(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)
Avoid being caught out…don’t wait until a big bill for royalties pops through your letterbox…Get your backing track licensing right before you start!
Would you ever book an artist to play in your theatre, club venue, at your wedding or corporate night out without having heard them? No, me neither.
So this is why it is important that you promote your act by putting audio samples of you singing on your website. In other articles I go through the various methods of actually producing the audio clips of you singing and how to embed them in to your webpages, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you already have a few audio clips ready-made, and have produced a web page ready to upload to your website where visitors will go to download/play these audio clips.
So, all you need now is a licence to allow your visitors to play those clips when they visit your website.
Why Do I need A Licence?
All music, no matter where it is performed and by whom, is controlled by strict licencing to protect the performers and writers of that music. For example, if you showcase an audio clip on your website of you singing a song that was written by say, The Beatles, you are using their song to promote yourself (and most probably earn money from the gigs or exposure performing that song helps you get).
So Lennon and McCartney, who wrote the song, are rightfully due a fee for helping you achieve this. That sounds fair doesn’t it?
Certainly, you could argue that you are not a professional entertainer and you don’t make money from the clips on your website, but at the end of the day, music licencing is the law (and an international law at that), so take my advice, don’t try to lock horns with the music licencing authorities – I’ve worked with them for years. No matter how you try to get them to see your point of view, they’ll simply take you to court and a court will always rule that if you use someone elses work, you should pay for it – period.
It’s the law, and in my humble opinion it’s completely fair and reasonable, so pay your dues and sleep well at night.
There are two copyrights attached to every piece of music, no matter where in the world your website is or where in the world it is used:
- Copyrights of the performer
- Copyright of the author (ie song-writer)
To further explain, if you use backing tracks, produced by us here at MP3 Backing Trax as the backing music to your audio clips, then you need our permission to use these clips.
This is because it was our musicians who performed the music on these recordings, so, as the performer, we hold the rights to whether you can use those pieces of music and where.
Good news is that if you want to use our work and you contact us and ask our permission, to date, we have never refused a customer yet (subject to our standard terms).
The second copyright is more complicated because it is granted by the author ie the person who wrote the original song or the authors estate (or he may have sold the rights to a third-party).
While we at MP3 Backing Trax have had contact and dealings with you when you purchased your tracks and are happy to help you, our customer, promote and further your career, the original authors of the songs don’t know you and are therefore very unlikely to give you permission to use their work freely.
However, don’t despair. You don’t need to go hunt down the widow of some dead song writer and ask her permission to use his song on your website!
All music licencing can be covered by one simple licence (often referred to as a “blanket” licence) which will allow you to use almost any music you like on your website. How good is that?!
In most licencing cases, the audio clips you use should not exceed 30 seconds but check the licence – it will tell you exactly how much of a song you can use. In general, the more music you use, the more you pay for the licence (there are many different types of licences so be sure to tell the licencing authorities EXACTLY what you are planning to do so they can issue you with the correct licence).
Don’t risk receiving a big bill for extra royalties at a later date because you got this wrong!
Where to obtain a licence (authors permission)
Different countries in the world have different licencing authorities so wherever you and your website is based, that’s where you need to obtain the licence from.
The music licencing authorities in all countries work together because they are all working with the same song writers and to the same ends – protecting unlawful use of their work, so don’t think for one minute you can play one licencing authority against another!
They’ll simply put their heads together and just shut you down altogether – it’s just not worth it.
Here are the websites of the main licencing authorities in the UK, USA and Australia. If you are situated in any other country, contact one of them and ask who controls music licencing in your particular country and they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction – as I said earlier, they all work together:
USA – http://www.riaa.com
UK – http://www.prsformusic.com
Australia – http://www.apra.com.au/
Where to obtain a licence (performers permission)
Here!….from us! We are the people who performed on your backing track recordings, so we can grant you this permission.
And, as far as we are concerned here at MP3 Backing Trax, if you want to use our backing tracks to record an album and/or use some clips from that album on your website, then we are more than happy to allow you as long as you ask our permission.
Simply contact us, tell us what you plan to do, the website you are going to use our music on, and what songs you are going to use. To date, we have never refused permission to a customer yet. All we ask is that you make clear on your website that the music was produced and supplied by MP3 Backing Trax and insert a hyperlink to our website http://www.mp3backingtrax.com on your web page where those audio clips are.
Remember, we don’t just sell backing tracks – everyone who works here at MP3 Backing Trax is a professional gigging entertainer just like you, so we want you to be successful as possible and we want to help you promote your act as much as we can.
So, there you have it. All of the above can be condensed in to 3 easy steps.
- Decide what songs you want to use on your website.
- Contact us here at MP3 Backing Trax and obtain permission to use them.
- Contact the licencing authorities in your country and purchase a licence to use them.
That’s all there is to it. So whatever you do, don’t neglect doing this.
If you do, then a year or two down the line a big bill will unexpectedly drop through your letterbox saying you owe royalties. You’ll be made to pay, or prosecuted, or both, so don’t take the chance.
It doesn’t cost much to do things right, so get it right first time, and you can sleep easy forever more!