A master license pays a royalty to the copyright holder (owner) of the audio recording being requested. This is typically the artist that made the recording or their record label. However, sometimes master rights change hands, such as when they are sold. In this case, a recording might have a new owner, other than the original artist or label. For this reason, it is important to locate the current copyright holders before making a master request. When you hire us for Custom Licensing, we research and discover the current copyright holders for you.
It is important to note that underlying what most people think of as a "song" is actually two components: the composition (music notes and lyrics that make up a song, created by the composers) and the original recorded audio (recording of musicians playing the song, created by the artists). Often the composers and artists are the same people, but not always. These song components can be owned separately by different entities. For this reason, there are two types of licenses to protect the two types of creations: 1) a mechanical license (audio-only) or synchronization license (video) for the composer to protect the composition, and 2) a master license for the recording artist to protect the original recording. It's important to understand both components, and both types of licenses when obtaining permission for a "song:"
1) Musical Composition (mechanical or synchronization rights)
The composition is the music notes and lyrics that define a song. The rights to the composition are usually owned by the composer or their publisher. Permission is obtained through a mechanical license (audio-only) or synchronization license (video).
2) Sound Recording (master rights)
The recording is a recorded performance of the composition (song). The rights to the recording are usually owned by the artist or their record label. Permission is obtained through a master license.