What Is a Music License?

And why are they so important?

Music licenses, and their associated fees, are the primary way you can protect yourself if you’d like to use someone else’s song - and the way rightsholders can grant permission for these types of uses.

As a legal document, a license gives someone permission to use another artist’s copyrighted music for their own purpose. If there’s no license in place, copyrighted music has the full protection of the United States government. (You can learn more about that here.)

Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC generally represent works for public performance licenses, while other organizations represent mechanical rights and issue mechanical licenses.. Every kind of copyrighted music requires a music license for usage unless you are the writer that created it. This includes playing copyrighted music in a public space, recording a copyrighted song, or using a copyrighted song alongside any form of visual media (aka syncs).  

 

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