Mechanical Rights FAQs

We get a lot of questions about mechanical rights. You need different rights to arrange, perform and distribute recordings of copyrighted songs (generally anything published after 1923). Our friends at have provided us with this helpful introductory guide to explain mechanical rights – the rights to distribute audio-only recordings.

What is a mechanical license?

Whenever you record a song you did not write in the first place and want to distribute an audio-only product such as CDs, vinyl, digital downloads or interactive audio streaming, you will need to secure a mechanical song license to legally distribute (regardless of intent to sell, give away or promote). This is made possible by contacting the song‘s copyright holder(s), following the correct filing and registration steps, while paying the proper royalties owed for each music media format you are planning to release. provides the most efficient and affordable path to accomplish this quickly with expert guidance every step of the way.

How is it possible to license any song?

Meant to foster creativity, the Compulsory Mechanical Licensing Law makes it possible for you to legally record your new version of any existing song, even without the copyright holder’s express permission. If you ask a publisher directly, they can demand any fee or reject your request outright. But under Compulsory Law, they cannot reject the license. Even in cases where the copyright holder is highly protective of their work, this law allows for any musician to cover some very popular songs. However, under Compulsory Law, you are not allowed to change the lyrics, add original composition, nor change the basic melody of the original copyrighted work. The end product is meant for private listening to the end user and does not parlay into public performance licensing. Any variable outside of these rules requires special approval from the copyright holder(s).
More details about Compulsory and U.S. Copyright Law.

How do I obtain a license for physical media like CDs or Vinyl?

Licenses need to be secured before you create the product or distribute.  Reputable manufacturers require Proof of Licensing before they press your CDs or vinyl. You do not need to license songs that you wrote yourself or songs that you know are in the public domain. Whatever quantity you decide to manufacture in the first place needs to match the number of units you license.

How do I license for digital downloads?

Similar to physical product, you must pre-pay royalties upfront for the number of downloads you anticipate to distribute. We suggest licensing what you think you will distribute in one year. Most licensing customers have no idea what to anticipate, so we usually suggest starting with a more conservative quantity such as 25 or 100 downloads to begin with. It’s up to you to monitor your distribution and to make sure you do not exceed what you have licensed. If necessary, you can get a new license for additional units, which is very easy to accomplish.

How do I license for audio streaming?

Just like digital downloads, interactive audio streaming royalties need to be paid up front before you can distribute. Interactive audio streaming is defined as any website offering the user the ability to listen to a song, but not allowed to download or keep it inside their own personal music library or device. Since the royalty rate is much cheaper vs. CDs/vinyl/downloads, most artists start with higher quantities such as 100, 500 or 1000 streams, while applying the same monitoring and reorder principals as the other formats.

Still have questions about mechanical rights? Contact Easy Song Licensing.

Are you an arranger? Do you want to know how you can legally create and sell arrangements of copyrighted songs? Check out ArrangeMe from SMP Press, a ground-breaking new program that allows you to legally arrange over 1000 copyrighted songs and sell them exclusively on Sheet Music Plus!

0 Responses to “Mechanical Rights FAQs”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About Take Note:

Thought-provoking articles by musicians for musicians

FREE Newsletter:

Get exclusive discounts and coupons
Sign Up Today →

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 460 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: