HTML: fun and easy!

HTML: Fun and Easy!
How to Make a Link
How to Make Italics, Bold, Delete, Big, and Center
by Sue Basko, Esq.

Are you jealous of people who can make their online comments, Craigslist ads, band descriptions, and other things just a bit snazzier because they know HTML?  HTML is hypertext mark-up language.  It is coding you can use in spaces that allow it.  It's easy!  Here are a few easy HTML codes to get you started.  

Here's how to do it:

This is called an angle bracket.  
HTML code goes inside the angle brackets.

Let's say you want to make some words bold.
is the code for bold.

You turn the bold code on with 

and turn the bold code off with

Everything that is between the on and the off will be bold.

I want to order a mushroom only pizza.

Let's add some HTML for bold:  

This is how it will look: 
I want to order a mushroom only pizza.



How it looks: 
The Title of My Paper



How it looks:
 She was so dreadfully boring.


How it looks:
  The sale is for a Limited Time Only!

Note: In comments, this is used mostly for jokes or sarcasm.


How it looks:
   The Antiques Shoppe was filled with junk treasures.

Susan's Twitter
The link is live. It goes to my Twitter.  Click on it and see. Here is how to make such a  a link: 

This will get you started on HTML. Practice makes perfect!  There are many more HTML codes.  Have fun learning them!

Paragon Studio Trident Audio Board Refurbished

Paragon Studio Trident Audio Board Refurbished
by Sue Basko, Esq.

My very dear friends at Paragon Studio in Chicago have worked for months refurbishing their famous Trident mixing board.  Paragon Studio is a great place with wonderful people.  You can read about  Joe Connors, the Chief Engineer and producer, HERE.  Paragon sent me this excellent write-up below about the historic Trident audio board - which I have had the pleasure to sit behind many times.  Please read and enjoy the pics.  

Trident TSM 48x32x24x4x2 Mixing Console #9

PSI-Trident 1a
Paragon Studios, Inc. is home to the legendary Trident TSM Console #9 used to record artists Art Garfunkel, Pink Floyd (The Wall), Queen, Roberta Flack, Meryl Streep, Little Richard, Elvis Costello and R.E.M. to name a few.
Paragon Studios, Inc.
This unique Trident audio mixing console was constructed in 1979 and remained in full service at Trident Studios in London until 1981 when renowned recording engineer, Ben Rizzi, purchased and installed it in New York City’s Master Sound Studios. There, the console’s award winning recordings by renowned artists led to a studio buyout and its relocation to Kaufman Astoria Film Studios in 1984. The console was then sold to Fred Shaw of Bradley House Music Studios in Quinby, South Carolina. In 2002 the console was purchased by its third and present owner, Ned Engelhart, of Paragon Studios, Inc. in Chicago, IL.
Trident Board 02
The legendary Trident TSM #9
Just some of the many artists who have recorded on the legendary Trident TSM #9Placido Domingo, Keith Richards, Tony Bennett, Pink Floyd, Barbra Streisand, Dizzy Gillespie, Queen, Kiss, Luciano Pavarotti, Sesame Street, Julie Andrews, N’Sync, Elvis Costello, John Cullum, Wynton Marsalis, Gary U.S. Bonds, Sir James Galway, Roberta Flack, Sinead O’Connor, Laverne Butler, Monty Alexander, Arthur Blythe, David Sanborn, Joey Henderson, Ramsey Lewis, Robert Merrill, Gerry Mulligan, Max Roach, Bill Taylor, Astor Piazolla, Marvin Hamlisch, Betty Carter, Barbara Cook, Incognito, Billy Joel, Benny Carter, Leonard Bernstein, Itzhak Perlman, Blues Traveler, Little Richard, R.E.M., Chuck Harrington, Ornette Coleman, Branford Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Ace Frehley, Phylicia Rashad, Don Byron, Paul Williams, Vilayat Khan, Kathie Lee Gifford, Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Art Garfunkel, Charlie Haden, Judy Kaye, John Lurie, Marcus Miller, Michel Petrucciani, Markus Roberts, Buzzcocks, Samuel Ramey, Chico Hamilton, Kathleen Battle, Hal Miller, Chic Corea, Meryl Streep, Vernon Reid, Betty Buckley, Paquito D’Rivera, Oscar Peterson, “Weird Al" Yankovic, Monte Croft, Dom DeLuise, George C. Scott, Don Rickles, Angelo DiPippo, Joe Simon, The Drifters
The legendary Trident TSM #9 has completely been reconditioned to original factory specifications!
Come in and listen for yourself!
The process has been lengthy, arduous, painstakingly tedious, time-consuming, with many prolonged delays spent finding the correct replacement parts!
The regional tech for Trident during the 70's was John Klett | | Our local expert who has been assisting since the legendary Trident TSM #9 was installed in PSI (and, in fact, was the individual whose recommendation was made to Ned to purchase) is Soren Wittrup of CS Electronics Inc. Fred Guarino, owner of Tiki Studios in New York, had a Trident similar to Paragon's. Mr. Guarino sent information, schematics, and was of the utmost assistance. Story has it that Fred sold his board to Alicia Keys, and then she sold her's to someone in Kansas City.
IMG 2862
Joseph Connors with Darrel Yount
And, finally, our legendary Trident TSM #9 reconditioning project was completed under the dedication and supervision of our Chief Engineer, Joseph Connors, and in-house tech, Darrel Yount of Music Dealer Services / Mods by Darrel.
Call if you wish to know more about our legendary Trident TSM #9 reconditioning project.  

