Covering popular songs can be a good strategy for independent artists to get noticed.
Artists such as Charlie Puth, Alessia Cara, and Ed Sheeran are living proof of that. All of them got noticed thanks to their cover songs and the power of the internet.
Today, streaming platforms such as Spotify have amassed a huge listener base.
Releasing your cover tracks on streaming platforms can immediately put you in front of tens of thousands of people, all over the world.
However, there is a catch: you need to obtain licenses to release cover songs legally. If you don’t have requisite licenses, your content will be taken down by the platform.
There might even be punitive action against your account. In case you have a decent number of followers, releasing a cover song illegally can also attract legal action.
The Story of Music Licenses and Why You Need Easy Song Licensing
There are two parts to a song – the composition, and the recording. When you are covering a song, you are using the compositional part of the track. The license associated with the composition is called a mechanical license.
It derives its name from the olden days of player pianos, or self-playing pianos. Reproducing a song’s sound through player pianos meant you were reproducing it mechanically, quite literally. Hence, the name.
In order to get a mechanical license, you need permission from the composer of the song and you need to pay them a royalty. The royalty rates for a mechanical license are fixed, which are discussed later in this article.
However, as an independent artist, it can be tough to procure a mechanical license on your own. For one, there is paperwork involved, which can be overwhelming. Moreover, if you haven’t done it a few times, it can all seem a bit confusing.
Even more importantly, what if you want to cover a song but the songwriter isn’t represented by a collection society? For instance, in the US, Harry Fox Agency is the collection society that is responsible for handling mechanical licenses and royalties for artists.
However, it will only handle mechanical licenses for artists who are part of the society. There could be an emerging act that isn’t part of any collection society, yet. Easy Song Licensing is a platform that solves all those problems.
What is Easy Song Licensing and How Does it Work?
Put simply, Easy Song Licensing helps independent artists secure mechanical licenses so they can release cover songs, legally. They handle the communication with the rights holder and all the related paperwork. As an independent artist, you only need to tell them the songs that you are interested in covering.
They might take a couple of days to research the songs and find out who the rights holder is. Once everything is in order, you get your proof of licensing within 1-2 business days.
Proof of license is very handy in situations where a dispute may arise. For example, a streaming platform asking you to furnish confirmation that you have the right to release the cover song.
How Much Does a Mechanical License Cost Through Easy Song Licensing?
Since it is geared towards independent artists, Easy Song Licensing is really affordable. To obtain a mechanical license for a song, you pay $14.44 per song, plus royalties. The royalties go directly to the songwriter. Easy Song Licensing only keeps their service fee, which is $14.44 per song.
The royalty rate for mechanical licenses is fixed by the government. It may be revised every few years, in line with inflation rates and other considerations. Currently, mechanical royalty rates are set at 9.1 cents per CD or digital download for tracks up to 5 minutes in length. For audio streams, it is 1 cent per audio stream.
Here’s how mechanical royalties are calculated. Let’s say you plan to release your cover song on Spotify or other streaming platforms. You expect to get about 5000 streams on your track.
Based on that assumption, your mechanical royalty payout will be 5,000 * $0.01, which is equal to $50. Thus, you need to pay Easy Song Licensing $50 + $14.44 upfront to procure the mechanical license for the song.
Mechanical royalties for songs that are longer than 5 minutes are fixed at 1.75 cents per minute of the song. Thus, for a 6 minute song, mechanical royalty payout will be $0.0175 * 6, which is $0.105.
Here is a more in-depth look on how mechanical royalties are calculated for songs, based on the release format.
But I am Giving Away My Cover Song for Free. Do I Need a License?
According to the law on copyrights, cover songs fall under compulsory licensing. It basically means that the composer of a song cannot stop you from doing a cover of their song. However, if you do make a cover, you are liable to pay them royalties.
In simpler words, even if you are giving away the cover song for free, you still need a mechanical license to release it, legally. It does not matter if you are making money from the cover or not.
Does a Mechanical License Cover YouTube Cover Videos, Too?
Technically, when you upload a video of a cover song on YouTube, you are using the music for film. In order to do that, you need a synchronization license, or a sync license. Sync licenses are much trickier than mechanical licenses.
While the royalty rates for the latter are fixed, a sync license is completely negotiable. The copyrights holder can even refuse to give you the sync license.
