Licensing a Cover Song (Be Happy… it’s easy) Reply

If you want to cover a song on an album you will need to obtain a MECHANICAL license. The good news is that user-friendly tools are available to help you get the licenses you need. If you are an indie artist, attorney with a hankering to release an album, church group, or other musical group… you can use the online licensing services offered by Limelight (at to obtain mechanical licenses.


  • You need a mechanical license before distributing a recording containing a song or composition that you didn’t write.
  • The most common mechanical uses are digital downloads, CD’s and ringtones.
  • You need to secure mechanical licenses even if you are giving your CD’s, downloads and ringtones away for free.
  • Limelight’s Pricing Calculator estimates that the cost to license a song for 100 CD’s is $24.10 and for 100 CD’s + 100 digital downloads is $48.20. (this cost includes the royalty fee and Limelight’s service fee) – check out the calculator at


  • Good idea to check with Limelight even if you think that you are using a work that is in the Public Domain… because, you want to make sure that you are not using a copyrighted arrangement of a Public Domain work
  • If you wish to license a song or Master recording to use with a film or other visual content (including YouTube videos), the type of license that you need is a SYNCHRONIZATION license. (Contact the publisher directly for a synch license).
  • If you are including a recording of someone else’s music in your album (for example within a track or as an instrumental line) you need a MASTER USE license, need to clear the publishing/composition rights AND secure a mechanical license.

See also,; Rights Flow at; Three Myths About Music Sampling at; Copyright Is Valuable – The Happy Birthday Song Earns $2 Million a Year at and @iplegalfreebies and

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.


Copyright is valuable – ‘The Birthday Song’ earns $2 Million a year in royalties 1

Would you have guessed that the song, ‘Happy Birthday to You’ generates an estimated $2 million dollars a year in royalties?  (and has earned this much annually since 1996)  It’s only eight measures long, spans an octave and was written for children …but it’s a big FullSizeRender (3)money maker.

The song has appeared in over 140 movies, in countless advertisements for products ranging from cars to cereals to insurance to paper products and pet stores… and was featured in the world’s first singing telegram in 1933.   Royalties are earned for public performances of the song as well as its use in movies, television shows, advertisements, music boxes, theatrical productions and the like.  (Just an fyi… singing it around the dinner table or serenading your friend is a royalty-free private performance.)

‘Happy Birthday to You’ was written by two sisters… one was an educator and the other a composer.  They were knowledgeable about copyright law and took steps to register their work for copyright protection.  They may not have guessed that their song would become one of the most popular songs in the 20th Century…. earning over an estimated $45 million dollars to date.  (Spending $35 to register your music for copyright protection pays off –> )

(Since this blog just celebrated its first birthday… this is a timely topic.)

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq. LL.M.

An interesting reference for more on the copyright issues surrounding the Happy Birthday song, see Professor Brauneis’ legal paper

Licensing a Cover Song: simple music copyright licensing Reply

Securing a license to include a song that you cover (ie a song written by someone else that you record) on your CD is simple and more affordable than you might guess.  For example, if you have recorded a Bruce Springsteen song that you want to include on your ‘soon to be released album’ then you need to secure a license to use the song.  Clearing cover songs has become simple with online licensing and royalty service providers like RightsFlow.

RightsFlow offers an easy online service for licensing cover songs for use on physical CD’s, ringtones, digital downloads and interactive streaming.  So back to the Bruce Springsteen example, the price for licensing a Bruce Springsteen song for use on 500 CD’s and 500 digital downloads is less than $150.00.  If you are selling your CD’s for $10 and giving the digital downloads away for free on your band website… you only have to sell 15 CD’s before you have recovered the licensing costs.  (this is peanuts compared with possible fines and litigation that can be brought on by illegitimate use of a Springsteen song.)

Check out RightsFlow for simple music copyright licensing  –>

Note, that RightsFlow offers discounts to ASCAP members.

For more information: @iplegalfreebies and

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.