What Is Music Licensing?

What Is Music Licensing?

Music licensing is one of the many ways that a songwriter gets paid for their work.  Long after a song is written and produced, and for the entire life of the copyright itself, songs you’ve written can be licensed in things like television, film and radio.


  1. Public performance rights are the sole right of the copyright owner, and they authorize the performance of the work for the general public. In order to perform a popular song for the general public, or to grant another the ability to perform one of your own songs for the general public, you need a public performance license. Licenses can be obtained or granted through BMI and ASCAP.


  1. Reproduction Rights are the sole right of the copyright owner and they authorize the reproduction of a musical work such as a record, or a CD. The Harry Fox Agency issues mechanical licenses on the account of the copyright owner, normally to a record company. This grants the record company the right to duplicate and distribute a certain song, or composition at a predetermined fee.

Have you ever heard your favorite song come on the radio and think, “This is MY song, I love it!” As much as you emotionally identify with a song, that doesn’t make it yours, and it doesn’t give you the right to perform it. You can get the rights, or as a songwriter you can grant others the right to perform your work, with a music license.


Organizations that want to play music for the public need a license. On the BMI Web site, linked below, you can find numerous forms to fill out for licenses, that apply for to many different establishments.

There are exceptions where a license may not be needed to publicly perform,  but it is always best to double check with a performing rights organization.

For more information on what constitutes as a public performance, more information about licensing, or more information on common music licensing terms, be sure to check out the ASCAP link below!


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