Skip to main content
A person playing an acoustic guitar. A person playing an acoustic guitar.


3 min read

What is a cover?

A cover is a new version of an existing song.

What is a cover?

A cover is a performance or new of a that someone else originally performed, recorded and released.

To be considered as a cover, the new performance or sound recording you make needs to retain the same melody, lyrics and other key components of the original musical work. If any of the key components change in a significant way, it will be classed as a and needs different permissions.

Creating cover can be a great way to tap into another creator's fan base, but there are rules that need to be followed to do this correctly.

What rights are involved in creating a cover?

Only the in the musical work, not the original sound recording, are involved when you want to perform, record, or distribute a cover. The of the musical work, typically the and , are still entitled to receive the for the cover.

Learn more about the different types of rights in the Music Creator’s Rights topic and more about royalties in our Getting Credited and Paid topic.

What permissions do you need to create and release a cover?

To perform a cover live to the public, for example, as part of a concert, you, as the , don’t need to seek permission and purchase a license. However, the concert organizers or venue hosting the performance will compensate the rights holders of the musical work as part of their required from the local .

To record and release a cover, what’s required depends on how you plan to make it available. You may need a to reproduce and distribute the musical work.

Where a mechanical license is required, some and will facilitate this. However, it is important that the sound recording of the cover is released with the same title and as the original , and that the original songwriters are properly .

But if you plan to make the cover available for digital download or on any physical product, like a CD or vinyl record, you or your label will need to pay for a mechanical license, which in most countries is granted by the local CMO. In countries where there is no for mechanical rights, the license needs to be obtained from the songwriters, music publishers, or their CMO, which a or can sometimes facilitate.

Before you record and distribute a cover, you should always check the licensing requirements with your distributor and seek advice from your CMO, record label, or a lawyer.

Visit our topic The Music Ecosystem to learn more about Distributors and CMOs.

Covers and UGC platforms

Many creators upload videos of themselves performing covers to as a way to start their music career before they have their own catalog of original works. Doing this usually requires a in addition to a license. However, some UGC platforms may have synchronization and mechanical licenses in place that allows you to make covers of a number of musical works.

If you are unsure about the licensing requirements for covers in your territory, check with your local CMO.

Learn more about mechanical and synchronization licenses in our topic, Rights Transfer and Licensing.


Test your covers knowledge

Image credit: Michael Korsgren, Parapix