A cover song might be legally recorded and released on streaming services for various reasons. First off, performing a well-known song, especially a recent hit, is a great way to draw in more fans by taking advantage of an attentive audience.
When looking for timeless and popular songs, people are more likely to come across your cover and see your name listed alongside the greats if you’re a new and emerging artist. In addition, many music directors actively seek cover songs for TV or movies.
Even though recording and releasing a cover song has many advantages, many musicians never do it. This is typically caused by uncertainty over the legal ramifications of publishing a cover of someone else’s song.
However, it’s not as difficult as one might imagine doing so legally. The benefits of such a release, if carried out properly, can significantly advance or be a great start to an artist’s career, especially if you are not ready to put your original song out.
Here are some of our top suggestions on How to Release a Cover Song on Spotify and other streaming platforms.
The First Step Is to Choose the Right Song
How do you select a song to cover? Unfortunately, there isn’t a precise method.
But there are some sensible strategies to take into account when deciding on your cover material.
Here are some tips on how to select music to cover:
- Reworking a classic will make a statement.
- Change the genre to reveal the heart of a song.
- Choose a song that challenges you, and use it to improve your own abilities.
- Cover a song that you can never get out of your head and examine its appeal.
- Give your audience a glimpse of your influence.
Remember, your cover might not be it if you start changing it too much.
Pick carefully, whatever you decide. Don’t pick a song solely based on your assumption that it will receive a lot of streams.
Simply by learning and recording a song, you can learn something new.
Learn What Cover Songs Are Exactly
A cover song is when an artist plays, records, or recreates the composition of another artist. Any song that uses the chords, key, lyrics or another aspect of the original song’s arrangement is considered a cover.
Aside from the music and lyrics, this also holds for the song’s title. Therefore, for any covers you publish or upload to major streaming services such as Spotify, must have the exact song title as the original to be accepted.
The procedures for legally releasing songs that are parodied, sampled or combined into a medley fall into a different category. A cover differs from a medley, a remix, and a song’s derivative versions. It also differs from the sampling process. If you have used the same lyrics and haven’t made any significant changes to the melody or style of the original song, the song is considered a cover.
Keep in mind that without the rightsholder’s consent, you are not permitted to use recorded samples from the original song. You must confirm the rights of the recording you’re using before using a karaoke/instrumental backing track to record vocals or individual instrument parts on a cover.
What is Compulsory Licensing?
It’s a common misconception in the music industry that you need the consent of the original songwriter before recording a cover version of their song. US copyright law, however, makes it much simpler than that for musicians who want to cover a song.
This has been made possible by something called “compulsory licensing.” According to compulsory licensing, the creators of a song cannot prevent you from releasing your own interpretation. But if you want to take this path, you must do two things.
You must first give the owner advance notice that you intend to cover their song. Once more, this is just informing them of the status of their composition; it is not a request for approval.
Second, there is a set royalty fee for each song you buy or download. For music under five minutes in length, the current royalty rate per purchase or download is $9.1 cents, and 1.75 cents per minute or a fraction thereof if the song is longer than 5 minutes.
You can simply upload and release cover songs online without needing a license. Except in a few specific regions: the United States, Mexico, Canada, Pakistan, and India.
Unless you have obtained a mechanical license to release a cover of the songs you have recorded, you will need to exclude these regions from your distribution to the rest of the world.
What is Mechanical Licensing?
A mechanical license is an agreement between the copyright holder and the music creator that authorizes an audio-only release and is related to the payment of mechanical royalties. This applies to both physical and digital audio recordings.
Companies like Songfile, Harry Fox Agency, or Easy Song Licensing sell mechanical licenses.
Typically, mechanical licenses allow for a minimum of 200 downloads. The artist will be responsible for obtaining a new license before this limit is reached.
Do I Always Need a License?
You won’t need a mechanical license for some venues and regions where you plan to sell your cover songs because those licenses will be arranged by third parties.
You can share cover songs with the following without paying for a mechanical license:
- All stores, but not those in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Pakistan, or India
- The following streaming services are available worldwide: KKBox, Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Saavn, Nuuday, Anghami, and Pandora.
You will need to have a mechanical license for the legal distribution rights in order to distribute to all stores and all territories.
On the other hand, it’s possible that you can use a piece of music without obtaining a license if it’s in the public domain.
Depending on the nation, works retain their copyright for 50 to 70 years following the death of the original composer. Once this time has passed, the restrictions on stores and/or territories no longer apply to the works, and they enter into the public domain.
Similarly, you might be able to use a sound recording in the public domain to sample it without getting a license.
Where to Obtain a Mechanical License?
