Bob Baker's The Buzz Factor
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August 25, 2011
How to Sell & License Cover Songs, YouTube, Pomplamoose & More
They also sell more than 100,000 digital music downloads a year through iTunes and their own website. These online sales are comprised of both cover songs and originals.
Which has led to a ton of questions from artists wondering:
How does Pomplamoose (and many other musicians like them) legally post cover songs on YouTube and then sell them?
Some of these cover song issues will be addressed in part two of the Pomplamoose interview. But since a lot of people are asking now, here is what I know about this topic ...
There are two separate aspects to this:
1) Recording your version of someone else's song and POSTING it on YouTube - where anyone can watch it for free
2) Recording your version of someone else's song and SELLING it on iTunes, Amazon, your own site, etc.
Regarding #1 ... Admittedly, this is a gray area with no clear-cut answers. YouTube probably has a blanket license from BMI and ASCAP for this purpose. Much like a live music venue should have a license that allows you to play cover songs in a club.
Based on my research of this topic, the main reason a cover song video might be removed from YouTube is if someone files a complaint or the copyright holder objects to it. This has happened with some videos. But considering the thousands (if not millions) of cover songs on YouTube, it is rare to have such a video pulled.
There's currently no easy system in place to get permission or purchase what's called a "sync license" before posting your rendition of a popular song on YouTube. So most indie artists simply upload them for the world to see. If an artist, record label or publisher does object, it seems the worst that happens is that YouTube deactivates that video.
Warning: There is some evidence that YouTube has a "three strikes" rule -- meaning that after three such copyright deactivations they will shut down your entire channel. So if you've had complaints in the past, you might want to steer clear of cover songs on that channel.
(Note: All of these guidelines pertain to YOUR RENDITION of a song! Do NOT post the original recording of someone's else song. THAT is a definite no-no.)
Thanks to Suzanne Lainson who provided this link to a much more in-depth overview of this topic.
Regarding #2 ... To SELL your recorded version of someone else's song, you must purchase a mechanical license. As Jack and Nataly will point out in part two, this is incredibly easy and affordable to do -- especially for digital download sales in small quantities.
Pomplamoose uses the Harry Fox Agency, which you can find at www.harryfox.com/public/songfile.jsp or simply www.songfile.com.
Many indie musicians use Limelight at www.songclearance.com -- which some have said is even easier to use.
Using either one of these sites, you could buy the mechanical rights to sell 100 digital downloads of a cover song for as little as $24 USD. (That includes a $15 fee to Limelight or Harry Fox, plus $9.10 for royalties to the publisher.)
Pretty simple, huh?
Note that there are different rates and rules for songs over five minutes in length, sampling, parodies, etc. But for a simple rendition of a cover song, it's pretty easy.
If I missed anything, please leave a comment below.
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Bob Baker is an author, speaker, teacher, indie musician and former music magazine editor dedicated to showing musicians of all kinds how to get exposure, connect with fans, sell more music, and increase their incomes.
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