Music is a language that communicates emotions, memories, and stories that resonate with your listeners. It has the ability to take your creative work to new levels, but there’s a crucial aspect that every content creator must consider - the legality of using copyrighted music.

If you plan to incorporate copyrighted music into your creative works, you may need a mechanical license. But, what is a mechanical license and how do you get one? And how do you know which type of music license you really need?

The world of music licensing can seem complex, but it doesn’t have to be! This blog post will help you determine if you need a mechanical license, what it covers, and how to go about obtaining one with ease. Let’s dive in!

What is a Mechanical License?

Let’s start with the basics! A mechanical license is a legal agreement between the copyright holder of a musical composition and the music user. This permission is also referred to as mechanical rights.

A mechanical license allows the licensee to reproduce and distribute all or portions of a copyrighted composition in an audio-only format. The licensee pays a fee that grants them the right to reproduce the song in audio-only creative works, such as CDs, vinyl, interactive audio streams, and digital downloads..

What Does a Mechanical License Cover?

A mechanical license grants the licensee the legal right to use the musical and lyrical elements of a copyrighted composition in their own content. This may include creating physical copies of your work that include portions of the music or sharing your content through various platforms, such as online streaming services, social media, podcasts, and more.

A mechanical license may cover both physical and digital audio-only formats. However, it does not grant you the right to synchronize the music with visual content, such as in a video, film, or video game. For such uses, you will need a sync license, which is a separate type of music license that permits the use of music in conjunction with visual media.

It’s important to be aware of the terms and limitations that specify the scope of your usage to avoid copyright infringement. This can include the number of times you can use the song, regions or platforms where you can distribute your content, and the duration of the license.

When is a Mechanical License Required?

Understanding when a mechanical license is required is fundamental for any content creator who wants to include copyrighted music in their projects. Mechanical licenses are most commonly used when you intend to reproduce and distribute a copyrighted song in audio-only digital or physical formats.

For example, if you’re planning to create a remix or mashup that involves altering or combining existing copyrighted songs, you’ll need a mechanical license for each composition you intend to use. If you intend to offer your content for streaming or downloading and intend to include lyrics or remixes of a copyrighted song, a mechanical license will also be required.

But, what if you plan to use an original recording of a copyrighted song in an audio-only project? In this case, you’ll need a mechanical license to pay for the rights to use the composition, as well as a master license to pay the artist for the right to use their recording - even if you are only including a very small portion of the copyrighted audio recording.

However, if you plan to make a video cover that includes portions of a copyrighted song, even if it’s only a few seconds or you don’t intend to earn income from it, you move from mechanical licensing into syn licensing. Remember, a synchronization license is required anytime you want to sync music with visual media, such as when adding music to a YouTube video.

On the other hand, if you intend to remix or reproduce music that is in the public domain, meaning its copyright has expired, you may not need a mechanical license. However, this should be approached with caution to ensure that you’re truly in compliance with copyright law.

The Importance of Obtaining a Mechanical License

The importance of obtaining a mechanical license before incorporating copyrighted music into your audio content can’t be understated. Ensuring that you’re in compliance with copyright law is essential for avoiding legal consequences, such as content takedowns, copyright strikes, and even potential lawsuits.

Obtaining a mechanical license also provides clarity and transparency in the use of copyrighted music. It prevents misunderstandings between copyright holders and content creators by establishing a clear understanding of each party’s rights and responsibilities.

It’s also important to remember that, by obtaining the correct music license, you’re supporting the creators behind the music you love. Artists and songwriters put immense effort into their music, and obtaining the correct music license ensures that they are compensated for their work.

And finally, using copyrighted music without proper licensing can negatively impact the professionalism and quality of your content. Obtaining the correct music license is a must for any content creator who wants to be seen as a professional in the industry.

How to Get a Mechanical License

Under copyright law in the United States, once a track has been publicly released for the first time, mechanical licenses are compulsory. If someone wants to record a copyrighted song and is willing to pay for a mechanical license, then the songwriter must grant that license.

Artists have two options when it comes to obtaining a mechanical license. The first option is to reach out directly to the copyright holder, negotiate a contract, sign a written agreement, and pay the licensing fees directly to the songwriter, publisher, or management agency.

The easier option is to go through a mechanical licensing service online. The process is fairly straightforward - simply answer a few questions about how you plan to use and distribute your recording, pay the fee, and receive your mechanical license. Licensing fees, also called mechanical royalty fees, are paid to the copyright holder of the song.

How Much Does a Mechanical License Cost?

The cost of your mechanical license will be based on your expected sales and distribution. The more units you hope or plan to sell, the higher the licensing fee will be.

Final Thoughts

As an artist and content creator, approaching the use of copyrighted music with respect for the original creator and copyright law is essential. Obtaining the correct music license is the key to unlocking the power of music to enhance your projects.

Remember, a mechanical license is for audio only, while a synchronization license is for video. By obtaining the correct music license, you’re not merely securing permission, but also acknowledging the artistic contributions that enrich your own work.