You will require a mechanical license for your cover song if you are not affiliated with a party (such as a record label or publisher) that is in charge of setting up your musical copyrights.
You might be able to get permission from the original rightsholder directly in more straightforward situations. For instance, if you’re covering a song written by a friend or a lesser-known artist, they might be able to give you their direct approval. Make sure any written authorization from the rightsholder is provably signed, contains a date of signature, and specifies how and where the authorization may be used.
You will frequently need to pay to be able to obtain a mechanical license, particularly if the original rightsholder is a well-known artist and/or has a major label representing them. To avoid the difficulty of attempting to contact the artist, label, or representative directly, you can go through agencies.
The following websites, among others, offer mechanical licenses for sale:
Regarding online distribution, you must obtain the required mechanical license if you’ve decided to upload your cover song to download sites like iTunes and Amazon Music.
Bonus tip: Don’t Forget to Give Credit to the Original Artist
To ensure that the original artist is properly credited when you upload your release, you will need to format it slightly differently if it is a cover release.
In the album’s Composition Copyright, you must give the original artist credit. When you upload your release using, for example, RouteNote, this will be under Album Details.
What About User Generated Content Platforms?
Suppose the rise of user-generated content (UGC) sites like SoundCloud and YouTube has taught us anything about the music industry in the Digital Age. In that case, it is that aspiring musicians from all over the world can amass massive online followings and gain global recognition by releasing cover songs that garner interest.
Success stories like those of Justin Bieber, Charlie Puth, Shawn Mendes, and many more are no longer unusual. Without the support of a major record label, previously undiscovered talent has gone on to secure brand sponsorships, live performances with notable recording artists, TV appearances, castings in commercials, and more.
Recording and uploading cover songs to UGC platforms can be a significant first step to building a fanbase. However, if done incorrectly, monetizing those songs on conventional digital music services can be a legal nightmare. You’ll also be in a better position to benefit from the release of a successful cover recording if you know when, where, and how to capture all of the royalty streams it generates.
Release a Cover Song on YouTube
But what if you want to upload it to YouTube—possibly as a clip from a live performance?
The mechanical license is only valid for the audio recording of your cover, which is the first thing to understand. No visual aspect is covered by it.
In all honesty, you don’t need to obtain the proper licensing agreement and permission because most artists who upload cover videos to YouTube do not. You do run the risk of having your video reported and your content removed, but you are more likely to get away with it now that YouTube has put in place a helpful system!
The Content ID system is a time and money saver. To determine whether a video contains any copyrighted material, YouTube’s Content ID system examines every component of the recording. The system will automatically submit a claim on behalf of the copyright holder if it detects something. However, this method of releasing a cover video isn’t always effective. There are several options available to a publisher if they decide they don’t want their song to be used by anyone.
This monetization system was created by YouTube to enable copyright owners to make money off of and monitor the usage of their content. This means that if your cover song starts to generate income, the copyright holder will receive that money.
What About a Video Accompanying the Release of a Song Cover?
You will require a sync license if you intend to legally publish an impeccable cover video.
To pair their song with compelling visuals, you must obtain permission from the publisher. Even if you want to release a cover song along with just one image or a slideshow video, a sync license must be obtained. If there are only still images, it still counts as a video.
When it comes to signing Sync licenses, music publishers are completely in control. They might ignore your request or charge a lot of money to grant the license. This won’t be an option for artists who regularly release cover videos.
Why Would You Want to Release a Cover Song on YouTube?
You might be wondering why you should upload a cover to YouTube if the publisher is the only one to profit from it.
A YouTube cover release is a fantastic way to interact with both current audiences and attract new ones, aside from the perennial defense of exposure.
If you want to profit from this release, you can pair it with an audio-only release that will let you get paid for downloads and streaming on different streaming platforms.
You can sell physical copies, merch, and possibly even your original music to viewers by using the video as an eye-catching way to direct them to the streaming services you are using or even your website!
Choose the Best Place to Release a Cover Song
Consider the location of your cover song once it has been released. This will assist you in setting a release date and getting ready to perform your music. The final step after you release a cover song is to promote it!
Your marketing strategy will be the same as your music album release rollout plan. Uncertain about its placement on your album? Consider creating a playlist or a story for your social media channels if your cover is single. Keep it out in the open. Inform your followers if you cover something!
No matter where you choose to post it, consider where your cover songs will fit best before you license them.
Now you finally know all about releasing a cover song on streaming platforms such as Spotify and various other platforms and stores. Keep in mind that licensing process can get you out of all possible legal problems.
Don’t hesitate to release your great music to the world, and also remember that SoundCampaign is here to help you place your music on curator’s playlists on Spotify and get more streams and followers!