Licensing cover songs & remixes for release

Licensing cover songs & remixes for release

It’s all well and good playing cover songs for a live crowd, but have you considered officially releasing them? You don’t need to be signed to release covers or original tracks. You can easily get music on Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes and more through an independent music distributor.

Getting your covers or remixes online could potentially earn you a substantial amount in royalties. Millions of people are searching for iconic tracks on the major platforms, so why not make your version appear every time they do?

However, there is one problem. How do you know if you have the legal right to release your version of someone else’s music?

It all comes down to licensing. So, let’s look at the licenses you’ll need and how to get them.

What licenses do I need?

If you’re releasing a cover song in the UK or Australia, you don’t need to worry about acquiring any licenses. You can just upload to your distributor and release.

However, in North America the laws are different. If you’re planning on making a cover track available in the USA, Canada or Mexico, you’ll need to get hold of a Mechanical License for the song.

If you’re releasing a remix of a song you’ll need to acquire a Master Use License, no matter where in the world you’re planning to make it available.

Using samples in a song is another technique often used by artists who want to put a nostalgic twist on an original track, but if you plan on using samples in any music you’re going to release, you’ll need a Mechanical and Master User License.

Quick recap:

  • Cover songs – Mechanical License for North America
  • Remixes – Master Use Licence worldwide
  • Samples – Mechanical & Master Use License worldwide

Where can I purchase licenses for music?

There are several companies that provide music licenses, including Harry Fox and Songfile. You may even be able to purchase the required licenses directly through your distributor.

Remember, the license may be void if you buy it after the cover has been released. Although if you do find yourself in a situation with covers or remixes out there but no license, it is better to buy it anyway than not have it at all, as it could protect you if any copyright holders were to make a claim against you down the line.

How do make sure I’m protected under copyright law?

Now you know what licenses you’ll need and where to get them, here are three things to remember to make sure any covers or remixes you release are legal and above board.

Find the owner of the copyright. This could be the songwriter, publisher or label. You’ll need to search on the various copyright databases such as BMI, ASCAP, US Copyright Office or Harry Fox

Make sure you get a license for the right version of the song. For example, there are plenty of different tracks out there named ‘Crazy’, ‘Breathe, ‘Dreams’ and so on

Send a letter of intent. This may seem daunting for someone who isn’t in the know, but luckily, most providers will carry this out for you once you’ve bought the necessary licenses. Just make sure to buy the licenses you need a minimum of 30 days before your planned release date.

It’s important to make sure you’re completely protected when it comes to releasing cover songs and remixes to avoid any problems down the line. But if you do everything by the book, there’s plenty to be earned in royalties.