Musicians: Music Licensing & Copywriting

By: Muna wa Wanjiru

Music licensing is very important for almost any musician. Its especially important for a serious musician, whether he plays jazz, rock and roll, folk, or even classical or some other genre. It is crucial for a musician to keep his rights, and that means licensing and copyrighting his work properly.

If you write a particularly successful song, some one else might want to license your music from you, and that means big bucks for you. I had a friend once, a classically trained violinist. Even though he rarely composed songs, one day he decided to enter a contest to compose a hit new piece of music for a commercial for a popular fast food chain which shall remain nameless. He though he had made out like a bandit when he won a $500 award for his song and heard it played on the television, but soon he realized that he had been robbed.

He hadn't used music licensing, and so when the company sold the rights to another fast food company, and then to a movie for a soundtrack, he realized that he wouldn't even get a penny of the rights. The license now belonged to the business which had held the contest.

If you are a consumer of music, music licensing can be bad for you. Many common practices of music listeners are actually illegal. For example, making a mix tape for a friend, if you are caught doing it, can actually, at least in theory, cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees. If you trade music, either in person or on the internet, the penalties can be much worse. It is important not to let yourself be lured in by the promise of free music. Many of the songs put up on file sharing websites are actually nothing but noise, but there by the companies that own the music licensing, to fool you into downloading them and wasting your time. This way, you can't find the music you want. You will probably, they hope, give up and go buy the cd.

There are, however, unlicensed songs on the internet, put there so that you can listen to them, and maybe discover the bands that made them. Among musicians, this is a popular way to get discovered by new fans. It's so easy to log onto a band's website and listen to their music, and if the band isn't already on a big label with lots of fans, they have everything to gain by you listening to, and trading their songs and giving you their music licensing.

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