Music Licensing Resources


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What is Music Licensing?

Synch licensing

Every music track has two copyrights. One is the copyright of the master recording (the recording of the song), and the other is the copyright of the underlying composition (the song/composition/lyrics themselves).

Sync licensing is the licensing of both the master recording and underlying composition for use with visual media. This could be film, TV, video games, commercials, websites, etc. It’s important to note that anyone issuing a sync license must either own both the copyrights or have the right to administer them. LicenseQuote is tool mostly for synch music licensing but can sometimes be used for other forms of licensing.

The rates paid for sync licenses are market driven and can range from just a few dollars for usage in a corporate video, to hundreds of thousand of dollars for the use of music by a well-known artist in a movie or commercial.  The value of the license largely depends on the usage. The average license per track, for music libraries and self-publishers might be between $45 for use in a corporate video and $3,000 for the same track used in a TV commercial.

It’s possible to earn good money from sync licensing. In addition to the upfront licensing fee, if the production is broadcasted, further payments will be due from the performing rights societies (e.g. ASCAP, BMI, PRS etc.), if the tracks are registered with them.

Splitting fees

Normally the synch fee will be split equally between the writer(s) of the composition and the owner(s) of the master recording. If there are multiple writers or master recording owners, it's a good idea to have a written agreement with details of what the splits are in each case. These splits are up to the various people involved to agree upon. If 4 writers are involved, then they may split it 25% each, but if one person did more work, then they may be able to agree to something higher for that person so the splits may be 40%, 20%, 20%, 20%.   The same applies to the ownership of the master recordings. When a recording is made it's important that it's established as to who is the master owner. There is no default for this. No one who appears on a record in any capacity (singer, instrumentalist, etc.) has any automatic claim on either the master or underlying composition, unless there is an agreement saying that they have ownership (or shared ownership) of the master recording, or have written or co-written the music. It’s important to note that compensation for any performers is the responsibility of the writer(s) and/or master recording owner(s). Any performance royalties due from Performing Rights Societies will be paid to the writer(s) only.

Cover versions

If you’ve recorded a cover version, you cannot make it available for licensing without the permission of the copyright holder(s). You will need to approach the original publisher of the work. In the US, start by contacting the Harry Fox Agency, and in other countries contact your local mechanical rights society. You can also usually find writer/publisher details by searching the ACE repertory at Note that contacting the various rights holders can be time-consuming, especially if there are a number of writers/publishers involved. The entire composition fee of the license will belong to the writer/publisher of the work, so you will only have the fee for the master recording you recorded. It may well be that the publisher of the work asks for a very high fee making the license prohibitively expensive. In general, steer clear of trying to license cover versions unless you know in advance that the publisher will be corporative and reasonable.

If someone wants to make a cover of one of your songs, the method for this varies from country to country, so check with your mechanical rights agency. In the US if songs are registered with Harry Fox Agency they will handle this for you.

Registering your songs

It’s important to make sure that your songs are correctly registered with your local PRO (performing rights society) and with your local mechanical rights society. Also,  you might want to register them with SoundExchange for non-interactive digital radio such as Pandora. SoundExchange pays royalties to master recording owners and performers.

The market is very competitive. The more persistent and methodical you are the more chance you have of getting placements (selling licenses). It’s also important to always remember that if you pitch your track and it isn’t chosen, it may very well be nothing to do with the quality of the music, it’s just that the people you are pitching to have found a track which they feel works better with their production.

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