How to get licensing clearances for copyright on a music CD project

We are shortly going to be starting a series of copyright articles with some help from CCLI but in the meantime here is a great article our friend Kenny Lamm over at Renewing Worship has shared with us.

We’ll let you read the article first and at the end we’ve added some comment on how this differs in the UK and also some insight into how Musicademy and Worship Backing Band do their licensing.


How to legally create a CD without getting into trouble with copyright

If you want to record or distribute a song that you do not own or control, U.S. Copyright Law requires that you get a mechanical license. This is required regardless of whether or not you are selling the copies that you make. If your church wants to produce a CD with songs for distribution or sale, the process of tracking down all the licenses you need may be very time consuming.

Many distributors and online music sites require that you have a mechanical license in place before they duplicate your recording or offer it online. If you want to do the work yourself, there are some helpful resources listed later in this post.

A few organizations will take care of most of the leg work for you. You will pay them a service fee PLUS all license fees (royalties) owed to the copyright owners. Here are three of the bigger players:

Copy Clear

  • CopyClear will complete all the research and filing requests of your mechanical licenses for a one-time fee of $129.95 for up to ten songs on a single audio CD project, in addition to the normal royalty fees. (Extra songs may be included for $5.00 each.)
  • License requests for synchronization, limited downloads, interactive streaming, pre-recorded commercial tracks, print reproduction, and theater performance are all handled on a case by case basis. Obtaining permissions for these licenses can be difficult, time consuming, and often disappointing. Please contact CopyClear for more information.

Easy Song Licensing

  • Easy Song Licensing will complete all the research and filing requests of your mechanical license for a fee of $14.99 per song plus royalties.


  • In addition to royalty fees, there is a per-song processing fee of $16 for up to five songs. If you license 6 or more songs at one time, the processing fee is reduced to $14 per song.

Do it yourself resources

(this information provided by Christian Copyright Solutions)

Researching Song Publishing Information:

Obtaining Licenses and Permissions Free Fact Sheets from CCS

    How to estimate and budget for specific types of projects and licenses; e.g., a sync license to reproduce a song on a video can range from $.15 – .25 per song per video unit and some publishers have high minimum fees.
  • COPYRIGHTS 101: Basic Building Blocks


Thanks to Kenny for the above article. It should be noted that licensing law differs from country to country so if you are not in the US, do investigate arrangements for your own market.


How the UK differs – PRS for Music

In the UK licensing is generally managed by an industry umbrella group called PRS For Music (connected to MCPS) which represents the right of over 111,000 publishers and songwriters. So if you are manufacturing your CDs (or hosting digital files) in the UK you need to apply to PRS for a license. The website guides you through the process and we’ve found their staff to be very helpful on the phone.

Other US contacts and song search help

Capitol CMG Publishing is responsible for probably the large majority of songs from the CCLI lists so is a good place to start when looking for information about publishers for particular songs. Their stable includes Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, David Crowder, Paul Baloche, Brenton Brown, the Hillsong catalogue and many many more. Once you have created an account with them you’ll find a comprehensive Song Search facility (see below) which will give you song titles, writers, publishers and the copyright information you must show on any label.

Song licensing search results

Capitol CMG’s Song Search facility showing writers and publishers for different arrangements of Away in a Manger.

Music Services represent another large chunk of Christian song writers and publishers including Vineyard. Their search facility is also very helpful and will (like Capitol) list a lot of songs that they don’t necessarily control but do provide information on.

Music Services licensing song search

The song search facility that Music Services provides. Here a search for Away in a Manger produces 224 possible results.

What we do at Musicademy

Whilst Musicademy is based in the UK, probably 70% of our customers are in North America. We therefore tend to manufacture our DVD sets over there and have a fulfilment centre in Texas which handles distribution for us. With US based manufacturing this means that we deal direct with the publishers in the US. It’s astonishing how much time licensing takes up, particularly when songs are co-written by a writer that isn’t with one of the usual stables of publishers. We first approach the publisher for a license for using a song on a particular product. There are different licenses depending on whether the final use is for a CD, DVD, download or chord chart. So if the song is being used in multiple formats, that’s multiple licenses. Then once we start selling the product, the agreed percentage of the product’s RRP has to be accounted for and paid back to the publishers – a huge admin job at the end of each accounting period.

We do have some arrangements with PRS in the UK for times when we either manufacture here (our Worship Backing Band DVDs with some 35 songs on each are a lot easier to deal with via a single body than multiple publishers) or for website content or downloads that we host on UK rather than US servers.


We hope this is a helpful overview for you into the complex world of music publishing and licensing. As promised we hope to have a series covering common licensing questions from CCLI soon.