Here, too, Easy Song Licensing makes it easier for independent artists. Through their custom licensing service, they can track down the copyrights holder and negotiate on your behalf. There is no guarantee that you will get the sync license.
However, Easy Song Licensing has a much better chance at procuring a sync license for you, since they have experts who deal with such requests everyday. They also have a wider pool of resources at their disposal compared to an independent artist.
Why Easy Song Licensing is Great News for Independent Artists
Very often, artists assume licensing is handled by the music service they are uploading their cover song, to. However, that is, very often, not the case.
Most music streaming platforms expect artists to handle the mechanical license of the song they are uploading. This includes popular streaming platforms such as Bandcamp, Spotify, Pandora, and the rest.
In case it is an original composition, artists don’t need to worry about any mechanical licenses. However, for cover songs, mechanical licenses are necessary to be on the right side of the law.
Here’s where Easy Song Licensing can be an ally for independent artists. Some of the important benefits of procuring mechanical licenses through Easy Song Licensing are:
No paperwork hassle: The Easy Song Licensing team takes care of all the required paperwork
No research hassle: Artists no longer need to find out the collection societies someone is affiliated with. All they need to tell Easy Song Licensing is the songs they want to cover. The service will track down associated artists and get the mechanical licenses
Proof of license: Easy Song Licensing gives artists a proof of mechanical license in the form of a seal. Artists can display this seal on their cover art, their merchandise, and everywhere else they are releasing their covers. The seal provides authenticity to an artist’s work and shows they are serious about the music business.
Wider audience: Cover songs can be a great way for new artists to break out. By doing it legally, they also stand out as more serious performers.
How Easy Song Licensing Works?
In order to procure music licenses through Easy Song Licensing, you need to follow the steps below:
- Sign up on Easy Song Licensing. It only takes a minute
- Select the kind of license you want. For example, for cover songs, select a mechanical license
- Once you have shown interest, an Easy Song Licensing representative will get in touch with you
- Tell them the song(s) you need a license for
- Based on your request, the representative might take a couple of days to track all the copyrights holder(s) for the requested song
- You need to pay the licensing cost upfront. For a mechanical license, the service fee is $14.44 per song. The mechanical royalties are not included in the service fee.
- Once you have made the payment, Easy Song Licensing gives you a seal of authenticity within 102 business days. You can scan this seal, which will take you to International Database of Licensed Music. The database tracks license-holders for songs.
- After you receive the seal of authenticity, you can release your cover song, online.
Here, it is important to note that mechanical licenses only hold ground for straight renditions of original compositions. You cannot change the basic melody of the song, or the lyrics.
If you want to change those, you need to get permission from the rights holder. In such cases, when selecting the type of license on Easy Song Licensing, choose Custom Licensing.
Outside of mechanical and custom licensing, the company also helps you with obtaining backing tracks such as an instrumental, or vocals only track, along with stem files. The company has also been working on establishing a copyright division which will be launched relatively soon.
Get Started Today With Easy Song Licensing
There are other platforms that promise to handle licensing for you. However, few come close to the thoroughness of Easy Song Licensing. For one, they handle licensing requests for artists, both, in the US, and outside.
Even if you don’t require a music license at this point, Easy Song Licensing is a great resource to understand the technicalities of music licenses.
Understanding music licenses can be a minefield. Easy Song Licensing breaks it down into really simple language for even beginners in the industry to understand.
Easy Song Licensing and Music With Flavor are excited to partner to provide you with affordable, music licensing services.
Legally release your new recording of any song. Talk to a real person. Clear 100% of the rights, quickly and easily in 1-2 business days. Get PDF Proof of Licensing in your email. Easy Song Licensing handles everything for you.
Kevin is the founder of Music With Flavor, which joined Whipped Cream Sounds in 2023. He is a seasoned musician turned industry expert. His passion for music goes beyond melodies; he delves deep into the intricate world of music marketing, striving to unearth the most effective strategies for indie musicians. However, Music With Flavor isn’t just about Kevin’s knowledge; it’s a network of industry experts handpicked to provide the most trusted advice. Kevin’s role is to pose the right questions, not just answer them, as he and his team tirelessly research trends, connect with artists, and gather valuable insights.