Most businesses use music in some capacity to create the right ambiance, draw a crowd or even to pacify holding telephone customers.  The right music can influence purchasing decisions, how fast patrons at a restaurant eat and how satisfied customers feel in their dealings with your business.  For these reasons, music is a valuable asset to your business.  However, it is also a valuable asset to those that create it.  A license is generally required for all public uses of music including use on a company website, at a holiday party, at conferences, in waiting rooms, in promotional videos and even use as background music to enhance a consumers experience.  Proper music licensing not only supports the livelihood of its creators but also keeps your business out of court.

Why is music licensing required?

The US Copyright Act grants authors of original works, like music, that are fixed in some tangible medium the exclusive right to copy, distribute, perform, display and modify their works.

Who are the owners of music? 

The US Copyright Act typically provides that the author is the owner of the work.  Unlike other copyrightable works, music is comprised of two works.  First is the composition (the underlying musical notes and lyrics) initially owned by the composers.  Second is the recording (the fixation of sound) initially owned by the musicians and vocalists.  For each composition there can be many recordings.  For example, the composition Imagine was composed by John Lennon and has been recorded by John Lennon, Chris Cornell, A Perfect Circle, Blues Traveler and Herbie Hancock to name a few.  Each recording is a separate copyrightable work distinctive from the other recordings and from the composition.  

In the music industry, the rights to these works are usually assigned via contract to third parties such as music publishers for compositions and record companies for recordings.

What are the common types of music licenses?

There are many different types of licenses involving music.  A few of the most common are briefly discussed below.  Multiple types of licenses may be required from several different sources for a single music use due to the dual nature of music (i.e.- the composition and the recording) and collaboration in the writing and recording of music.   

Click here to view table.

Music licensing is a complex balance of many rights, owners and representatives.  As a general rule, a license is always needed for use of a composition but may not be needed for the use of a recording.  If your company uses music in any capacity an annual audit of your music licenses is recommended because music usage changes with your business.  We can help evaluate your company’s music licensing needs and work negotiate and obtain the proper licenses.