September 29


Getting A License For A Hendrix Song

By Keith Livingston

September 29, 2016

compulsory license, cover songs, covers, publishing

Recently, I wrote an article about getting licenses for cover songs. I mentioned Harry Fox/Songfile, and Easy Song Licensing. A friend of mine (I’ll call him Tom) mentioned that he had tried to get a license for a Hendrix tune, and Harry Fox couldn’t get it. I did a quick search on Easy Song Licensing, and the song came up. So I suggested Tom try them.

Pay The Songwriter & Benefit The Public

Once a recording has been legally and publicly distributed in the United States, pretty much anybody can make their own recording of the same song, without getting the songwriter’s permission. It’s the law. There are some conditions, but that’s the gist of it. But, you’ve got to get a license to do it, and you’ve got to pay the songwriter a set fee per sale/download/stream.

It’s what’s called a compulsory license. And it’s designed to reward the creativity of the songwriter, and encourage the artistic expression of others. It gives the songwriter the first shot, and the right to get paid for his or her work. And it gives everybody else the chance to legally record songs, without having to negotiate rights with individual songwriters.

Companies like The Harry Fox Agency, and Easy Song Licensing administer the process. You pay them an administration fee, plus the money that goes to the songwriters, and they take care of the rest.

Anyway, I knew that legally, the right to release a recording of a Hendrix song existed. It’s a compulsory license, not a voluntary one.

Do You Work For Free?

Now, a lot of people think that they shouldn’t have to pay. They think music should be free, and nobody should have to pay for any music. Unless those same people go to work every day, and are fine with not getting paid, they are assholes. People work hard to write songs and play music. If they want to release it for free, that’s fine. But if they don’t, and you think you somehow deserve to take it without paying for it, you’re just a jerk.

What Happened?

In short, it worked. Tom was able to get the license in short order, and released the song.

Anywho, if you find yourself unable to obtain a license from Harry Fox, pop on over the EasySongLicensing, and give it a whirl.


Keith Livingston

About the author

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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