What is it, why does it exist, who does it affect?
Put simply, a music license is an agreement between a music user and the owner of that music that says it's okay to use their music.
Why Do Music Licenses Exist?
Licenses serve a critical purpose in allowing people to give or get permission without compromising the owner's rights over their work. United States copyright law helps musicians and owners make money by giving them (and only them) six exclusive rights when it comes to the use of their music. In short, only the creator of the song may:
- reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
- prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work;
- distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public;
- perform the copyrighted work publicly;
- display the copyrighted work publicly; and
- perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of digital audio transmission.
These rights are important to musicians because music is largely intangible and can be easily reproduced. The protection of the law is the primary assurance that a musician will be compensated for their creation. Music licenses are simply agreements to "lend out" these exclusive rights (with conditions, and for a fee). They are the vehicle by which permission is requested and granted, and creators are compensated.
For Music Creators
This is good news for you. You have many ways to make money with your music. You can benefit from a good understanding of your rights, and the ways you can make money by "lending them out" in the form of music licensing.
For Music Users
Make sure you get permission when you use other people's copyrighted music. Today you might be paying for a music license, tomorrow you might be collecting on one. In any case, music licensing ensures you're doing the right thing.