Affordable Song Licensing

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions About Licensing

What are mechanical licenses?

Mechanical licenses are a legal way for you to release your rendition or cover of a song that you didn’t write. These licenses are granted by the copyright holder. If you record a song that you didn’t write, you can contact the copyright holder yourself and negotiate directly with them. They can say “No, you can’t use my work,” or ask for a one-time fee. Some of them will direct you to a less affordable third party licensing firm.

However, copyright law has included compulsory licensing provisions so that anyone can obtain a compulsory mechanical license. Compulsory licensing provisions allow you to release your rendition or cover of any song (with some limitations) legally.

We follow the series of steps required to obtain a compulsory mechanical license for you (as stated in Copyright Act Section 115).

What do you send me when I pay?

An ASL Licensing Certificate will be e-mailed to you, stating that we have followed all of the compulsory mechanical licensing provisions as outlined in the Copyright Act Section 115 as your agent. Keep this Licensing Certificate for your records. Many times, manufacturers ask for proof of licensing. Information regarding publishers and songwriters is included.

How are royalties calculated?

Royalty rates have been set by the federal government. The amount of royalties you pay depends on the format and the length of your song. These royalties go directly to the copyright holder.

Statutory mechanical licensing rates as of 2016 are:

FORMAT SONG LENGTH ROYALTY RATE
CDs/Digital Downloads/Physical Format 0:01 – 5:00 $0.091 x # of copies
5:01 – 6:00 $0.105 x # of copies
6:01 – 7:00 $0.1225 x # of copies
7:01 – 8:00 $0.14 x # of copies
8:01 – 9:00 $0.1575 x # of copies
9:01 – 10:00 $0.175 x # of copies
Ringtones $0.24 x # of copies

I see ringtones up there, but you don’t offer ringtones. Why not?
We didn’t think people still did that. If you want a ringtone, contact us and we’ll help you through the process.

How do I pay?

We will send you a confirmation e-mail after we have found your song. You can pay by card through Paypal. When paying by card, there is a 3.5% processing fee. There is no processing fee when paying by cashier’s check. Checks can be sent to our Midwest office. Your Licensing Certificate will be e-mailed to you within 48 hours of your check clearing.

Can I get a refund?

We are unable to refund your fees and royalties after we send off the Notice of Intention for your project. If you change your mind about your purchase, please contact us immediately and we will see if we’ve already sent your Notice.

I sold out of the downloads/CDs that I paid royalties for. Now what?

If you sell out of the quantity that you paid royalties for, you can re-order with ease by contacting ASL Support. We give a 50% fee discount if there hasn’t been any changes to who owns the rights to the song(s) since the last time you purchased the licenses. You are responsible for keeping inventory of the songs you have sold. Do not over-sell.

How do I determine the quantity of digital downloads I should pay royalties for?

The amount of downloads you initially pay royalties for is up to you. In our experience, we have seen a lot of people start off with 100-500 downloads to gauge interest. If your available downloads are close to selling out, we suggest re-ordering more if you plan on continuing to sell that cover song.

What do I get as Proof of Licensing?

Proof of Licensing will be e-mailed to you, stating that we have followed all of the compulsory mechanical licensing provisions as outlined in the Copyright Act Section 115 on your behalf. With this, you are able to distribute your recording legally. Information regarding publishers and songwriters is included.

Do I get the actual licenses signed by the copyright holder?

Copyright holders are not required to respond or return any paperwork under the compulsory mechanical licensing provisions. If the provisions are followed, a license is automatically granted.

How long does it take?

We provide Proof of Licensing within 2 business days of receiving payment.

What if I sell out and need to distribute more copies of my album?

If you sell out of the quantity that you paid royalties for, you can re-order with ease. We give a 50% fee discount if there hasn’t been any changes to who own the rights to the song(s) since the last time you purchased the licenses. You are responsible for keeping inventory of the songs you have sold. We highly recommend not over-selling.

How does licensing for digital downloads work?

For digital downloads, you need to pay royalties for a set amount of downloads before you can distribute legally. That amount of downloads is up to you. In our experience, we have seen a lot of people start off with 100 downloads to gauge interest. If your available downloads are nearing the amount you purchase, we suggest reordering more licenses if you plan on continuing to sell your music.

