How to Get Permission to Use Copyrighted Music?

3.) Include the other important details such as:

a.) Scope territory- where you would like the work to be published (state the country, territories, etc.).

b.) Period – indicate the date/inclusive months.
c.) Exclusive or non-exclusive?
d.) Licensing budget- if you want to know how you can save some licensing fees or know the typical music licensing fees; you can read the following post:

Typical Music Licensing Fees and Cost for Different Projects

4.) Send all the information in an email or music publisher supplied form. Then the publisher would take a look at your licensing request and process it. It can take some time, so make sure you do this in the starting phase of your project to avoid delays.

License a song for film or video

(If you are looking for detailed licensing steps, please read the first section read the first section)

Licensing a song to be used for film projects isn’t that all difficult. This short guide also applies to video production such as licensing songs for wedding video montage. For example; you are working on a documentary film of an important Olympic swimming champion which you are planning to sell to swimming class students. You go out, roll in the budgets and starts filming. When everything is near done, you intuition suggest that a song should be added in some parts of the film to make the scene more captivating to your audience.

You do not have a big budget for licensing fees to get major label songs. Instead, you open up your laptop and search the internet for music to be licensed. You stumble in a music publishing website, with the entire song catalog. After that, you then listen to the songs, and find out what seems to be the perfect song for your film. Finally, you decide the song to become a theme or featured song in the documentary film. The most important step is to ask permission which are thoroughly discussed in the previous section. Some additional information:

1.) You are then required to submit a cue sheet to your country public performance organization. For example this is ASCAP in US. The cue sheet list the songs included in your project including author information, etc. This is not required for video production. Only for those film projects that would be publicly performed. Visit their website for cue sheet form.

2.) Film synchronization license – it will state the terms and limitations on how you are going to use their song. This will depend on your request also on how you are going to their song and this is a confirmation that they are OK with it. The license gives you right to insert the song in synchronization with your film. This is often bundled with the right to use the sound recording, if the music publisher also owns the recording.

3.) The tricky thing is that if you plan to reproduce it in physical forms (CD for example), you then need to acquire a mechanical licensing agreement which is entirely different from a film sync agreement.

4.) After receiving the licensing agreement (sent by email during licensing application), you need to keep this in the safe place.

Licensing Music for your website: Short tips and Guide

(If you are looking for detailed licensing steps, please read the first section)

One of the most common applications of music and songs is to use it as background music for a website. Not only background music, but some websites are even using songs as their “main theme”. Below are the procedure and steps in how you can be able to successfully/legally use a song/music for your website:

Step1: Shop for songs, you can search the Internet. You need to assume that all music found on the Internet is copyrighted, this is safest legal approach.

Step2: OK, once you have the song. The next crucial step is to ask permission to use the copyrighted music. You can refer to the steps in the previous section.

Step3: You need to be “exact” and “detailed” on how you are going to use the song because the music publishers or recording right owners might ask you. Tell them that you are interested in using their songs for your website and that (select appropriate application) you are:

a. A commercial website that depends on their music to get profit (in this case you should be prepared to pay for performance royalties). Contact ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for details.


b. A noncommercial website compilation songs for non profit use.

You can also state if the song is used a “main theme” or just a background in one of your pages. All of these factors are used by the music publisher to decide to grant you license. Do not forget to save a copy of your mail/or any licenses received.

Permission to record song

This guide is useful for anyone who is planning to ask permission to record a song. You might fall into the following situations:

Situation1.) You are planning to cover a song which is written by someone else (could be your artist), but it is not yet released or published.
Situation2.) You are planning to record a song that is written by another songwriter, and it’s already published.

Some common questions:

1.) Who will be asking permission? – The one that will be asking permission will be the future owner of the sound recording copyright. For big projects, this can be the recording label. For small projects, this can be the artist themselves (if they self-produced the cover song) or the recording producer owning the copyright.

