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Common music industry licenses

3 min read

What are the most common licenses in the music business?

There are different types of licenses that are common in the music business.

are, in principle, free to license their as they wish and to whomever they wish, and there is thus an infinite number of various licenses. However, some types of licenses are more common in the music business.

issue licenses for and exclusive rights assigned by their rights holders.

Licenses must be obtained to use a , or if such use is covered by the or belonging to the rights holders.

There are a number of different types of licenses that authorize different types of uses and license-specific rights against income. Rights and income are inherently linked.

Learn more about this by visiting our Getting Credited and Paid topic.

Learn more about rights on the Rights in Musical Works, Rights in Performances and Sound Recordings, and Common Music Industry Rights pages.

Here are some of the most common music licenses:

Sound Recording or Master Use License: required when the entirety or any parts of an original sound recording are being used. It includes the . It applies, for example, when sound recordings are streamed or purchased in a physical or digital format.

Mechanical License: required to obtain the to reproduce and a musical work in a physical or digital format, such as CDs, vinyl, digital downloads, and interactive streaming. It's also needed to create and distribute of existing musical works.

Public Performance License: required to publicly perform musical works and sound recordings in a live or recorded manner. It implicates . This applies, for example, when a musical work is played live in a concert, or a sound recording is streamed online, broadcast on radio or TV, or played in bars and restaurants.

Synchronization License: also referred to as a sync license, it's required to use a musical work with visual media in a so-called audiovisual work, such as movies, videos, TV shows, commercials, video games, or websites. A sync license can include either or both the for the use of the musical work and the master rights for the use of the sound recording if a pre-existing sound recording is being used.

Theatrical License: required to perform a musical work in the context of a such as a stage performance, dance, or musical theatre production. It includes the performing right.

Print license: required to produce or of a musical work in physical and digital formats. It includes the rights of and and may involve additional rights. This applies, for example, when the sheet music or lyrics are sold both in paper copy and digitally. Print licenses may also be required for the uses of musical notation of composition and lyrics in other formats, for example, published in a book or printed on merchandise like posters and t-shirts.

Creative Commons license: a special type of free copyright license that allows users to legally use musical works, performances, or sound recordings for free, often in a limited manner and on the condition that the rights holder is .

Image credit: Martin Fabricius Rasmussen