Acquiring Licenses to Use Popular Music

Many students, unless they are musicians or performers, may have little experience with or knowledge of the types of licenses that need to be obtained to play, perform, or use popular music multimodal compositions. These links will help lend a more specific understanding of these license types and how to obtain licensing, should they ever have a reason to do so. One thing that you’ll notice here is that there is no “one-stop shop” for obtaining licensing. Some licenses require you to contact the copyright owner, where others can be easily obtained online within a couple of minutes and by paying a small fee.

  1. Types of Licenses Defined: (This site explains the types of licenses for using copyrighted music in various ways, including performance licensing and synchronization licensing). BMI also provides customer service for licensing assistance.
  2. Mechanical Licensing Resource: (How to obtain mechanical licenses for music).

According to Harry Fox Agency,

“A mechanical license grants the rights to reproduce and distribute copyrighted musical compositions (songs) on CDs, records, tapes, ringtones, permanent digital downloads, interactive streams and other digital configurations supporting various business models, including locker-based music services and bundled music offerings. If you want to record and distribute a song that you don’t own or control, or if your business requires the distribution of music that was written by others, you need to obtain a mechanical license. A mechanical license doesn’t include the use of a song in a video. That use requires a synchronization license.”

Luckily, since we school-related multimedia projects are for non-commercial use, you may be able to license others musical works using eSync: Fees may still apply.

Some video creation services, such as WeVideo and YouTube Video Editor, offer some featured tracks of popular music that are already licensed for synchronization by the software developer.


About npiasecki

Instructor of Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Colorado Denver, specializing in 21st century skills, research, and creative nonfiction. Director of the Denver Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project's professional network for K through College educators.
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