Types of Music Licensing – Guest Blog

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Licensing Types

Today there are literally several different types of licenses for music. Each license is required to grant certain permissions depending on the intended use for the musical piece. As technology changes the types of different licenses will increase. Below are some of the most common types of music licenses used today.

Blanket License

A Blanket license allows a licensee to have access to a portion or the whole catalog of songs for an annual fee.  Performance Rights Organizations and Licensing Catalogs feature this kind of license.  This makes it easier and more convenient for the licensees because it saves time from filling out paperwork, negotiating prices, and searching for music at various sites and agencies.

A blanket license is also required for businesses that play music publicly.  This makes it easier and decreases the risk way every time a song is played in their establishment because they don’t have to clear the song with the copyright owner.

When you hear music in an elevator, hotel, store, mall, gym, a sports stadium, or any public place, the establishment owner most likely obtained a blanket license.  If any public place plays music and doesn’t obtain copyrights, the fees could reach up to $150,000 per song. 

Example: a mall purchases a blanket license from ASCAP to play music some music in their catalog all day in their facility.

Master Recording License

A master use license is between the copyright owner and the licensee. It grants permission to use a musical piece already recorded in a visual project.  A synch license is also needed along with a master use license to grant full permission to use a recording.  Like sync licenses, master use licenses are used in television shows, movies, commercials, and any other video that requires music

Example: any song in a commercial

Mechanical License

A mechanical license is a (often required) license that grants certain limited permissions to work with, study, improve upon, reinterpret, re-record (etc.) something that is neither a free/open source item nor in the public domain.

A mechanical licence gives the holder permission to create copies of a recorded song which they did not write and/or do not have copyright over. It is an agreement with the copyright holder, the publisher, or the songwriter that allows the holder to reproduce the sound recording.

This license is often used for the purpose of self-promotion. For instance a cellist who performed a musical work on a recording may obtain a mechanical license in order to distribute copies of the recording to others as an example of his cello playing. This is also used by recording artists performing cover versions of songs and artists who do not typically write their own songs, as is typical in Country and Pop music. In the United States, this is required by copyright law regardless whether or not the copies are for commercial sale.

A mechanical license is not generally required for an artist who is recording and distributing their own work.

Example: movie soundtracks


A Performance license is obtained by paying an annual fee. This grants the permission to the licensee to perform songs publicly. This is needed when public places sing songs that are not public domain.

Example: a church would obtain this license to perform songs at social and youth events.


A print license grants a party permission to copy or print musical lyrics or any type of written music for self use or reproduction. A print license is needed for each song being copied or printed.

Example: making a song sheet or music book

Synchronization License

A synchronization license is one of the most common licenses.  A sync license is between the copyright owner and the licensee. It grants permission to use a musical piece already recorded in a visual project. A lot of times licensees request the instrumental and accapella, if available, along with the original song to give them a little more freedom when syncing the it with the video. Sync licenses are used in television shows, movies, commercials, and any other video that requires music. The rate is usually negotiated by a music publisher.

Fees vary for synch licenses depending on many factors.

• How was the song used (background music, theme song, etc.)

• Where will it be played (Top television network vs. local channel, etc.)

• How many people are projected to see it (More people projected to watch the Super Bowl than    a regular season NFL game.)

• Type of media the song is placed in (independent movies will pay less than larger hollywood    movie)

• Songwriters name and/or experience (Kanye West will get paid more than an independent artist)

• Budget of the project (larger movie or advertising  budget = more money to spend on music for    the project)

Example: any song in a commercial

This information was re-published from http://www.musiclicensinginfo.com/

Related posts:

Music Licensing 101



  1. Pingback: Music Licensing 101 – Guest Blog « The Hit Music Academy
  2. David Hitt · December 7, 2009

    This is very resourceful! Thanks for the great content.

    Song Placements

    • DbryJ Music · December 8, 2009

      You’re welcome David. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Emma · March 21, 2012

    I’m writting a 100 word essay on licensing and royalties for my music industries work and this has been a great help. Thanks =D

    • Black Tarzan · March 28, 2012

      You’re welcome! Good luck on your essay 🙂

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