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If you want to sell commercial CDs or Digital Downloads (e.g. Amazon MP3 or iTunes AAC), you must either own the copyright to the song (composition and arrangement), or you must license the use of that song from the copyright holder.  Given a copy of all of the sheet music you are using, Lucid can act as the 'license chaser' in obtaining the mechanical licenses for you.  Alternatively, we can give you a few hints below on how to do this, and you can do it yourself.  Your best resource for 'do it yourself' is the Songfile service from the Harry Fox agency.

Interesting Note: Licenses of copyrighted music are known as 'mechanical licenses', as they are a license to make a 'mechanical' copy of the music.  This term originated from 1909 when copyright law was created to control unauthorized copying of paper player-piano rolls.  These rolls were a 'mechanical' copy of the music, and is was the physical, mechanical copy that ended up being licensed.  Today's mechanical equivalent is the CD, Record, or permanent music digital download.  Each song on the mechanical repository of the music must be licensed if any copyrights are owned by others.

Do It Yourself

Today's (December 2015) current Mechanical License statutory rates are 9.1 cents per song per CD (or per Digital Download).  If you get these licenses through Harry Fox Agency's Songfile service, there is a minimum license purchase of 25 copies for a given song, plus a $16 Songfile processing fee.  (Songs longer than 5 minutes cost more.)  So for example, if you want to include a 4-minute song on your CD, and you want to make 35 copies, the cost through Songfile will be:

($.091/copy * 35 copies) + $16 Processing Fee = $19.19

For 250 copies of the song, the cost will be:

($.091/copy * 250 copies) + $16 Processing Fee = $38.75

Songfile is easy to use, and you can pay for and receive your licenses right on the internet.  However, an alternative approach is to contact the copyright holder of the musical composition yourself.  The copyright holder is usually the publisher and they will usually list their contact info on the sheet music.  Copyright holders will typically license the music to you for the same statutory $.091 per song per copy, but you may be able to negotiate a lower cost (or a free cost), and you will not have to pay the Songfile processing fee.  However, this is a good bit more work - especially if there are a lot of different publishers to contact.


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Last modified: September 27, 2020