2.) Where to ask permission? – OK it depends on the situation above:
a.) For Situation 1, you will directly ask permission from the songwriter of the song. Both of you will enter some agreement highlighting the terms of use and license in using the song. You will be needing a lawyer to draft this agreement.

b.) For Situation 2, you will be contacting the music publisher of the song (it can be the songwriter itself if it’s self-published). If you are not sure about the publisher, you can follow the steps and procedures mentioned previously on searching the publisher. In big music publishers or songs released by major labels or indie labels, these are handled by Harry Fox agency in the US. So you will need to contact them in asking permission.

3.) What rights do I need to clear? – recording a song requires to be cleared of mechanical and printing rights of the song. There can be other rights, make sure you know exactly how you will be using the song in your recording project. This should be communicated clearly with the publisher.

4.) How much licensing cost is required – it depends on the mechanical license fee set by the publisher and the government laws.

Music Licensing Matrix/Table

If you are confused in asking permission what rights are required, possible or not applicable; you can see the table below. Take note that this is just a rough guide and this is by no means exact. For details, what rights are to be used, you need to describe “in detail” how you are going to use the music to the publisher. And then the music publisher knows what rights to be granted with permission.

To use the table, supposing you would like to use the song for personal listening; then you will not need to be granted with public performance rights, mechanical rights, etc. However if you are an owner of TV station airing shows with music, you need to be granted with public performance rights. If you are an owner of a radio station, you only need a public performance license to operate; you do not need to be granted permission to use other rights.

The rest of the application are then easy to understand using the above examples.

Music Licensing Matrix Guide

Music Licensing Matrix Guide

Content last updated on June 14, 2012

  • Emerson Maningo

    Hi Tim,
    The simplest way you can do this is to attribute music and sound recording authors properly in your student videos. Youtube has this system today that attributes music used in videos to the original authors. They have change their system about licensing works as well and they have this system that automatically detects copyrighted music in videos.

    I suggest that your students should properly research the music that they are planning to use in advance. And then get the proper credits and music licensing procedures according to Youtube policies. I think they still have time to research music and apply for proper license. It might be useful that you teach them about the importance of copyright and proper music licensing procedures that is contacting the music publishers, sound recording copyright owners and then asking permission from them. This is the best way of staying legally that lots of video producers in Youtube do violate.

    For example, I have seen lots of my original music gets used in Youtube without proper permission to me however it simply makes me happy just to see the credits (my name and the artist name) on the videos. However there are some video producers that cares so much about the rights of others that they send me a note asking for permission to use some of my songs. It makes me feel glad that someone respects the copyright owner and ask for official permission. The producer also has this feeling of security and peace over the use of the music. There is no fear that he/she is using the music illegally. Asking permission to use music is still very important that are often overlooked in Youtube. Well, some music publishers/copyright owners (not me) might not be happy to see or contended with the credits if there is still no legal license issued. And they have the power to issue take down notice to these producers. As a result, you have observed lots of videos in Youtube gets taken down for using music without proper permission.

    Finally, you can also add in the video description regarding the credits as well as the purpose of the video. This is a non-profit work just like any videos uploaded to Youtube for fun with copyrighted music on it. As you can observed, they have proper attributions on them. I also suggest to find independent music publishers, indie artist of of Christian music that have legal rights over the recording and the song. They can respond to any copyright permission request faster than major Christian music publishers, in my opinion. Good luck!

  • Tim

    Very good information. Thank you. I am part of a small Christian school that is doing some short term classes in january. One idea was to get students to do camera phone videos and then edit to fit their favorite Christian songs. There would be no sales. This is strictly a fun video editing class. These tyoe of videos are all over youtube. We just dont want to do this illegally, that would be contrary to our mission. We would be willing to pursue permissions but this would be just a two week class.
    Your insights?

  • Emerson Maningo

    If you do not own the video, you need to ask permission from the owners. If you do not own the music contained in that video, you also need a license from the publishers. Everything you broadcast or published, make sure you have permission/license for those things that you do not create or own. Read the music publishing blog for details on this matter. Cheers.

  • Vince Del Vecchio

    We are looking at a project in live stream of performances that will be archived (stored in an edited version) for downloading. I’ve noticed in my research that there is no clear cut handling of Internet distribution of videos. The videos will be used to attract visitors the website. The closest example of what we are looking to do is TV.

    Can you advise?