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Online Music Licensing Resources

Note: While there are many different ways that music can be licensed, this article will focus on getting your music licensed for TV, film, advertising, commercials, websites, radio, etc., via online resources.

What Is Music Licensing?

Music licensing is the licensed use of copyrighted music. It also ensures that the creators of musical works get paid for their work. In layman’s terms it can be viewed as leasing your property out to someone for a fee, based on how and where they intend to use it, and for how long.

What’s cool is you’re not selling your music, so you still own the copyright to your songs and recordings. Furthermore, many music licensing deals are non-exclusive, meaning you can license the same song to as many people or companies that are willing to pay for its use!

Music Licensing Terms

The following words and phrases often turn up when discussing music licensing:


A full ownership transfer of a copyright interest, in whole or in part, from one person or entity to another. A copyright assignment MUST be in writing.


The replaying of pre-recorded works to multiple listeners through various media or in a ‘semi-live’ setting such as a bar or bookstore, and including radio, TV, webcasting, podcasting, etc.


With regard to musical works, the exclusive right to make and publish copies of the work, to make other versions of the work, to make recordings of the work, and to perform the work in public. license The right, granted by the copyright holder, for a given person or entity to broadcast, recreate, perform, or listen to a recorded copy of a copyrighted work.


The person or entity to whom the work is licensed.


The owner of the licensed work.

master use license

Gives you permission to use an existing recording such as an accompaniment track in an audio or video project. You must obtain a license for each track in the project from the owner of the recording.

master use rights

Required for previously recorded material that you do not own or control. They can only be obtained from the owner of the master recording, usually a record company. It is recommended that you obtain the master use license from the owner prior to requesting a mechanical license.

mechanical license

Grants the rights to reproduce and distribute copyrighted musical compositions (songs), including uses on phonorecords (i.e., CDs, records, tapes, and certain digital configurations).


The live performance of a musical piece, regardless of whether it’s performed by the original artist or in the manner it is best known.

performing rights organization

Large companies, the best-known of whom are ASCAP, BMI, and to a lesser extent SESAC (there are others as well) whose fundamental job it is to keep track of every single performance or broadcast of all works protected under copyright.

public domain

The legal status of a work

  1. for which copyright protection was never available;
  2. for which copyright protection was never properly secured; or
  3. for which copyright protection, though may have existed, has expired or otherwise has been lost. No permission or license is required to use a work that is in the public domain.

pre-cleared music

Music that has been pre-negotiated for price, distribution and legal use, generally through licensing for film, video, television (commercials and programs), Internet, events, video games and multimedia productions.


For the purposes of copyright, a publisher is the owner of the copyrighted work.

synchronization licensing

The licensing of musical works to be performed as a soundtrack, bumper, leadin, or background to a motion picture.

work made for hire (work for hire)

According to copyright law in most countries, if a work is “made for hire,” the employer, not the employee, is considered the legal author.

Online Music Licensing Resources

I’ve thrown together a list of various music licensing websites. Each company may differ in the way they license music, as well as how they charge for their services. Do your research and choose the one that’s tight for you.


Claims to insert hundreds of songs into films, documentaries, television/cable programs, extreme sports videos, exercise videos, etc.


A global music licensing company working for adverts, films and games.


A bridge that links independent artists and musicians to those in the industry who want their songs. Humtoo Connects music makers with projects that need music.


A complete music licensing e-commerce solution which makes it easy for you to license your music from your own website and keep 100% of the sales revenues.

Matchless Music

License pre-cleared Indie music for film, television, documentaries, advertising, websites, video games, corporate videos, and commercials.

Minimum Noise

A simple and fun approach to music licensing. Instead of browsing through libraries for hours, have musicians make music based on your description.

Music Dealers

A full-service Music Licensing company that connects quality artists from around the world with leading brands, networks, advertising agencies, film production houses and gaming companies.

Music Licensing Store (Rumblefish)

Provides music licensing services to social media and technology companies, movie and TV production studios, advertisers, video game makers and iconic brands worldwide.


Researches and licenses music for content producers.

Pump Audio

Artists can license their music into productions without giving up any ownership, while TV and advertising producers can discover new music ready for use.

Ricall Music Licensing

Claims to operate the world’s largest online music research and licensing marketplace.

