A Comprehensive Guide to Music Licensing for Independent Artists and Their Managers

Explore the types of licensing that you may encounter as an independent artist or manager.

What is Music Licensing?

Music licensing, simply put, is the licensed use of copyrighted music.  It serves as a way for artists to receive compensation for their art, which is especially important in the era of streaming, where music is easily accessible.

Music can be licensed for different media forms including film, television, video games, YouTube, podcasts and more.


Why is Music Licensing Important?

Licensing music for an independent artist can be incredibly beneficial.  Music licensing allows independent artists to: 

  • Gain exposure
  • Receive compensation for their music in the form of royalties
  • Have control over their work

The last point is worth exploring. As an independent artist, you are not losing out on your rights to your music when licencing it, but you are merely lending it out for temporary use in someone else’s artistic endeavour.


Types of Music Licensing

Synchronization Licence

A Sync licence is for specialized use in visual media.  Examples of where it can be utilized include movies, music videos, TV shows, video games and more.  The fee can be determined by the length of the clip used, where it is used, exposure, experience, and royalty rate.


Mechanical Licence

A mechanical licence is needed for any reproduction of a song in a physical form, such as CD soundtracks, vinyl, cassettes, and DVDs.  This is the licence needed when an artist wants to release a cover version of someone else’s song.


Public Performance Licence

This licence is for the use of a song in any public place or setting. This includes outdoor settings like a concert or restaurants, and broadcasts, including uses on TV and radio.  It is used anytime that a live audience will be listening to the song.


Master Recording Licence

The master recording licence transfers the entire ownership of a song to the user.  It is commonly held by the original owner of the recording, either the record label or often in the case of independents, the artist themselves.


Print Licence

The print licence is used to reproduce physical representations of a score, such as lyric sheets or sheet music, and is used for books, karaoke, marketing and more. This type of licence is needed when you want to reproduce lyrics for a cover or liner notes.


Blanket Licence

This licence gives users access to a collection or group of songs for a flat annual fee.  It is often used for retail locations purchasing background music, as it is much easier than buying individual rights for songs.


Theatrical Licence

The purpose of this type of licence is specifically for theatre and gives the user the right to perform a song live on stage in a play or musical, in front of an audience.


Royalty-Free Licence

A royalty-free licence applies to songs where the user does not have to pay any royalties or use any of the above licences.  They typically come at a drastically lower price and are an affordable option for those who need background music for their independent project.



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