The Two Copyrights of Recorded Music

Our NYC and Miami Entertainment Law Firm advises and represents clients in all legal matters related to music, sports, television/film, visual and literary works, modeling, online matters, and intellectual property.

One of the joys of being an artist is to create something that is unique to you; however, once created, it’s up to you to protect your artistic work. A legal practice that is commonly used throughout the entertainment industry is a “copyright”. A copyright gives the creator, or in this case the musician, the protected right to own their music as “property.” As time has advanced, copyrights now have the ability to protect artwork, musical compositions, photographs, movies, TV shows, architectural drawings and more.

For musicians who are interested in copyrighting their compositions, you should know that the Copyright Act includes two copyrights in recorded music: (1) the composer of the song and (2) each sound recording of the song.

Recorded Music Revenue

Many musicians thrive off of licensing their recorded music to licensees. This entails the licensor, or musician, getting paid by the licensee for using their music as a means of income. For example, musicians license their music out to record companies to use in movies or advertising.

Three ways in which musicians can make a profit off of their recorded music are:

• Performance Royalties: This type of income is typically generated by a “public performance license,” which means that the musician has given a licensee permission to play the performer’s music publicly (live bands, radio, TV and the Internet). Keep in mind that to collect this royalty it must come from a PRO (Performing Rights Organization) and only if the PRO knows about the musician and their song due to registration.

• Mechanical Royalties: This type of income is typically generated by a “mechanical license.” A mechanical license permits a record company to make and sell a sound recording of a musician’s property. The musician can collect this type of royalty by conducting a private deal with the record company.

• Synchronization/Transcription Licenses: This type of income is typically generated by a “synchronization license” and a “transcription license.” A synchronization license is needed when a licensee would like to synchronize recorded music with pictures or video clips (usually the price is negotiated between the musician and the producer of the audiovisual production). Transcription licenses operate similarly to synchronization licenses, however there is no audiovisual component associated with the song. For this type of license, it is strictly syncing audio with the recorded music.

Sound-Recording Revenue

Another way musicians can make a profit from their recorded music is by granting the licensee permission (under a mechanical license) to make different sound recordings of their song. There are two revenue streams in which this could happen:

• Sound Recording Sales: Purchasing a record typically generates this type of income.

• Utilization of the “Master”: A master is generally known as the ownership of a sound recording in the music industry. In order for this to be a type of revenue stream, a “Master Use License” would have to be obtained from the owner of the sound recording and a “performance” and a “synchronization” license from the original musician.

An experienced entertainment lawyer is necessary to ensure that you get the most out of your recorded music. Chase Lawyers is a boutique entertainment law firm that advises and represents clients in legal matters related to music, sports, television and film, visual and literary works, modeling, online matters and intellectual property. If you are planning a music career and want to copyright your recorded music, contact us today to help make your path to stardom a smooth one!

Barry Chase

Barry Chase, Esq., Senior Partner at ChaseLawyers®, is a distinguished figure in the realm of sports and entertainment law, offering Harvard-level representation that is both cost-sensitive and exceptional. An honors graduate of Yale College (Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Law School, Chase's illustrious career commenced at a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm, now known as Wilmer Hale. Here, he honed his expertise in Communications and First Amendment law, representing media titans such as CBS, the Times-Mirror Company, and Time, Inc. in pivotal Federal Communications Commission (FCC) matters.

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