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Types of Music Licenses

Music licenses are the primary way artists can receive royalties for their music by giving legal permission to someone who’d like to use their work. There are six types of licenses that someone can use for various purposes; keep reading to find out more!

Wednesday, May 1st

Here are the six primary forms of music licenses, along with how they’re used in a practical sense:

  • Synchronization License (Sync License)

 This licensing method refers to music that will be used with some form of visual media. It has a broad range of usages, including tv commercials, studio films, streaming advertisements, personal films, internal communications, etc.

  • Mechanical License

A mechanical license is needed for any physical reproduction of an artist’s piece; this refers to manufacturing CDs or music distribution in a tangible form. Artists are copyright holders and have contracts with record labels, publishers, and distributors on the mechanical terms of their music. Note that these licenses are generally paid per copy.

A mechanical license is also needed if you plan to record a cover song, even if only a portion of the original piece is used. It also applies when adding your lyrics, re-mixing, or changing anything about the original recording that affects the overall composition.

  • Master License

Master licenses are more complicated than other licenses. They’re similar to sync licenses but not as broad-ranging. A master right is held by the person who owns the recording of a song. This type of license allows the user permission to use a pre-recorded version of a song in a visual or audio project. Still, it does not allow a user to re-record a song for a project (i.e., cover or edit a piece). Typically, a master license is issued in junction with a sync license.

  • Public Performance License

This license is one of the most common forms of music license issued today. While ‘performance’ may seem like a limiting term, it generally applies to any broadcast of an artist’s work. It comprises businesses that play music in their store, jukeboxes, or any other form of public performance — up to concerts. 

  • Print Rights License

This license applies to the physical copy of a sheet of music created by an artist. It’s required when someone prints a sheet music compilation or any time the sheet music of copyrighted work is reproduced.

  • Theatrical License

It is a particular form of written consent. Theatrical licenses are very popular within the theater industry. The license is required whenever a copyrighted work is performed on stage in front of an audience.


This article is a re-post, with minor modifications, of “Types of Music Licenses” published on musicbed.com

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Julia, age 8

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Mikey, age 12

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Mikey, age 12

I really like that we get to pick what songs we want to learn in Marcos’s guitar class. I also love that he is compassionate and lets us progress at our own pace. Marcos knows EVERYTHING about instruments, and I’m glad he can share some of it with me. I’m glad that I get to learn how to read, write, and play music for the guitar. It is a lot of fun when Marcos and I play the guitar together!

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- Angie, parent

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Nancy-Jean Pement, parent

Marcos Moscat is a talented musician and instructor. His approach to teaching is kind and respectful. He encourages his students to study music that appeals to them. By attending to the interests of each student, Marcos is a master at nurturing student engagement. Our son, Jackson, has been taking lessons for over two years. Jackson is proud of his accomplishments at the piano and he enjoys the time he spends with his teacher. Both Marcos and Isabel are warm and […]
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