Music Licensing 101


Introduction To Music Licensing

Music licensing is how users of music such as TV shows, movies, or streaming services  get permission to use music from the rights owners. Licenses are granted simply so creators and rights holders get paid for the use of their music.  It is also one of the best revenue sources for writers and artists in the music market today.

Different License Types


A synchronization license allows the use of a music track in an audiovisual project.

In simple terms, a sync license is needed anytime a user plans to use the music in a video.

Popular use cases are mainly TV shows, films, commercials, Youtube videos, or video games.

Note: A popular topic is if a license is needed to upload videos with music to YouTube… 

If there is music in your YouTube video that you do not have copyright ownership of, and you are not trying to monetize, a license is NOT needed. If you are trying to monetize your youtube channel, a license IS needed.

 - SongShop Online Song Pitching & Licensing   - SongShop Online Song Pitching & Licensing

The master license authorizes the use of a music track in audiovisual projects.

On the surface this can seem like the same thing as a sync license. However, there is one major difference.

The master license allows the holder to use the original recording of the song.

A sync license only allows the holder to use the lyrics and composition to create a score or new recording of the song.

If you need to use a song in media such as television, video games, or commercials you must obtain both a sync and a master license.

 - SongShop Online Song Pitching & Licensing   - SongShop Online Song Pitching & Licensing

A Mechanical License allows a song to be reproduced and distributed by the license holder. This is the type of license granted on SongShop.

This license allows the holder to record and release their own version of the song. 

A mechanical license is necessary for the holder (usually a label or an artist) to record and create physical and digital copies of the song.


This is one of the most popular music licenses.

Also known as the performance license, this allows the use of a song for public broadcasting.

This is the type of license that allows songwriters to get paid when a song they have written is played on the radio. 



A print license allows the holder to score and create copies of the sheet music to a musical track.

If you need to print out the score of a song in physical format, you will need a print license.


A theatrical license is only used in the theater and allows you to perform a song in a theatrical play.

Performances need to acquire the theatrical license every time a copyrighted musical work is to be performed on a stage in the presence of an audience.

 - SongShop Online Song Pitching & Licensing   - SongShop Online Song Pitching & Licensing

How Much Can I Make From a Song License?

Music Licensing fees range from the low hundreds of dollars for a song by a new band in a podcast, to millions of dollars for a  hit song used as the theme song for a blockbuster movie. A mechanical license might cost an artist $100, while a sync license for that song might get the rights holder paid $5000 for the use of the recording. 

Fee’s can vary greatly depending on the application and where the song is being used.

Fun fact: ACDC put a whopping $500,000 price tag on the use of Thunderstruck in the movie Varsity Blues. Credit



If you are new to  music licensing, this should have given you a nice overview into the world of licensing your songs. If you want to get started licensing your songs, you can sign up with SongShop and get started HERE!

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