Frequently Asked Questions about Music Licensing and Music Rights
On this page The Music Bridge staff hopes to answer common questions from
inquirers that we get on an ongoing basis. Thus, we will keep adding onto this
section as questions come up.
Q: Do you represent artists, composers, songwriters or music catalog?
A: No we do not... please see our submissions policies
Q: Do you place music in films and TV shows
A: No we are not a music placement company ... please see our submissions policies
Q: I am recording an audio-only album and performing my own version of someone else’s song. Do I have to get permission for this?
A: Yes, you need to get permission for this. You need to obtain a mechanical (aka compulsory) license to record and release this song. Please see our article on Mechanical licensing.
Q: I have written lots of original songs (music & lyrics are original) that I want to protect. How do I copyright my own creations?
A: Please see our article on Copyright registration, on how to do it yourself.
Q: I am recording and releasing a song with a sample (a sound clip of someone else’s song in it). It’s only two seconds—I don’t need permission for this, do I?
A: Whether you are using half a second of someone else’s recording or all of it, you ALWAYS need permission. Here at The Music Bridge, we work with clients to clear samples on a daily basis. For a sample, you need two kinds of licenses—a mechanical license for the composition, and a master use license for the recording that you’re using. The mechanical licenses can be requested and obtained from the publishing company(ies) who own the composition, and the master use license comes from the record label.
Q: I am a small business owner in the videography/photography business, and I would like to add popular music to people’s wedding videos and photo slide shows. Since these are for home use and private viewings, I don’t need to get permission, do I?
A: Actually, you ALWAYS need to get permission to use someone else’s song. For this kind of usage, where music is synchronized with visual content, you need two kinds of licenses: a synchronization license and a master use license. Please see our article on DVD Videographers.
Q. I am a musician who plays gigs around town, and I often sing standards and other popular songs in addition to my own music. Do I need to get permission to do this?
A. If you are just performing live (not recording) these popular songs, you do not need to worry about getting permission to do so. The venues where you perform should have performing rights agreements in place with the performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) giving the venue the right to have live music. That is their responsibility, not you the live music performer.
Q. I am directing/writing a piece of theater to be performed in a few months. I have a song in mind for the end of it, or it may be a musical containing many songs. Do I need to get permission to do this? How?
A. For these types of "scripted" live performance usage, you will need permissions from the licensors prior to any performances. If a band is going to be performing the music live, publisher's permission is all you need, but if you’re going to use someone else’s recording (i.e. Barbra Streisand singing “Memory”), you will also need permission from the record label in the form of a master use license. Here at The Music Bridge, we work to clear songs for live theater and dance regularly. Please give us a call, and we can discuss your project.
Q: Can I use someone else's recording as background for my song?
A: You would need permission form the owner of that recording, whether its a karaoke, score piece, or original artist track.
Q: What is a PRO?
A: PRO stands for Performing Rights Organization. Performing rights organizations, such as SESAC, such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, are businesses designed to represent songwriters and publishers and their right to be compensated for having their music performed in public. By securing a license for example, music users (i.e., television and radio stations, auditoriums, restaurants, hotels, theme parks, malls, etc.) can legally play any song in the SESAC repertory. Without a license from a performing rights organization, music users are in danger of copyright infringement.
Q: If I want to use a song for a short amount of time, i.e., 5 or 10 seconds, does that mean that I do not have to get the song cleared?
A: No matter what the length, you still need permissions from the licensors and copyright owners
Q: I want to cover a popular song, but I want to change the words. Will a mechanical license cover that or do I need special permission?
A: A mechanical license does not allow you to change the words or melody of the song... you must get permissions directly from all music publishers owning a share of the composition.