Sentric Music

Music rights management.


Helps independent artists, songwriters, and composers get record, publishing, and film/TV deals.

Additional Resources

ASCAP Licensing

BMI Licensing

Harry Fox Agency (HFA) Licensing

SESAC Licensing

Don “Wicked D” Harrison provides business development and web management for entrepreneurs within the arts & entertainment industry.  This post was originally published on his blog, Network or Die.  Follow Don on Twitter @Wicked_D

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
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Reader Comments (19)

Nice article, Don. I would add RightsFlow into that list of companies -- they offer a suite of licensing services. Check them out!

Great Post. Many musicians aren't aware of the opportunities to earn money by licensing their music. One of the most lucrative areas these days, now that CD sales and even digital sales are down. Prediction: This area is going to grow considerably in the future.
I'd also include a new startup to this list to watch -

June 29 | Unregistered Commenterfrontstereo

This list was by no means meant to be all inclusive, but I will definitely be adding to it, once I create its own resource page on the website.

Keep 'em coming. I'd love to know what everyone is using.


Wicked D

Two very popular and successful sites for music licensing are
Most composers are making between $150 and $6000 a month on these two sites.
It is a little harder to get accepted into these sites though.

June 29 | Registered CommenterMark Lewis

Very helpful. Thanks!

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Ocean

Hey, you forgot which is the largest and most open licensing marketplace out there.

June 30 | Unregistered CommenterRusty

June 30 | Unregistered CommenterLior

"According to copyright law in most countries, if a work is “made for hire,” the employer, not the employee, is considered the legal author."

Could you please specify "most countries"? To my knowledge, "work made for hire" is an anglo-saxon concept which is legally not possible for music copyrights in many countries, i.e. allover continental Europe?

Thank you!

June 30 | Unregistered CommenterChris

hahaha I did forget to add, but it wasn't intentional. This article was actually written for a client who had posed the question, "What do you know about music licensing, and what other sites are out there other than YouLicense." I took it it out when I forwarded him this info, but forgot to plug it back in when I submitted this as an article. ;)

You should check out Songfreedom! We make it easy to license mucis for all your digital projects.

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterSongfreedom

I have come across a new source for Royalty Free Music, video for Wedding Photographers, Portrait Photographers, Wedding Videographers, Non-Profit Organizations, Ministries & Churches, and Production Companies.
Music Licensing

I like this post so much. online music licensing, and using online resources to earn money from my pre-composed music. I’ve done quit a bit of research and study on basic music publishing and licensing resources. Thanks for sharing this post so much.
video service

July 12 | Unregistered Commentervideo service

@ Chris - My apologies, I must have overlooked your question! In regards to:
"Could you please specify "most countries"? To my knowledge, "work made for hire" is an anglo-saxon concept which is legally not possible for music copyrights in many countries, i.e. allover continental Europe?"

This is a phrase that is floating around on just about every licensing/copyright site on the net. In fact, I grabbed it from a Chicago entertainment lawyer. I'm assuming that 'work made for hire' is just a generic term, not to be taken literally.

A good reference for those outside of the USA would be Sutherland's "Analysis of International Work-for-Hire Laws" at

Hope this helps.

Another smaller and more boutique option is We do TV, film, ad, and corporate work.

VillaMusicRights is a website for artists who want to manage their own music copyright

August 4 | Unregistered Commenteroxana

What a great blog, You provide a very nice information about the music License. I think, . The music licensee is the person or company that has been granted the right to use this music. Music Licensing helps bands & songwriters to get paid for the use of their music that they have worked so hard to create.
DJ equipment

September 28 | Unregistered CommenterDJ equipment

Very nice articles.I got many information about copyright and licencing resource for online music.
Thanks for sharing

November 22 | Unregistered Commenterlatino

Another very recently started site is

Artists retain 85% of the sales revenues and keep all the rights to their music. Its great if you want to make sure you are supporting the artists when you spend money. They have some really good underground artists on there too!

July 6 | Unregistered CommenterChris

A very useful article that gives a general idea for a beginner. I had a question if anyone could help me answer it. For someone who is interested to start a music streaming site, is there an article or a place that helps guide or show the myriad type of contracts that one can see and review or learn from on all issues "contracts" ?

October 27 | Unregistered CommenterTeddy Afro

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