Music Copyright Explained: How It Works and Types of Licensing Available

A sound mixer used to make copyrighted music in the music industry

Adding music and sound effects to a video production is a very popular practice and can give a project the added, finishing touches that all professional media producers desire. When choosing the right content for a project there are many factors to consider such as your work’s goals, your target audience, and the genre or style of music to use. One very important factor that is not to be overlooked however, is whether the content you plan to use is copyrighted. Creative artists in all fields have their works protected by a wide variety of laws and expect to be compensated if their intellectual property is used in media. Licensing copyrighted material can be a tricky endeavor but knowing the ins and outs of the rules involved is a big step into a world of limitless, creative possibilities and professional looking productions. In this article, we will try to explain the intricacies of music copyright, how to choose the perfect selections for your projects, and the types of licensing available for various styles of production. It is important to be knowledgeable on these topics in order to avoid any legal issues and to deliver the best possible experiences to your viewers.

What is Music Copyright?

Copyrighted music is seen and heard everywhere and used frequently in mediums such as movies, television, radio, advertising, and on the web. Copyright is in place to ensure that the creators and owners of songs are compensated for their use in these forms of media. Once a song is written and recorded, the artist or owner of the work obtains a copyright to protect it from unauthorized use and to be able to license it to others such as video producers, corporations or ad agencies. There are specific categories of music licensing depending on how the content will be used and that will be detailed later, but it is speculated that nearly a billion dollars annually changes hands in the licensing of copyrighted music.

Benefits of Paying for Music License

An obvious advantage to licensing copyrighted music is that once permission is obtained, you are free to use it in your productions without fear of legal trouble or paying heavy fines. Finding the perfect song or effect for your project is quite a triumph but it is important to keep everyone’s rights and property in mind. Finding licensing, and utilizing content in your production should not be where a lot of your time is spent. Creativity is, and with the right knowledge, your project will captivate your viewers and give them the experience you intended to deliver.

How to Find the Right Song or Audio File

Going about finding the right piece of audio for your production can be a difficult process if you are unaware of the details involved. You may have a certain idea in mind and can’t seem to find exactly what you are looking for, or you may have the perfect song found but unsure of how to go about licensing it. These are common problems in the video production field and the last thing we need is to spend unnecessary time on such extraneous hurdles. Fortunately, there are companies that run platforms on the web specifically designed for the discovery, licensing, and use of tremendous libraries of music and sound effects. At there are thousands of selections across all categories and genres, easily found with a state-of-the-art search engine, and available with appealing fees.

Types of Music Licenses Available

Depending on the project you are creating and the type of audio, song, or effect you’re in need of, the specific license you will require may differ. Here we will discuss five of the most common licensing groups that are in place to meet your needs in many areas of video production.

Media Producers License

One of the more frequently used licenses, a media producers license is required if one wants to sync audio to any media, including television, movies, advertising, games, and web vids. Often called a “blanket” license, this license is needed to sync music to any media production, which can then be distributed and presented across the globe in public and private settings.

Audio Only License

This type of license is generally used in the commerce and retail space. Anywhere music is to be played in a public environment. Businesses that wish to present music for their customers to enjoy while shopping in their stores, waiting for an appointment, dining in a restaurant, or on hold in their phone system can use this license. Audio only is for people who wish to play tunes for guests in a communal setting in a pure music format only and does not grant rights to make changes to or transfer their license to another party or individual.

Extended License

This license is needed if you wish to duplicate and distribute the copyrighted music you intend to use. Say you want to create a CD or mp3 for your clients or employees within a company and want to include music into it, or you are producing a wedding video and want to give it out as gifts to your guests, or perhaps you are launching a new device and wish to bundle a how-to program in with the product, these are all instances in which an extended license would be required.

Mechanical License

Like extended licenses, a mechanical license is also relegated to an audio only format, meaning they are to be used for audio products only. If you wish to create a visual product, licenses that allow synchronization rights will need to be acquired. Mechanical licenses are mostly used for cover songs or new recordings of another composer’s work. For instance, if you release a recording of you playing a Led Zeppelin song or singing Ed Sheeran lyrics, you will need the mechanical rights to that content.

Master License

A master license is needed when a specific recording of a song is needed for production. Say Nike wishes to use We are the Champions by Queen in their next ad campaign. A sync license is fine for a re-recorded version of this song but if the company wants to use the original master recording from the album News of the World, the license to the master will be needed. The record labels, artists, and performers of these master recordings usually own the rights to these recordings and attaining the copyrights to them can be a challenge because there are so many parties involved.

Prepare Then Produce

The research and legal aspects of music copyright, while complicated at times, should not prevent you from your vision of producing an engaging, viable creation. It’s important to know what types of audio you intend to use and the corresponding licenses that they adhere to. It’s imperative to respect the property of others as well, after all, we all need to make a living. With a bit of knowledge on the subject and with the help of incredible music licensing platforms, such as, the process of finding and acquiring the perfect songs and effects to finishing your brilliant productions should be fun and as simple as possible.

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