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Music Licensing: The 3 Types of Rights

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Types of Music Licensing Rights

If you're interested in music licensing, there are three main types of rights: Mechanical, Synchronization, and Broadcast. There's also a fourth type of right, print rights, but those aren't as common unless you have a big hit.

Now music licensing is super complicated, but I'm hoping to explain it in simple terms. These types of rights are all a little different, and all require different organizations to collect the money for you. Also note, this is not legal advice, just one musician talking to another about the types of rights we're entitled to with our music.‚Äč

Now, each type of right leads to a corresponding royalty. Basically, as musicians we trade away part of our right, let's say to synchronize our song with a video, in exchange for money and publicity.



The 3 Types of Music Licensing Rights (cause getting paid is always more fun).


There are three main rights for music licensing: mechanical, sync, and broad cast. I'll be covering each one in more detail below. So let's dive in and discuss.




What are Mechanical Royalties?


Ah, mechanical royalties—sounds like something straight out of a steampunk novel, doesn't it? But in the world of music licensing, they're far less about gears and steam and more about the sweet, sweet sound of money clinking into your bank account. 

So, picture this: You've crafted a banger of a track, and it's out there in the world, getting played, streamed, and maybe even covered by other artists. Mechanical royalties are your slice of the pie every time that track is reproduced. This isn't just about physical copies like CDs (yes, those ancient relics) or vinyl (for the hipsters among us). It also covers digital reproductions—think streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and their endless cousins.



Here's where it gets fun: In the U.S., there's a set rate for these royalties, decided by some folks in suits (the Copyright Royalty Board, to be exact). Every time your track is played, you're owed a bit of cash. It's like planting a money tree in your backyard, but instead of watering it, you just need people to keep hitting play.

Now, how do you get your hands on this money? Enter mechanical rights organizations. These are the middlemen who make sure the streaming platforms cough up what they owe you. You might have heard of Harry Fox Agency or Music Reports. These guys collect from the services and then pass the royalties on to you (after taking a small slice for their troubles). To get the money from them, though, you'll need a distributor like CD Baby or Distro Kid to actually collect your earnings.


What are Sync Royalties?


Imagine your tune setting the mood in a dramatic movie scene, rolling in the background of a binge-worthy TV show, or even giving life to a commercial about the latest, greatest gadget. That, my friend, is the power of synchronization, or "sync" for short, and it's your golden ticket to making those musical dreams pay off. This is basically how I make ‚Äčhundreds of dollars a month licensing royalty free music.

So, what's the deal with sync royalties? It's like this: Every time someone wants to use your music as the soundtrack to their visual masterpiece, they need to get your permission. And by permission, I mean they have to pay you for the privilege. This payment is your sync royalty. It's a one-time fee negotiated upfront, and the price? Well, that's as variable as the flavors at your local taco stand. It could range from the cost of a fancy burrito to a fully-loaded burrito truck, depending on where and how your music is used. 

Click here to learn how to start licensing your music.



The beauty of sync royalties is that they're not just a one-and-done deal. If your song lands in a popular show, movie, or ad, it doesn't just earn you that initial paycheck; it can boost your streaming numbers, increase your fan base, and lead to even more sync opportunities. It's the gift that keeps on giving!

To snag these sync deals, you might work directly with music supervisors who are on the hunt for the perfect track to complement their project, or you might team up with a publisher or a specialized sync agency. These folks are like matchmakers, connecting your tunes with those in need of musical magic.



What are Broadcast Royalties?


Alright, let's dive into the world of broadcast royalties, which is like the cool DJ booth of the music licensing club. Picture this: Your track is spinning on the airwaves, whether it's the background of a radio show, the soundtrack to a TV drama, or even setting the mood on a cable news report. Every time your music graces the ears of listeners through these mediums, you're due some cash. That's broadcast royalties for you—music's way of saying, "Thanks for making the airwaves awesome."

Broadcast royalties are collected every time your music is played on TV, radio, and yes, even in public places like malls, restaurants, or that hipster coffee shop down the street. These royalties are a bit like a thank you note in the form of money, paid for making people's eardrums happy.



