Thinking of making money by selling
your album at your gigs? You'll
need permission first...
Who doesn't want to make more
money, right? Well if you are considering making an album to
sell at your gigs or to give away as a demo, you'll need a licence
Fortunately the licensing required for this isn't particularly
complicated, but get it wrong and it could cost you dearly.
There are essentially two copyrights attached to every piece
of recorded music.
1. To the performer (i.e. the singers/musicians who played on
2. To the author (i.e. the songwriter).
If you record an album, even if you only plan to give it away,
these two royalties still must be paid by you.
1. The Performers Royalty
The best way to explain this is to look at an example.
If you were to buy a backing track from us of, say, the Beatles
song Hey Jude, the author will be John Lennon
and Paul McCartney, but the performer will be
us (the MP3 Backing Trax musicians who played on that backing
The good news is that if you buy your backing tracks from us
at MP3 Backing Trax and request our permission to use it as
the backing music for your album, then we as the performer (i.e.
the guys who played the music on the backing track), will usually
say yes and we'll waive our "performers" royalty.
So far we've never refused a customer yet and the reason we
do this for our customers is because we want you be successful
- I decided many years ago when I first set up this backing
track business that I would always do as much as I could to
help fellow artists further their careers wherever possible
(our only requirement is that you credit MP3 Backing Trax
on the artwork as supplying the music for your album - that's
fair enough, I'm sure you'll agree).
So, ok, that's one part
of your licensing sorted out for you.
Let's look at the second part - the authors royalty...
2. The Authors Royalty
If you record yourself singing a song which you did not
write yourself, no matter whether you are selling the
recording or giving it away, and no matter whether you legally
bought and paid for the backing music to that song, you still
must obtain further permission from the original
author (the songwriter) to use it.
Don't mistakenly think that because our backing tracks are supplied
to you "MCPS royalty paid" that this means
you are now free to use the backing track you've bought in any
way you wish.
Remember, we only performed the music on the backing
track - the author of the song still has other
rights as to what you can and cannot do with his song.
The licence we have to supply backing tracks to you (and what
you, in turn, can then do with those backing tracks) has limitations
- remember, we're not the authors, we didn't write the songs.
For example, you cannot copy or reproduce any backing tracks
purchased from us except for your own personal use and you cannot
alter, modify, publish, distribute, sell, broadcast, transmit,
create derivative works from, or edit any backing tracks purchased
from us without our expressed written permission.
The royalty we pay to the author when we supply you with a backing
track is not the same as the further royalty you
will need to pay to the author should you wish to use his/her
song on your album or demo (yes, that's correct, the author
gets paid over and over again EVERY time his work is used for
each different purpose - so now you know why so many songwriters
are multi-millionaires and can earn more than even the superstar
artistes who sing their songs)!
So to put it in simple terms, if you decide to use a backing
track (and not just one of ours - I also mean any backing track
bought from any company) to make an album that you intend to
sell, or give away, or offer as a download on your website,
you cannot do it without a licence...
Where to get a licence
Fortunately you don't need to hunt around to try and find the
songwriters of every song on your album and ask their permission
individually. Thankfully there is a standard blanket licence
which you can purchase from the music licensing authorities
in your country which will cover you to sell your album.
You may need seperate and different licences if you are going
to be selling your album in a variety of different formats e.g.
there's one licence for selling CD's and another, different
licence to sell internet downloads, so make sure you let the
licensing authorities know exactly what you will be doing with
your album and how you're going to sell it to ensure you get
the correct licence.
Just below the next paragraph
you'll see links to where you can find the main licensing authorities
in the UK, USA and Australia. Contact them and let them know
what you're planning to do and they will advise you of the correct
licence and how much it'll cost you.
If you are situated in any other country, then use the links
below to contact the authorities nearest to your country and
ask who controls music licensing in your particular country.
They'll be happy to point you in the right direction (they all
work together, no matter where in the world you are):
USA - http://www.riaa.com
UK - http://www.mcps-prs-alliance.co.uk
Australia - http://www.apra.com.au/
Music licensing doesn't just apply to recording and selling
music. Any type of public performance of music requires a licence.
In fact, even when you buy a legal fully royalty paid backing
track from us and use it to sing at a live gig, the venue you
are singing in must have a PRS music licence or
you cannot perform in that venue.
Mind you, obtaining a PRS licence is the venues responsibility,
not yours, so you shouldn't need to worry too much about this.
However you should always ensure that the venue
you're singing in have a curent PRS licence before you start
your gig because if they don't, you WILL be breaking
the law by performing in an unlicenced venue.