Need Help Licensing “Cover-Songs”?
Summit Sound offers (optional) services to secure mechanical licenses on your behalf. Our “Mechanical Licensing Application Fee” is $50. per song and is in addition to any mechanical licensing fees due.
Many of our customers choose to have us provide this service to simplify this process, but if you wish to obtain your own licenses, the information below will assist you to do so.
The information below is provided to assist you with understanding Mechanical Licensing as well as the process of securing these.
Getting Permission To Record Other People’s Songs
When one wishes to record a song that is written by someone else, (not written by you) they need to secure a “mechanical license” which gives them the right to legally reproduce (in a mechanical format…. such as on a CD) a specified number of copies of them performing that song**.
A mechanical license may take the form of a signed letter from the original author, or be a more official contract between the song publisher and the artist or record label to whom they grant license.
In Canada the statutory fee for a standard mechanical license currently is set at 8.3¢/song per copy in CDN Funds (*if under 5 minutes in length). If you required licenses for 10 songs on a CD (10 x .083 = 83¢) …you would pay a total of 83 cents per CD released. 1000 copies would cost you $830. + HST and 500 copies would be 1/2 of that amount, or $415. *If you have songs over 5 minutes in length, you add 1.7¢/song per minute, times the total number of copies. In Canada you must also add HST.
The statutory US fee for a standard mechanical license currently is set at 9.2¢/song per copy in US Funds (*if under 5 minutes in length). *If you have songs over 5 minutes in length, you add 1.85¢/song per minute, times the total number of copies.
Multiple songs used in medleys must also be reported in detail, and thus can add extra licensing costs which are comparable to recording the same number of complete songs. (…so a medley of 4 songs would typically cost you just as much in licensing fees, as if you recorded the complete version of those same 4 partial songs used in your medley) Use of songs in a medley can also be refused by an author or publisher so be sure to get clearance from each publisher BEFORE you record any medley!
Language translations require special permission, and may be refused at the sole discretion of the original author/publisher.
Licensing Free Copies of Recordings
The requirement for mechanical licenses applies, even if the copies are given away for free, or are used to fund-raise for a charity.
Public Domain Songs
Songs published before 1924 in the USA, or written by an author who has been deceased for more than 50 years (75 years in some countries) are considered to be in the public domain (PD) and as such generally do not require you to obtain a license to record them.
A notable exception to this, would be PD songs for which new arrangements have been copyright-protected, and thus would then require you to secure a mechanical license for the use of that arrangement.
NOTE: Laws are currently changing in some countries on the length of time after an author’s death before a song enters the public domain, so be sure to check current regulations that may apply.
If you are recording a song that is previously unpublished, the author may agree to any special terms the two of you wish to negotiate in lieu of the standard rate(s), but you will need a signed, written copy of this agreement for it to stand as a mechanical license.
Availability Of Songs For Mechanical Licensing
Right Of First Release
The original author of a song may retain the “right of first release” or assign it to anyone they choose,” This means that if the song has not already been released to the public, that you may be refused a license until after it has been released, subject to the author’s discretion.
The License Application Procedure
You may obtain a mechanical license for any song previously released to the public in a mechanical form, and this can be accomplished by contacting the author/publisher of the song directly and negotiating the fees or by going through a 3rd party service such as we offer here at Summit Sound. One-stop licensing clearinghouses typically charge an additional fee for their services and/or also pocket a percentage of what you pay in licensing fees, before remitting your payment to the respective publishers. (so the publishers also pay them something for providing this service)
Searching For Titles, Authors & Publishers Of Songs
Since song titles are not copyrightable, you may find that there are several songs with the same title, so it is important that when you file for licenses that you have determined the proper song title, author and ideally the publisher’s name also. Failure to do this can result in obtaining a license for the wrong song. The easiest way to verify correct information, is to do a search of the performance rights associations song databases.
All authors of songs and their publishers are usually members of these performance rights groups, since they are authorized by the FCC and CRTC to collect royalties for broadcast airplay or other public performance of live or recorded music. You simply log on to the ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or SOCAN websites and go to their search engines… then enter all the information you have for each song to see what comes up.
If you don’t find a particular title with one performance rights organization, the publisher may be affiliated with another of the 4 listed, so check each of them.
Once you determine the author and publisher’s name you can look further on that performance rights organization’s website for complete contact information on each of their affiliated publishers. From there you can choose to contact the publisher directly to request a mechanical license, OR use a 3rd party service such as the one we offer through Summit Sound.
Making Application For Mechanical Licenses Through A Licensing Clearinghouse
If you use a one-stop clearinghouse such as Summit Sound, begin by going to our downloads page and get our “Mechanical Licensing Agreement” form. The form will ask for the contact information of the person filling out the form, the name of the recording artist and the title of the CD, as well as a production catalogue number and the quantity of CDs being released. You may also be asked to specify if your CD is a vocal or instrumental release. In addition, you will need to project an estimated release date for the CD, and be sure to provide either a pressing release form, a copy of your invoice for your CDs, or a quote for CD manufacturing – to validate the quantity of CDs that you will press. This validation of quantity from the manufacturer must accompany your application. When you send these licensing applications in, you need to calculate total licensing fees payable and include the full amount of all fees payable (including HST if you are in Canada).
What To Do If Your Songs Are Not Covered
In the event that a 3rd party service like ours cannot cover or find some of your songs, they will advise you, and refund any payments (minus their application fees) that you have made to publishers which they do not represent… At this point, it is your responsibility to try another similar clearinghouse service OR contact the respective publisher(s) directly to obtain your missing license(s).
Keeping photo copies of all your license applications and cheques, ensures that you have proof of your action to obtain proper mechanical licenses, in the event that there is ever any question pertaining to your application.
Leasing Performance Tracks for Recording
If you choose to record using “karaoke” background music tracks, these are the intellectual property of their creators and may or may not be available for recording purposes. A standard “live performance” license for these products typically allows you to use these tracks for “live performance” ONLY, however, some Karaoke track companies also welcome their use for recording, and will provide you with a separate “Lease Agreement” (for a substantial additional fee) that will allow you to legally use the background track on your recording. There is no standard fee for track leasing, so rates will vary… and bear in mind that the creator of the track does have the right to refuse you permission to use their track on your recording. NOTE: Standard mechanical or digital licensing fees will still apply.
Using Someone Else’s Recording On Your CD
**You cannot legally make copies of someone else’s recorded version of a song or music background track and put it on your CD without a special written legal agreement with the owner of that original recording… and that owner is not obliged to grant you such privileges. This is a different issue than you performing and recording a song that is written by someone else and for which they would be obliged to grant you a license (provided it had previously been released to the public).
Summit Sound Limitation of Liability Regarding Use of Above Information
The preceding information is made available strictly for information purposes. Summit Sound SIAD Inc. specifically disclaims any and all liability regarding the use of this information. The data contained in our repertories is obtained from a variety of sources and is updated on a regular basis. Nevertheless we cannot guarantee its accuracy. For this reason we invite you to contact us directly in case of doubt regarding any information contained herein. Any reproduction or other use of the information herein is forbidden without the prior consent of David Daw & Summit Sound SIAD Inc.
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