Here's how it works: Organizations known as Performance Rights Organizations (PROs)—think BMI and ASCAP in the U.S.—are the party planners. They collect fees from broadcasters and venues who use your music to set the vibe. These PROs then distribute the collected fees as royalties to artists, songwriters, and publishers. It's their job to make sure you get your piece of the pie for adding that special flavor to the airwaves or public spaces.

The amount you earn from broadcast royalties can vary. It's a bit like fishing; sometimes you catch a big one, sometimes it's just a tiny fish. Factors like how often your track is played, where it's played, and the size of the audience all play into how much you reel in. A prime-time TV show feature? That's a big catch. Late-night local radio? Smaller fish, but hey, every bit counts.

Getting your music into the broadcast royalty stream involves registering your works with a PRO, ensuring your tracks are properly tagged and tracked every time they're played. It's a bit of upfront work, but once you're in, you're in the mix for those sweet, sweet broadcast royalties.


If you're interested in learning how to get started selling royalty free music, check out this free 5-day music licensing mini course.



FAQ on Music Licensing Rights


Q: What are music licensing rights?


A: Music licensing rights refer to the permissions needed to use music in various formats and platforms. These rights ensure creators get paid for their work when it's used in movies, TV shows, commercials, streaming platforms, and public venues.


Q: What types of music licenses are there?


A: The main types include:

  • Mechanical Licenses: For reproducing songs in physical or digital formats.
  • Sync Licenses: For using music in visual media.
  • Performance Licenses: For playing music publicly, including radio, TV, and live venues 


Q: How do I get a music license?


A: To obtain a music license, you typically need to contact the rights holder or their representative, such as a music publisher, record label, or a licensing agency. The process varies depending on the type of license you need.


Q: Do I need a license to cover a song?


A: Yes, if you plan to record and distribute a cover song, you'll need a mechanical license to legally release your version.


Q: Can I use copyrighted music in my YouTube videos?


A: Technically, you need a sync license to use copyrighted music in your videos. However, some music can be used under YouTube's Content ID system, where rights holders can claim ad revenue or block the use of their music. Essentially, YouTube has pre-negotiated the sync rights to most songs and pays the sync fees from its revenues.


Q: What happens if I use music without a license?


A Using music without the proper license can lead to legal issues, including lawsuits, fines, and the removal of your content from platforms. Always get the necessary permissions to avoid these risks.


Feel free to drop a beat or a question if you need more info on making your musical journey smooth and legally sound. Remember, navigating music rights is like mastering an instrument—it takes a bit of practice, but once you get it, you're set for an epic performance.


From a Frustrated Producer in a Ragtag Bedroom Studio to Major Placements on TV Earning $1,000s!


My name is Evan, and I've been making music since around 3rd grade. I'm from San Diego, California, but I've lived in Washington, DC for the last 20 years.

After 3 grueling years of grad school, though I had put aside serious attempts at making music. I found myself spending my days doing work that was dreadfully uncreative, with a ton of student student loan debt.
Which made me feel like my favorite parts of myself were withering.
But I didn't know what to do about it.
Being in my early 30s with tons of student loan debt, in a world where there is "no money in music," I felt like my youthful dreams of trying to "make it big" were dead. Like my music would remain unheard in my head and hard drive. 
Frustrated by my inability to get my music heard, I started researching solutions.
Instead, I wanted to find a way where I could focus on making the music and let someone else deal with promoting it. 
I realized the music licensing was the perfect opportunity for a solo artist like me to get my music heard, without having to do any promotion. I just need to focus on improving what I could control - my songwriting and my production skills.

While I still have a full-time day job, I have created systems that have allowed me to produce dozens of songs a year in my spare time.

My¬†songs have been on Netflix, TV shows like the 90 Day Fiance, an award-winning indie film, and NPR‚Äôs ‚ÄúAll Thing Considered.‚ÄĚ They've also been streamed millions of times.

In addition to being a music producer, I am passionate about teaching people how they can make professional-sounding music and earn money licensing it, all in their spare time.

Thousands of musicians, like yourself, have trusted me to guide their musical journey. My YouTube videos have been watched nearly a million times. And my story has been in Forbes, Side Hustle Nation, and the Side Hustle School.

You Can Achieve Your Musical Dreams Too - Attend the Free Music Licensing Workshop!