Revelator requires all partners to ensure that proper licenses have been obtained prior to distributing any recording. We will discuss common scenarios and frequently asked questions on this page.
COVER SONG FAQ
What is a cover song?
Common usage of the term “cover song” refers to a new recording of an existing song by a musician who is not the original composer or recording artist. A cover song must be a “faithful rendition” (no change in melody, lyrics, and arrangement), and the original song must be distributed or offered to the public by the original artist or their record label before the cover version is recorded.
A cover song must not include any part of the original master recording, regardless of the duration. That would make the song a remix or a mashup that requires an additional license.
Whenever an artist records and releases a cover song, they need to obtain a mechanical license that will secure the payment of the mechanical royalty to the original songwriter(s). Cover songs may be eligible for compulsory mechanical licenses. In some cases, these licenses are obtained by digital service providers (DSPs).
What is a mechanical license?
The term “mechanical” refers to when songs are mechanically reproduced in physical formats like vinyl and CDs, and in digital formats such as interactive streaming and downloads. Mechanical royalties come from the composition copyright.
Do users need to obtain a mechanical license?
Practically speaking, musicians who record cover songs and upload those covers for streaming by DSPs who have obtained blanket mechanical licenses aren’t required to obtain a mechanical license. If the following conditions are met, you do not need to obtain a mechanical license to distribute via streaming to DSPs:
The cover version is a “faithful rendition” of the original song, meaning no changes in the melody or lyrics were made (minimal arrangement changes are allowed).
The cover version does not include any part of the original song's recording.
The original song was already distributed or offered to the public by the original artist or any record label.
The original authors of the composition and lyrics and the publisher of the original song are correctly listed and credited in the cover song metadata. You can find the correct information on websites like the Easysong search engine.
When do I need to obtain a mechanical license?
Respectively, if you intend to sell the song via download for sale in the US, distribute physical copies of the song on CD or vinyl, or make changes in melody or lyrics, a mechanical license is required. Generally, DSPs are required to acquire mechanical licenses for the content streamed via their platforms. Therefore, you do not need to obtain a mechanical license when distributing your recordings for streaming by a DSP.
How can I get a Mechanical license for a cover song?
Via the record label/ publishing company of the original song. This is the most recommended way, and most big companies have a process for this in place.
Via services like Easysong that offer licensing services for a fee.
Via collecting societies that handle also mechanical royalties like SACEM and GEMA.
Releasing a cover song on YouTube
Given that YouTube is an audiovisual platform, distributing a cover song as part of an audiovisual work on the platform requires a synchronization ‘sync’ license in addition to the mechanical license. YouTube’s licenses cover the reproduction and performing rights for most publishing catalogs. However, you must obtain synchronization rights separately if you are uploading premium music video (PMV) content. For any audio-only content delivered to YouTube, including user generated content (UGC), you are not responsible for publishing licenses.
Revelator requires all partners to ensure their clients obtain proper license distribution of any remix.
What is a Remix?
A remix is a reimagined or altered version of an existing piece of music, typically created by modifying elements like tempo, key, instrumentation, or vocal arrangements. It's a form of artistic reinterpretation, where a producer or musician takes an original recording and uses it as a foundation to create something new and distinctive.
Remixes can take many forms, ranging from subtle alterations to radical transformations. Some common types of remixes include:
Extended Mix: This version extends the length of the original track by repeating certain sections or adding new elements to create a longer dance-friendly version.
Radio Edit: A shorter, more concise version of the original track, often created for radio play. It typically omits longer instrumental sections or repetitions.
Club Mix: These are remixes specifically tailored for playing in nightclubs. They often emphasize the beat and bass, making them more danceable.
Acoustic Remix: This version strips away electronic elements and emphasizes acoustic instruments, giving the track a more organic feel.
Instrumental Remix: The vocals are removed from the original track, focusing solely on the instrumental elements.
Vocal Remix: This type might focus on enhancing or reworking the vocal elements of the original track.
Mashup: This involves combining elements from two or more existing songs to create a new, unique composition.
Bootleg Remix: These are unofficial, unauthorized remixes often created by fans or amateur producers.
Remixes provide a way for artists and producers to put their own creative spin on existing material, creating something that appeals to a different audience or serves a different purpose.
It's worth noting that while some remixes are officially sanctioned by the original artist or record label, others may be created and distributed without permission, which can sometimes lead to copyright issues.
What licenses are required?
In order to properly license a remix, you need to obtain permission from both the songwriter (or music publisher) and the artist (or record label). There is no compulsory license for a remix, and obtaining a proper license will secure the payment of the royalties to the original artists and songwriter(s). Typically,
How can I get a proper license for a remixed song?
Via the record label and publishing company of the original recording/song. This is the most recommended way, and most companies have a process in place for such licensing:
Labels will obtain permission from the respective labels and publishers in order to create the remix/mashup (the DSPs do not have the authority to obtain this permission).
Once the labels obtain the necessary permissions for the remix/mashup, they can distribute through DSPs (the DSPs will obtain the mechanical license).
Generally, DSPs will acquire mechanical licenses for the content distributed to their platforms. Therefore, remixers only need to obtain permission from the record label to remix the master recording.
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