Music clearance and licensing is the process by which one formally obtains the rights to use a piece of music in any given project. There are two inherent copyrights in every piece of recorded music. First, the words and music make up the composition, which is controlled by the music publisher(s). There may be only one publisher or as many as eight or nine publishers for any given composition. Secondly, the actual recording itself, formally referred to as a master or sound recording, is controlled by the master rights owner(s). It is rare to see a master recording with more than one owner, but not unheard of.

Depending on the usage that you want the music for, permissions, licenses and fees may be required from just the publishers or both the publishers and the master rights owners. For instance, if you re-record a song that has already been commercially released (i.e. a “cover” version), without changing the lyrics or fundamental character of the song, you would only need a statutory mechanical license, which is compulsory as set forth by U.S. Copyright Law. This type of license is the opposite of one that is voluntarily granted by individual copyright owners.

The current statutory mechanical royalty rate is $0.091 per song per unit for songs 5 minutes or less or $0.0175 per minute or fraction thereof for songs over 5 minutes. Not all usages qualify for a compulsory license. For instance, use of a composition in timed relation to an audio-visual element requires that a synchronization license be obtained from and arbitrary fees be paid to the music publisher(s) of that composition.

If you choose to use someone else's master recording, you must also obtain a master rights license from the master rights owner. For some qualifying usages, such as a non-interactive digital audio transmission like certain webcasts, a statutory license may be obtained from SoundExchange, an independent non-profit performance rights organization designated by the U.S. Copyright Office to act as the administrative agent for the collection and distribution of digital performance rights statutory license royalties. For any digital usages not covered by SoundExchange, and any usage involving an audio-visual or reproductive element, such as a film, a corporate DVD, an internet download or an audio CD compilation, master rights licenses must be obtained from and arbitrary fees must be paid to the master rights owners.

Important factors such as proposed media, territory, term, commence date, option rights, rollovers, bumps, advances, exclusivity, fixation fees, royalty rates, buyouts and step deals all play a very vital role in the licensing process. Without a firm understanding of parameters such as these in regards to the new media usage(s) you are trying to obtain licenses for, engaging licensors in a business course of action can prove to be extremely difficult.

This awareness, along with our industry-wide list of contacts and licensors, enables us to efficiently and flawlessly coordinate the music clearance and licensing process for our clients, from beginning to end, saving them both time and money.

It is absolutely crucial to the success of your project to make sure that whoever is in charge of getting you the rights to the music that you want has a skill set and expertise unique to the world of music clearance and licensing. When it comes to securing music rights for your project, and navigating the licensing parameters and clearance issues exclusive to each type of media usage, nobody does it better than Hopkins Music Group LLC.

Give us a call now at (310) 488-9297 for a free initial consultation.


P.O. Box 684308, Austin, TX 78768
Phone: (310) 488-9297
Fax: (310) 943-2124