Copyright laws were created to encourage new works, so create some new works!
You should start your career by respecting the copyrights of others. That is how they make their living, so in a very real way, those casual copies people make keep the author from paying their expenses.
For audio recordings, one of the provisions of the copyright law is a “Mechanical License”, designed for recording artists to be able to record songs that have already been commercially released. The legislation establishes rates, which are referred to as “Statutory Rates”.
Tracking down the songwriter or publisher who is handling their licenses can be a difficult and time consuming process, so the industry came up with the concept of blanket licenses. The Harry Fox Agency establishes relationships with publishers and acquires the rights to everything in their catalog. Record labels or independent artists can then purchase a license for one of their artists to record a song on a per song per copy basis. Recently, Limelight started providing a similar service which offers a larger catalog than Harry Fox.
Performing covers has the same challenges. While there is no statutory requirement to grant a “Performance License” for public performance, Performance Rights Organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC offer the same type of arrangement. They establish relationships with the publishers to acquire the rights to everything in their catalog, and then licenses venus such as stadiums, concert halls, and night clubs for performance by any artist of any song in their catalog. Rates are based on size of venue and other factors. Technically, street musicians who perform in public spaces outside of a venue, would have to secure their own licenses. Rather than everyone submitting set lists, collected fees are distributed based on how well a song is charting.
Digital radio, whether over satellite or the internet, has similar requirements for licensing of the artist’s recordings, and Sound Exchange handles the license for that media.
Music Video Covers
There is no established price or terms for licensing songs for use in any sort of film, movie, television, video, or commercial. Film makers are required to obtain a “Synchronization License” from the songwriter or their publisher for any such use at a negotiated rate, which can be anything. So, whether you’re planning a film, music video, or just want to video tape your live performance, if you’re recording songs written by others, it violates the song writers copyright to do so without obtaining the proper license.
Since YouTube videos are such a big part of promoting your brand these days, you can see how you can really get pinned in on creativity, promotion and outlet channels if you depend upon covering other people’s songs. Other cover videos you see on YouTube have probably not been properly licensed, and so they are subject to getting sued for damages and loss of revenue over the copyright infringement.
So it makes good business sense to write your own songs, or develop a good relationship with a song writer who will grant you all the rights you need to properly launch your career as a performing or recording artist.
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