Dotted Music Blog

Different Types of Music Licensing: Exploring the Various Ways to License Music

Anyone within the music industry – musicians, songwriters, producers, and more – should have a fundamental understanding when it comes to music licensing. Music licensing is an essential method to ensure that an artist’s intellectual, creative property is protected and that they receive compensation for the original work.
The world of music licensing can be complex; there are many licenses you can obtain, and there are different regulations regarding each one. We will explore various ways to license music, including the types of licenses and their purpose, and help you decide the best steps to take in getting one.

What Is a Music License?

A music license is evidence that someone besides the person performing or broadcasting the work is the valid owner, when permission for the work is granted. Usually, an artist, composer, or musician will create a musical track to allow others to use it. When creating an original work, it registers two copyrights for that work:
  • The composition – the lyrics and music of the song (notes, instruments, beats, melody)
  • The recording – master recording of that particular work that is released.
Music licensing grants permission for copyrighted music in various forms of media. The original owner/creator of that music is the one who is compensated. Whoever wants to use the piece of music (content creator, podcaster, advertiser) needs to obtain permission in the form of a music license.
Most people may not realize it, but music copyrights exist everywhere, from copyrighted music on Instagram to streaming on Spotify. Creatives in various niches, including content developers, influencers, podcast hosts, advertisers, and YouTube channels, all utilize music in some form. As long as they have the proper license, they can legally broadcast that music.
The agreement outlines specific terms, conditions, and payment. How the creative plans to use the music will depend on the type of license necessary. Conditions within the agreement will outline the license type, where the music will be used, for how long, and other vital facets regarding the use of the music.
Music licensing is more significant than ever in our digital world. Artists deserve to earn revenue when their work is being used, and music licensing protects those rights.

Types of Music Licenses

Understanding the different types of music licenses is necessary for the artist and the one seeking to use them. The license needs to be granted for responsible ownership and distribution of money. The licensee, or holder of the agreement, must ensure they are using the music correctly as outlined within the contract.
There are six different types of licenses that each serve a specific purpose and usually will require negotiation between parties. You must research and ensure you have the proper music license when utilizing a track. Sometimes, you may need more than one license to cover its use.

Synchronization License

One of the more popular forms of licenses today, the Synchronization License, more popularly known as the sync license, is when music is applied to any form of visual media. You could utilize the music within a commercial, video ad, YouTube channel, or even a corporate presentation.

Mechanical License

A mechanical license is necessary for any reproduction of the artist’s work. Usually, this means manufacturing compact disks or records for distribution, more commonly utilized by record labels. It primarily refers to physical music storage devices. Still, it is also meant to protect reproductions in cover songs or parody songs that may only change small parts of the original composition.

Master License

A master license is similar to a sync license but a bit more restrictive. It’s a license for a person who owns the rights to a master song recording, such as a recording studio. It provides permission to create a pre-recorded mix of the project, but the licensee can’t use it to re-record or edit the music. This type of license is typically issued alongside the sync license.

Public Performance License

Another common type of license, the performance license, covers any broadcast of another’s work. It could be a live performance cover of the song or just playing the song as a broadcast in a bar or restaurant.

Print License

The print license is geared toward protecting sheet music, so it can compensate musicians who write their own songs. It’s commonly used when community theaters purchase licensing to perform a show and need musical books and materials. Music teachers also use this license frequently.
When you license a piece of music there are a couple of different ways to get a license. Understanding rights ownership ensures that you get the proper license for use.

How to License Music?

Musicians, composers, and artists must understand that they need to register their original works with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO). These organizations ensure that royalties are correctly distributed when the artist’s music is used. So to get these licenses, you may need to check with the PRO first.
As a creative producer, podcaster, host, influencer, or the such, you may wonder how to license music properly. There are a few ways that you can do this, but the best and easiest way is to work with a music licensing service.
These services specialize in having a broad music catalog for you to browse and choose the tracks you need for your projects, usually for a monthly subscription fee. They have already taken care of the licensing aspect with the PROs to ensure that the legalities are taken care of, eliminating you from doing it yourself or worrying about making sure you have the right license.
If you decide to get a license yourself, it might be beneficial to consult with a music lawyer. A lawyer can help decipher more legal jargon and help you understand all the terms within a licensing agreement. But this can be a far more expensive route to take!

License Music Legally

The takeaway when you license music is to research and obtain the correct license for its use so you are covered. Many creatives use a simple method to find music for projects by subscribing to a music licensing service. They have many tracks to choose from and ensure they are protected so the artists receive their due royalties.
Dedicated to empowering artists and music companies at every stage, the Dotted Music is a full service music marketing and promotion agency and industry blog created to help navigate today’s digital music landscape.
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