Depending on the arrangement with the PRO, as well as with other people who helped to create the song (composers, lyricists, etc.), royalty should be paid to the holder of the rights whenever a license is sold.
Companies That Sell Music Licenses
There are several PROs that offer copyright protection for musical works and sell licenses to people and companies that want to use them. The two most well-known and largest of them all are the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI). Together, these bodies help to protect the works of hundreds of thousands of music creators worldwide and sell licenses on their behalf.
What is the Relevance of a Music License?
In the past, it was Napster and numerous other illegal music download gateways; nowadays, it’s legal streaming services, including YouTube, Spotify and others. These portals make it possible for almost anyone to gain access to music which is supposed to be copyright protected. A music license is relevant in that it ensures the owner of the rights for any musical work gets the requisite compensation whenever it is used or played.
Types of Music Licenses
It is important to note that not all music licenses are the same. There are music licenses that cater to live public performances (such as at a club or concert) by bands or individual performers; licenses for playing recorded music publicly, such as background music in an airplane, restaurant, or supermarket; licenses for allowing cover versions to be created or samplings from a part of a song; and licenses that allow for musical works to be used in TV productions, films, and advertisements.
Protecting Your Music
Whether you’re the sole owner of a song or you have worked with a team or record company to create it, you can attempt to protect what you own by signing up with a PRO. This helps to make the whole process of music licensing easier.
In concluding, music licensing is not a foolproof system. In fact, there have been recent calls for an overhauling of the music licensing system and there have even been protests from numerous songwriters and music creators, calling for reform. It is widely felt that licenses offered to streaming services in particular, such as YouTube, do not allow for adequate compensation for the use of musical works as well.
As the arguments continue, music licensing is set to see changes in the not too distant future. In the meantime, you can get more information on music licensing by visiting the BMI website or the ASCAP website, as well as reading articles posted on websites such as Plagiarism Today, Music Biz Academy and Music Business Association.