When to get permission
If you make a new sheet music arrangement of a song you did not write, you need to get a print license. Print licenses should be secured before you distribute the new arrangement. Because of the complexity of print licenses, we suggest making your request many months ahead of your release, and also having a backup plan in case your request is denied. Reputable printers will require proof of licensing before they duplicate copyrighted material. You do not need to license songs that you wrote yourself or songs that you know are in the public domain.
One common scenario is when band, orchestra, and choir directors want to create new arrangements for their ensembles to perform. Directors often have extensive musical knowledge and wish to create their own custom arrangements. However, to do this legally, they need a print license.
Note that for licensing purposes, "distributing" means making one copy or more (digital or physical) to display or give to anyone other than yourself. For example, making an overhead transparency or photocopying an arrangement for your ensemble for rehearsal purposes does require licensing.
How to get permission
Print licenses are custom-negotiated directly with the copyright holder upfront and are quite complex. For assistance obtaining a print license, check out our Custom Licensing services or contact us. Alternatively, you can attempt to locate the copyright owners yourself and request permission.
How the royalties are paid
For new arrangements, royalties are paid upfront to the copyright holder based on a custom-negotiated fee. When you hire us, we deliver your request to the copyright holder, negotiate the fee, and present it to you. If you accept, we collect the entire fee from you (which includes the royalties), and then send 100% of the royalties on to the copyright holder. If you need to reorder, a new license is negotiated. You have the option to follow all these steps yourself or hire us for assistance through our Custom Licensing services.
Challenges of licensing new arrangements
Print licenses, the licenses required for new arrangements, require custom negotiations with the copyright holder. Obtaining print licenses can be challenging because, by law, the copyright holders maintain total control of their works. This means they can set any fee, take all the time they want, or reject the license altogether. For this reason, it is important to temper expectations when licensing for new arrangements. Many factors affect the response, including budget, use, and even the current workload of the copyright holder’s processing department.