Music Licensing

The Why and How of Music Licensing

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Your first big check as an indie musician likely won’t come from a platinum debut album. If it does, congratulations! However, you can still experience the satisfying results of getting paid for your music if you license your music properly.

Many artists shy away from the music licensing issue; it may seem a bit complex, and honestly, you’d rather work on your next great hit than rustle through paperwork. Still, it’s worth learning more about the subject so you can protect your work and reap the benefits of licensing your music.

You technically own the copyright of a song as soon as you write down the lyrics and music and/or record the song. That said, the easy access enabled by modern technology makes registering your music critical. Doing so provides grounds for defending your copyright in court if someone uses your work without permission. Registering your music also ensures that you get paid for agreed uses of your song by any radio station, television commercial, independent movie, and so on.

You can license your music through the U.S. Copyright Office by opening an account with them on their website. You then fill out a Form CO and upload your music (thus submitting it to the Library of Congress), or you can opt to mail both portions in. It takes from six months to a year for your registration to be processed, but your license holds as soon as you submit the information.

Using a performing rights organization such as BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC to license music has become increasingly popular due to their ease of use and the opportunities they offer. These organizations also take an active stance in tracking down usage of your registered works to make sure that you get paid. ASCAP charges a one-time fee while BMI does not; SESAC does not charge any fees, but you can only join by invite. Research each of these companies thoroughly before signing up with one; you can only join one.

The powers that be are making the music licensing process easier than it was before. Now that you know the benefits, put this on your “to-do in the immediate future” list. If you already knew of the benefits, hopefully now you are persuaded to stop procrastinating and start getting your just dues for your hard work.

Click here to read more about licensing and royalties.

Have you licensed your music before? If so, is there insight on the process that you’d like to share with other artists? Do you use a performing rights organization? If so, which one? Are you waiting to license your music? If so, what’s holding you back?


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