One of the most exciting and engaging parts of Hideo, even moreso than choosing which music to play and seeing our arrangements ultimately come together, has to be… licensing copyrighted music to use for our purposes.
OK, I’m being a bit facetious there. Truth be told, it may not be quite as “fun” as some of my other Hideo responsibilities, but it presents quite a new and interesting—if sometimes frustrating—challenge. New because I’ve never studied law in school, and frustrating because I’ve never studied law in school.
To keep it about a million times simpler, I’m going to talk only about securing rights for our imminent album release. All the music that Hideo deals with was composed by someone else, and as such, we have to satisfy copyright law with respect to their rights when performing or releasing a CD or digital download of our covers of those pieces of music. Thankfully, when covering a song, if that album has already been released by the copyright owner in the US, you can cover it without first seeking their permission.
Make no mistake, though, you do have to pay them a fee for the compulsory mechanical license. It is “compulsory” because they are required to license the music to you for use in a new sound recording that you create, and “mechanical” because it is in a mechanical medium, i.e. CD or digital download. The fee is a rate per song per copy you intend to release, paid up front to the publisher.
So, how do you actually take advantage of this helpful part of copyright law? Well, you can search for forms online and/or talk to a lawyer to determine the copyright owner and send in the correct paperwork and payment…. OR
You can use Limelight or Harry Fox Agency. These services will take care of the details for you for a fee, usually $15, along with the actual cost of the licenses (you decide how many copies you want to sell). The last missing piece is finding information about who actually owns the copyright on the music you are trying to license!
However, now we’re getting into trade secret territory, and I will leave it at that. If you want to learn more about it from a good source, check out Getting Permission by Richard Stim. This is definitely a handy reference if you want to follow the laws in your musical endeavors!