Affordable Song Licensing

Frequently Asked Questions

What are mechanical licenses?

Mechanical licenses are a legal way for you to release your performance or “cover” of a musical composition 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 for musical compositions that have previously been recorded and distributed. 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 are custom licenses?

Custom licenses are needed for anything outside of our compulsory mechanical license option. We charge $100 fee to negotiate your license with the appropriate rights’ holder(s)/music publisher(s). This is the most affordable rate online, and if we don’t get a response from the other party/parties, we don’t keep your $100. We are the risk-free option for custom licensing negotiations. Examples of some instances where you would need a custom license include but are not limited to:

  • changing the lyrics
  • using master audio or samples in a song
  • covering a song in a video
  • using master audio for a film/commercial/TV show
  • distributing your covers in countries outside of the United States

If you have another use in mind, you should consult qualified legal counsel in your jurisdiction.

With custom licenses, the rights holder(s)/publisher(s) have the option to decline your request, not respond to your request, or charge whatever they want for your request. They can also take as much time as they want to respond. We will always go over expectations with you on the phone or through email regarding your requests prior to invoicing you. If you think you need a custom license, give us a call at 323-776-6475.

How are royalties calculated?

Royalty rates for compulsory mechanical licenses 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 2021 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

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. Keep careful records of the amount of your sales and DO NOT over-sell. Selling an amount over the quantity you paid for is copyright infringement. Contact a qualified attorney if you have questions regarding your legal rights.

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 and based on the number of copies you expect to sell. 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, and you plan on continuing to sell that cover song we suggest re-ordering more before you reach the number of downloads you have already paid for.

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.

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

Spotify, Apple Music, and most other streaming services already pay mechanical royalties directly to the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), and the MLC then pays those royalties directly to the copyright owners. Therefore, charging you for interactive streaming licenses is unnecessary on most platforms. Note there are exceptions to this if your streams are not being distributed to a service like Spotify, Apple Music, etc. and are hosting the streams on your own site or platform. Seek qualified legal counsel if you have questions.

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 will need to get permission from each copyright holder/publisher. Medleys are considered derivative works. If you have any questions whether or not this is a derivative work, you should consult a qualified attorney experienced in music and copyright law.

I changed the lyrics. Is that okay?

No, you cannot change the lyrics or any other fundamental part of the song. 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?

No, you cannot change the melody. Section 115 of the Copyright Act states that “the arrangement shall not change the basic melody or fundamental character of the work…” So, doing an arrangement to put the song in a specific genre is okay (i.e. doing a reggae version of a pop song). However, the song needs to be recognizable. Again, seek qualified legal counsel if you are unsure whether your work meets this standard.

Can I distribute internationally?

No. You will need a custom license from the rights holder(s)/publisher(s).

I’m from a country other than the United States. Can I get a license from you?

Yes, you can, but only for releases that are hosted digitally in the United States, or are distributed within the United States. If you need to release worldwide, we can help with requesting a custom license from the rights holder(s)/publisher(s).

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, as well as an additional $12 fee.

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

No. Using master recordings requires a Master License in addition to the license for the musical composition. You will need to contact the record label and rights’ holder(s)/publisher(s) directly. This requires a custom license.

Can I license that new Blink 182 song that leaked?

No. A songwriter 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 compulsory mechanical license for that song until the artist has officially released and distributed it.

Do the licenses expire?

These licenses do not expire.

What do I get as Proof of Licensing?

An ASL Mechanical 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 Mechanical Licensing Certificate for your records. Many times, manufacturers ask for proof of licensing. Information regarding publishers and songwriters is included.

For custom licenses, you will receive final paperwork between you and the copyright holder(s)/publisher(s) with the specific terms regarding your licenses. Any fees regarding your custom licensing request charged by the copyright holder(s)/publisher(s) will be paid directly to them. We do not charge a percentage of any negotiated fee.

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

For compulsory mechanical licenses (for cover songs), copyright holders are not required to respond or return any paperwork. If the steps and provisions required by Copyright Act Section 115 are followed, a license is automatically granted.

For custom licenses, you will receive final paperwork between you and the copyright holder(s)/publisher(s) with the specific terms regarding your licenses.

How long does it take?

We provide a Mechanical Licensing Certificate for cover song licensing within 2 business days of receiving payment.

For custom licenses, the copyright holder(s)/publisher(s) are in control of their music/compositions. Because of this, they can dictate the timeframe in which they respond or if they even respond at all. We will go over expectations with you on the phone or through email regarding timeframes of custom licensing requests prior to invoicing you.

What do you send me when I pay?

An ASL Mechanical 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 Mechanical Licensing Certificate for your records. Many times, manufacturers ask for proof of licensing. Information regarding publishers and songwriters is included. For custom licenses, you will receive final paperwork between you and the copyright holder(s)/publisher(s) with the specific terms regarding your licenses. Any fees regarding your custom licensing request charged by the copyright holder(s)/publisher(s) will be paid directly to them. We do not charge a percentage of any negotiated fee. A publisher may also issue you a license agreement for your use. As we are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice, you should obtain the services of a qualified attorney experienced in music licensing agreements to review any legal agreements on your behalf.

Does having more than one format of the song require an extra $12 fee?

No. The $12 fee is per song, and that’s it! Regardless of how many formats of that song that you get.

How do I pay?

Click the button when you have submitted all of your release and song information that says “PAY NOW.” If you need to pay by check, those can be sent to our Midwest office. Call us to make arrangements if this is the case. Your ASL Mechanical Licensing Certificate will be e-mailed to you within 48 hours of your payment. For custom licenses, you will work with an ASL Expert and they will send an invoice to your email via Stripe.

What methods of payment do you accept?

We accept credit cards through our site. We also accept checks and Paypal. If using a check or Paypal, please call us. Checks must clear prior to receiving your ASL Mechanical Licensing Certificate.

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. If we have not already sent your Notice, we will refund your fee paid to us.

For custom licenses, we will refund your $100 custom licensing fee if the publishers do not respond. If the publisher(s) respond with “No,” with a fee that is outside of your budget, or for any other reason, our $100 fee will not be refunded. This fee is for our time spent locating, contacting, and negotiating with the publisher(s), and is kept as low as possible. We will go over expectations with you on the phone or through email regarding your requests prior to invoicing you.

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.

What is Public Domain?

The public domain consists of all the creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply because those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable. Check with qualified legal counsel to determine whether a work you’d like to use is in the public domain. Affordable Song Licensing does not charge a fee for songs that are in the public domain.

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.

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 at (323) 776-6475 so we can add your information to our growing database.