How to Obtain Permission to Use Copyrighted Music for Commercial Purposes

For a more detailed description, go to Getting Started in the Music Business.

1. Determine as much as possible the exact song title, songwriter, music publisher, and performing rights organization for each song you are interested in using. Most CD booklets or cassette j-cards include some—if not all—of this information. Get as much of this information for each song prior to calling BMI or ASCAP.

2. Contact the appropriate performing rights organization to get the name, address and phone number of the publisher who controls the copyright to the music you are interested in using.

Index Clearance Section - ASCAP
1 Lincoln Plaza, New York, NY 10023
(212) 621-6160

Research and Information Department - BMI
320 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-2000; fax (212) 956-2059

SESAC
152 West 57th ST
57th Floor
New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-3450; fax (212) 489-5699

3. Contact the publisher to obtain permission. Get the name of the person you talk with. Tell them you seek to obtain a mechanical license for a song or songs they control. Follow-up with a letter, and make sure you receive written permission before proceeding.

4. In addition to gaining the permission of the publisher, you must also receive permission from the record label on which the song was released (and occasionally the artist who recorded the song) if you are using a commercially released recording of a particular song. The Texas Music Office has several reference books that list contact information of artist management companies and record labels. Please contact us for additional information.

5. If you are recording songs for commercial release, you are required to obtain a mechanical license from the publisher. (If you are using a song for a film, television show or commercial advertisement, you are required to obtain a synchronization license from the publisher.) The mechanical royalty rate is set by the Compulsory License Provision found in Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act; for the period January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006 the statutory mechanical rate is 9.10 Cents for songs 5 minutes or less, or 1.75 Cents per minute or fraction thereof per unit sold - whichever is greater). The Harry Fox Agency, a subsidiary of the National Music Publishers' Association, is available to grant mechanical licenses for its almost 28,000 publisher clients. For more information contact:

Harry Fox Agency
711 Third Avenue, Eighth Floor, New York, NY 10017
(212) 834-0100; fax (212) 953-2384

Indexing Department
National Music Publishers Association
101 Constitution Avenue, Northwest Suite 705 East, Washington, DC 20001
(202) 742-4375; fax (202) 742-4377

6. The Harry Fox Agency also offers Limited Quantity Licensing through SongFile.com. If you meet certain conditions, you may be able to automatically obtain a mechanical license online to make and distribute up to 2,500 recordings.

7. A handful of Texas businesses also can obtain mechanical and synchronization licenses on your behalf. For a list of these businesses, please contact the Texas Music Office.

This information should in no way be substituted for the advice of certified legal counsel. If in doubt, consult an attorney. For a list of Texas attorneys with experience in entertainment law, please contact the Texas Music Office.

See ASCAP's Music, Money, Success and the Movies for legal info on music in films.

See also How to Acquire Music For Films frequently asked questions for independent filmmakers.