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Musician's Arsenal: Killer Apps, Tools & Sites - Limelight

I hope everyone survived hurricane Irene this weekend. Now that natural disasters are out of the way, it’s time to get back to rockin’ the music world! This week in Musician’s Arsenal, I’d like to talk about something most musicians don’t like to think about. Rights. An unfortunate, but necessary reality of the music industry is that we need to understand how to procure the rights to not only our own songs, but to covers as well. I don’t think I need to go into the difficulty of getting people to check out your original music (if you’re the one reader who’d like me to elaborate, please contact me, I’d love to chat). We all struggle to get people to notice our music and there are many creative methods for drawing attention to your original music.

One technique that is growing in popularity (especially on YouTube, Ariel has a video about this here) is the cover song. The idea being, cover a popular song well and it will drive traffic to your original music. Leveraging an established artist’s fan base is a brilliant and effective plan and has helped break some of today’s biggest acts. But even beyond just helping drive traffic to your original music, recording and releasing cover songs can actually be a good source of revenue as well. Alex Holz over at RightsFlow wrote two awesome blog posts about this here and here. I recommend both. Basically, what Alex points out is that there are many artists who, for various reasons, don’t distribute their music digitally. A savvy artist can fill the void left by these artists and release covers. A prime example, as Alex points out, is Kid Rock, who can’t be found on iTunes, but many covers of his songs exist instead, some of which have made good money. But Alex has written about this extensively, so I’ll leave it at that.

Again, what we’re really here for is rights. In order to record and release these cover songs, you need to acquire the appropriate rights. You, of course, can do this all on your own. All you need to do is, 1) find out who owns the copyright, 2) send a notice of intent to the copyright owner, 3) provide a monthly accounting/payment to the copyright owner and 4) get a sign-off from an independent CPA at the end of the year. OR, you could simply contact our friends over at Limelight and they can take care of all that for you. Limelight is a part of RightsFlow and they can handle all of your licensing rights needs when it comes to recording and releasing a cover song. Here’s the point, cover songs are a great way to help get your music out there, but you need to get the rights in order to do this legally. If you’re at all like me, the last thing you want to worry about is which rights apply when and who needs to be contacted to make sure you’re not breaking the law. And while we’re on the topic of rights, I suppose it makes sense to talk about copyrighting your own music. If one day you want your music to be covered and have other artists pay you for permission to use your songs, you’ll need to have this step covered.

MySpark is another company under the RightsFlow umbrella and they can handle all of your copyrighting needs. While getting copyrights for your music is a simpler process then licensing a cover song, sometimes it’s just easier to outsource the task and not worry about dealing with the government. Limelight is a simple and affordable solution for licensing cover songs. If you want to jump on the cover song bandwagon (which is good idea), make sure you do it right. You worry about making the cover song amazing, let Limelight worry about making sure you’re covered.

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  • Response
    Response: Laura Glading
    Musician's Arsenal: Killer Apps, Tools & Sites - Limelight - MTT - Music Think Tank

Reader Comments (7)

Awesome article, it looks more like an add, but if it is, you got me =)

September 5 | Unregistered CommenterCloud Sheep

I haven't explored Limelight in-depth, but I don't see how the process could be any simpler than going directly through Harry Fox's Songfile system ( If someone could educate me on the differences, I'd appreciate it!

September 5 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Question: Using Limelight, how do I pay the original artist the royalty fees?

September 5 | Unregistered CommenterAlex


I've used both Limelight and Harry Fox. The primary differences:

1. unused Limelight licenses do not expire within a year.
2. for an additional fee, Limelight will track down the copyright holder for works not current represented in the Limelight or HFA catalog.
3. unlike HFA, the Limelight online dashboard doesn't look like it was designed in 1993 :)

You may want to verify all of this, as the last time I used Limelight was summer 2010. Terms may have changed.

September 5 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew


As far as I understand, that is part of the process with Limelight (and part of the cost they charge you). So you don't have to worry about that

September 7 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Alex, I believe the key difference would be that Fox is acting as an agent on behalf of the publishers/songwriters, whereas Limelight is working on behalf of you (like any other clearance company). That said, if you are covering a popular song then it will most likely be licensed by Fox, so my suggestion would always be to make a first stop there (especially since you can get a limited pressing license).

A cautionary note: you do not qualify for a mechanical license unless you get it in advance of the release. It's a nuance of the compulsory license in the Copyright Act. Get your ducks in a row before releasing; otherwise you could still end up in hot water.

Another note: just because you get a license for selling records does not mean you have a license to make videos. A lot of changes are going on at YouTube right now and if you have cover videos, you'll likely be getting a call from one of the major publishers very soon, with others likely to follow.

September 14 | Unregistered CommenterT. D.

Thanks for sharing this very informative post! This is the one I really need. Keep it up and good luck.

September 23 | Unregistered Commenteranime song covers

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