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Music Licensing: The 3 Types of Rights

music business music licensing

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.​

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.

So let's dig into th​e types of rights for music from the perspective of royalties, cause getting paid is always more fun.

The first type of right is to mechanical royalties. This is basically your right to get paid every time a "copy" of your song is "sold." So this can mean if you sell a physical CD at through Amazon. Or if someone buys an MP3 from iTunes. Or even if someone streams your song on Spotify. Mechanical royalties can add up quickly, but they require a distributor like CD Baby or Distro Kid to actually collect your earnings.

The second type of right is a synchronization right, or synch right. Basically, no one is allowed to use your music in the background of their video without your permission. And you (or your agent) can negotiate whatever rate you want to give up that right.

This is basically how I make ​hundreds of dollars a month licensing royalty free music. With royalty free music, the "royalty" that is being licensed is the synch royalty, allowing the purchaser the right to synchronize your song wit their videos or audio.

The third​ type of right is the broadcast or public performance right. Whenever a song is performed publicly, the songwriter is entitled to a payment. 

So if your song is broadcast on TV, the TV Network has to pay you. If it's played in a large store, it's still a public performance, and you are entitled to a royalty from the shop. Hell, if a cover band plays your song, theoretically you get paid for that too.​

These royalties are collected by performing rights organizations like BMI and ASCAP.

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

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’s “All Thing Considered.” 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!