What counts as a cover song? What music is in the public domain? Do I need a mechanical license? Where can I obtain a license? How do I format my metadata for distribution? You’ll need to know all of these answers before uploading your cover songs to RouteNote.
Cover songs are a great way to gain traction. Bringing in fans of another artists, while showing off your own unique style is the perfect way to boost followers. What’s more, we can help you get these cover songs to stores and streaming services.
What counts as a cover?
A cover song is taking someone else’s music, reworking it and re-recording it. For example ‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Jimi Hendrix (originally by Bob Dylan). A cover can be any song that uses any of the original songs compositional elements (chords, key, lyrics, etc.). The same applies for:
- Original instrumental versions
- Parodies – Using an instrumental cover with your own lyrics
- A small portion of another’s musical elements or lyrics
- One cover song in an album of originals
Please note, you cannot include samples from the original song without permission from the rightsholder. To use a karaoke/instrumental you find online, make sure you check the rights.
You legally need a license if your music is not in the public domain or free-to-use.
Works remain under copyright for 50-70 years (depending on the country) after the original composer’s death. After this point, works move into the public domain and store/territory restrictions no longer apply.
Many Christmas songs are in the public domain. Click here for a list.
Where can I distribute my music without a license?
You need to obtain a mechanical license before releasing your cover songs commercially, however many stores and countries will sort you out automatically. Without spending a penny you can distribute your music to:
- All stores – excluding the following territories: USA, Canada, Mexico, Pakistan and India.
- OR All countries – only the following stores: Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Saavn, Juke & Anghami.
You can create two releases that follow both rules above to maximise coverage. Including/excluding stores and territories is super easy in RouteNote.
To distribute to all stores and all territories, you’ll need to obtain a mechanical license.
Where can I obtain a mechanical license?
You can obtain a mechanical license yourself. You’ll need to get in contact with the original rightsholder and write up a contract. If you’re covering a friends song, all you’ll need is written permission from them, outlining the basic how and where their music will be used. For example an email from the original artist stating: “I give the artist … permission to distribute unlimited downloads and streams of a cover of my song … to all stores, streaming services and territories.” will suffice.
For small or medium artists wanting to distribute larger artists’ tracks, you’ll want to go via an agency to avoid any complicated legal jargon.
Our friends over at Harry Fox can sort you out here. Harry Fox make it easy for artists and labels of all sizes to obtain mechanical licenses.
You’ll need to have a rough idea of how many copies you’ll sell and stream, as this must be paid ahead of time. The current standard royalty rate is $0.01 per stream and $0.091 per download. This must be paid on top of a processing fee to the agency, which for Harry Fox is between $13-15. You’ll need to keep an eye on how many downloads and streams you’re racking up and pay for another license should you exceed your initial prediction when purchased. Luckily RouteNote provide all users with detailed monthly statistics, showing exactly how many downloads and streams you’ve pulled in per store and territory.
Once you’ve got your license, attach it to an email and drop it to:
We’ll flag the release, to let our moderation team know it’s all good to go.
How do I format my cover song’s metadata?
Whether you have a license or not, or the song is in the public domain or not, you need to make sure your metadata is solid to get through moderation with no delays.
You must credit the original artists in the ‘Composition Copyright ©’ (or C Line) box. You’ll find this in the ‘Album Details’ of your release on RouteNote. Make sure you list the original performing artists, not the composers:
- The Beatles = Correct
- John Lennon, Paul McCartney = Incorrect
You cannot mention the original artist anywhere else in your release, including artist fields, track fields or the cover art.
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