Music Copyright Laws

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Publishing, licensing and copyright in the music industry

Below is some useful information about publishing, licensing and music copyright laws in the UK music industry that will affect singers.

Copyright laws for singers

As a singer, it’s important to remember that you should abide by music copyright laws. Assuming that you now have your copyright evidence established you would probably want to promote, publish and get paid for your work.

  • The next step is to sign up with a publishing company such as PRS/MCPS and/or Sentric Music. These companies will work on your behalf to collect your performing and mechanical rights/royalties from licensed venues and manufacturers/distributors of media.
  • Every time that you or someone else performs or plays your work, you will receive a performance royalty payment. Mechanical royalty payments will be collected from everyone that reproduces your work for broadcast, distribution or online streaming. This is one of the music copyright laws that helps provide you with an income stream.
  • All these rights collection agencies/societies/companies require that you own the music copyright to your work. So, make sure that you have this evidence for every piece of work that you think might make you some money.
  • If you would prefer to give your work away for free, your best option is to do this using Creative Commons licensing. Music copyright laws are still in place for this option.
  • You have probably seen Creative Commons licenses everywhere on the web on sites such as Flickr, RSS feeds, blog sites, music distribution sites, BandCamp, Vimeo, etc.
  • Creative Commons can only be applied to work that you own the copyright to. So, make sure that this is evidenced first. Then decide which type of Creative Commons licence to apply.

Copyright tips

  • Record or write down your work in some physical form as soon as you can. Music copyright laws protection only applies to a physical recording (audio, video, written formats) of your work. While it’s in your head as an idea it is not protected.
  • Register with collection agencies/societies/companies/Publishing companies to collect payments for the performance and use of your work
  • DON’T give your work away for free – use Creative Commons licensing to distribute your work (for free) in a controlled manner.
  • Never sample another song in your own recording. Even if it’s borrowing something as simple as a chord progression or 2 lyrical lines, it will still be copyright infringement! Keep it original, this is one of our top tips on music copyright laws.