What Is Music Licensing?

Music licensing facilitates the authorized use of copyrighted music. It ensures that the creators of musical compositions get paid for their work. Most music licenses are non-exclusive, meaning the copyright owner can license the same song to any companies that are willing to pay.



Essential Music Licensing Terms


With regard to musical works, a copyright frames the rights to make and publish copies of the work, make other versions of the work, record the work, or perform the work in public.

music publisher

A music publisher is the owner (or controller) of the copyrighted work.


The licenses is the entity to whom the work is licensed.


The licensor is the owner (or controller) of the licensed work.

mechanical license

A mechanical license allows a licensee to reproduce and distribute copyrighted musical compositions (songs), including uses on phonorecords (i.e., CDs, vinyl and many digital configurations).

synchronization license

A synchronization (or sync/synch) license grants the right for musical works to be performed as a background element in a film, television program or other moving visual display.

master use license

A master use license grants permission to use an existing recording such as an accompaniment track in an audio or video project.

performing rights organization (AKA: PRO, performing rights society)

Performing Rights Organizations (such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC in the United States, PRS for Music in the United Kingdom, and many others around the world) monitor performances or broadcasts of copyrighted works on behalf of their registered members.

public domain

Public domain copyrights are considered when the legal status of a work when copyright protection was never available, properly secured, or has expired or otherwise been lost. A licenses is not required to use a work that is in the public domain.

pre-cleared music

Pre-cleared music has typically been pre-negotiated for price, distribution and legal use.