Independent Songwriters: You Should Be Generating Your Own Mechanical Licenses for the Songs You Create -PART 1
by Cheryl M. Potts
If you are an independent Songwriter representing yourself and you’ve have retain your own publishing, then you should be issuing your own mechanical licenses and stop letting others generate one for you.
Over the years as a Copyright & Royalty Administrator for Indie Record Labels & Publishers, one of my tasks is to ensure the record label receives mechanical licenses for all the tracks on an album. I must obtain mechanical licenses from everyone i.e. copyright owners, music publishers or administrators (who represent songwriters) who wrote songs on the album. Generating licenses is a publishing administration function. If a songwriter is not signed to a music publisher/administrator, then I must obtain the mechanical license directly from the songwriter who wrote the song. 99% of the time when I contact the songwriter and request a mechanical license from them, they ask if I (on behalf of the record label) can generate a mechanical license for them. When a music publisher/administrator issue a mechanical license on behalf of a songwriter they represent, the mechanical license they issue has more favorable terms for their songwriters.
But sometimes when you ask a record label to generate a mechanical license for you, they are going to make sure the license is more favorable for them. Don’t get upset however! Everyone wants to make sure they have what is best for them. And I am going to assume that you want what is best for you! But the music business is a ‘business’ and if you write songs for others to record, then you need to sit down and learn about your business. This is what it means when you say you own your own publishing of your song. Then you should perform the tasks as the publisher of your songs you create. And one of those tasks is issuing mechanical licenses to record labels who want to record your song. After all, it is your song, you own it and it’s your money! It’s one of your exclusive rights as a creator of a song given to you by the U.S. Copyright Act. The number one reason I hear from indie songwriters on why they do not generate the mechanical license themselves is because they do not know how to create one. Well I am here to help you learn how to generate your own mechanical license to give to a record label the next time someone requests to record your song.
Before we begin, let’s look at what the U.S. Copyright Act says about your right to issue your own mechanical license. According to the U.S. Copyright Act there are 5 exclusive rights the copyright owner has when they create a song (actually there are 1 more exclusive right; the sound recording right for sound recording creators however for this discussion we are focusing on song creators). The U.S. Copyright Act clearly states:
‘the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following: (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;… (3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;’…
As a copyright owner of a song, you have the exclusive right to give a record label permission to make copies of your song and to allow the record label to distribute your song to the marketplace. As an owner of a copyright (‘Licensor’), you give someone (‘Licensee’) permission to use your song through what is known as a ‘license’. As you can see from the Copyright Act, it gives you the permission to issue the license directly for your song. Stay tune for Part 2 where I will go through all of the details on what is included in a Mechanical License.
About Cheryl M. Potts
For over 13 years Ms. Potts has been a Copyright & Royalty Administrator for independent recording labels and music publishers. She has received numerous awards as a Copyright & Royalty Administrator on gold and platinum RIAA certified albums and tracks. Many of her clients had #1 singles and albums charted on Billboard, in movies, TV and more. She was selected by the U.S. Copyright office for her views on behalf of independent music creators on potential changes to the U.S. Compulsory License and how those changes might affect independent music creators. She is the Founder of Crystal Clear Music a Copyright & Royalty Administration firm & the Founder of Cleerkut, the software development firm that built Cleerkut Royalty, the Do-It-Yourself business platform for musicians and professionals who have a need to manage their own music business or the business of others.
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