How to Obtain a Music Redistribution License

By Elyse James
A redistribution license is required by United States copyright laws.

Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Music distribution is the last step in the music production process. However, before someone can distribute music they didn’t personally create, it's essential to obtain a redistribution license. In the music world, a redistribution license is known as a mechanical license. This protects the rights of artists and ensures that they get royalty payments for their work. The royalty rates are determined each year by the Copyright Tribunal and fluctuate based on the current state of the economy.

Contact the music publisher whose song you want to redistribute. The original music publisher owns the rights to the songs and they will be able to grant you a mechanical license to reproduce the music. You will need to indicate to them how many copies of the song you will reproduce so the publisher knows how much you will have to pay to cover the royalty fees.

Contact a licensing agent who will do the work for you. Many redistributors choose to use a licensing agent, such as the Harry Fox Agency, Broadcast Music Inc. or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Fill out a form and indicate what song or songs you want to redistribute. The licensing company will contact the music publisher on your behalf and arrange for a mechanical license.

Obtain a compulsory license so that you might redistribute the music. This process is quite complex and is the last resort you should take to get a redistribution license. Compulsory licenses are very work intensive. Even after the compulsory license has been obtained, there is ongoing administration and reporting.

About the Author

Elyse James began writing professionally in 2006 after deciding to pursue a career in journalism. She has written for "The Algonquin Times" as a general assignment reporter and published blogs and articles on Webcitybeat. James holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Ottawa.