How does licensing for CDs, vinyl, tapes, and other physical formats work?

For physical formats, you need to pay royalties for the amount of CDs/tapes/vinyl that you are manufacturing. If you’re manufacturing 500 CDs, you will need to pay royalties for 500 copies of that song. If you’re manufacturing 250 CDs and 250 cassettes, you will need to pay royalties for 500 copies of that song.

Does having more than one format of the song require more than one license?

Yes. Even though the song is the same, a difference in formats requires separate licenses. For example, if you are releasing your song on vinyl AND cassette, those situations would require two separate licenses.

Does having more than one format of the song require an extra $10 fee?

No. The $10 fee is per song, and that’s it! Regardless of how many formats of that song that you get.

If I do CDs/Vinyl that also include a digital downloads, do I need two licenses?

Yes. Even though the song is the same, a difference in formats requires two separate licenses. So if you are including digital downloads with your CD, or if you are releasing your song on two different formats, that requires two separate licenses.

What is interactive streaming? Do I need a license for streams?

Spotify, YouTube, Google Play, and most other streaming services already pay mechanical royalties directly to HFA (and HFA then pays those royalties directly to the publishers), so charging you for interactive streaming licenses is unnecessary on most platforms. You can read more about what players and platforms you would need to purchase interactive streaming licenses for on the article, "How to Legally Release Cover Songs" .

I covered a few songs in the same song, kind of like Weird Al does with those polkas of his. Do I have to get a license for ALL of the songs?

You do. Each song in your medley needs its own license. So if it is a medley of 4 different songs, that medley will require 4 different licenses.

Pricing

What methods of payment do you accept?

We accept credit cards through our site. We also accept cashier’s checks that can be mailed to our offices. If using a cashier’s check, please call us.

Can I make changes to my project after it is started?

You are able to make changes to your project up until you pay for the licenses because at that point we send out your paperwork to the copyright holder.

Limitations

I changed the lyrics. Is that okay?

No. Section 115 of the Copyright Act states: “A compulsory license includes the privilege of making a musical arrangement of the work to the extent necessary to conform it to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance involved, but the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work, and shall not be subject to protection as a derivative work under this title, except with the express consent of the copyright owner.”

So, can I change the melody?

Yes. Section 115 of the Copyright Act states that “the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work…” So, putting a spin on the melody is okay. However, the song needs to be recognizable.

Can I distribute internationally?

Yes.

I’m going to release a song as a single, and on my full-length album, and on a compilation. It’s the same recording, just on different releases. So can I just get one license?

No. Every license specifies the album that it is released on and the license is specific to that release. So if you put your cover song on one album and then decide to put it on a different album in the future, that will require a new license.

Can I rearrange the song?

Yes. You just aren’t able to change the words or the basic melody.

I’m putting a Creed sample in the background of the recording. That’s okay, right?

No. Using master recordings requires a Master License. You will need to contact the publisher directly. We solely handle cover songs and compulsory mechanical licenses.

Can I get just one license for a song that I plan on using on multiple formats?

No. Even though the song is the same, a difference in formats requires two separate licenses. So if you are including digital downloads with your CD, or if you are releasing your song on two different formats, that requires two separate licenses.

Can I license that new Blink 182 song that leaked?

No. An artist has the right to release their songs first. If you heard an unreleased track at a concert, or if a song leaked before the album comes out, you cannot obtain a license for that song until the artist has released it.

Do the licenses expire?

These licenses do not expire.

Resources

I represent a publisher or am self-published. How can I be sure I am getting all of my royalties?

We always love working directly with publishers and artists. Give us a call so we can add your information to our growing database.

Do you provide ISRC numbers?

We do! We are an ISRC manager and can help you with providing an ISRC number for your recording as well as embedding the unique ISRC code in your recording. Let us know if you want this service included with your song clearance.

Do you provide bar codes?

We do not. However, we can direct you on how to obtain one.

What is Public Domain?

Answer to come

Questions About AffordableSongLicensing.com

I want to make changes to my song(s) but it’s not letting me change anything after I clicked SUBMIT. How come?

You are able to make changes to your project up until you hit SUBMIT. After you click SUBMIT, we use the information you provided to search for the copyright holder. If you need to make changes to song length or the release information, you can contact your Affordable Song Licensing representative.