triton board main studio ad
Who We Are
First and foremost, we here at Paragon Studios, Inc. believe in you, the artist, and the music you are making. We listen to your needs and present solutions to capture and preserve your creativity. No matter if you are a seasoned professional or just beginning, we are committed to providing you with exceptional quality in service and product.
We're Team Players
All of our efforts are targeted at creating and maintaining long-term mutually rewarding associations, not only between us and you the artist, but among your entire team. We help you grow by understanding the relationship between you the artist and your support network of Manager, Tour Manager, Publicist, A&R Exec, Booking Agent, Attorney, Record Company, etc.
Adjusted Gold
We've Got the Gear, the Ears, and More
Paragon Studios features professional recording hardware and software from Pro Tools HD and Logic, to gear by Shure and Neumann. Whether you’re going for a clean digital recording, or that classic analog “straight-to-tape” feel, Paragon has what you’re looking for.
In house instruments include assorted electric and acoustic guitars, basses, Hammond B-3 Organ (with Leslie cab), unique Steinway Grand Piano and various drum kits with assorted snares, cymbals and percussion. We are experts at capturing the sound of your own gear and help you polish that personal touch on your tracks.
We're Flexible
Whether it’s a short demo or a full length album, our eclectic studio and productive atmosphere is the perfect fit for nearly every genre. Paragon Studios is a 24/7 facility, including space and studio. Block rates are available, and rates are negotiable to fit your budget.
Chief Engineer
Paragon Studios, Inc.
Joe Connors studied composition and linguistics at the University of Montana. After college, Joe began his career at Paragon Studios, Inc. as an intern, learning the ropes of recording and further developing his composition skills. He quickly earned the title of Chief Engineer in 2007 and has held the position ever since.
FUN FACT: Joe used to be a Sous Chef at Drayton Place in Mobile, Alabama serving Cajun and Creole flares on French Cuisine. Mouth-watering aromas are commonplace wafting about the studio complex; especially in the kitchen and dining areas when Joe wears his 'chef hat'!
820 West Fulton Market, 4th Floor, Chicago, IL 60607
Phone: 312-942-0075 (Studio Line), Phone: 312-942-2488 (Fax)
Phone: 312-342-4005 (Cell), E-mail:

Camping for Music Festivals: Creating a Campground

Camping for Music Festivals: Creating a Campground
by Sue Basko, Esq.

If you want to create a campground to go with a concert or festival, there are many factors to consider.  Below is a list to get you started in planning.  There are so many details. If you're going to do this right, you need to be extremely detail-oriented.  It can be best to work with someone who has done it before.

Some of the most basic needs are drinking water, portapotties, hand washing stations, and showers.  These can all be rented.  There are companies that will send a big truck filled with potable water that can be used for drinking and showers.  "Potable" means the water is clean and safe for drinking.  It is safest to also use potable water for showers and misters, so there is no risk of bacterial infections in the water mist.

In hot weather, cooling stations are needed to keep campers from getting heat stroke.  Misters are often used.  A mister is a length of hose or piping with small holes in it, attached to a clean water source,  that emits a fine mist.  Usually the misters are mounted above head height, so people can stand under them. Sometimes misters are fronted with  a fan, to spread the cooling mist. Other cooling stations are a dome or tent that has air conditioning.

Here are some links to companies that rent misters, portable showers, potable water trucks, portable toilets, etc.  These are links to get you started so you can get an idea of what is available, space needed, and costs involved.   Most of these sites have good photos of the equipment that is for rent and some even provide layout diagrams.  Keep in mind, you have to use a company that delivers to the location of your event.

Misting/ Cooling:

Potable Water, Showers, Restrooms:

Another main need for any festival or campground is electricity. If there is not adequate on-site electricity (and there rarely is), you need to rent a generator.  Here are some generator rental companies to get you started on understanding what is available and costs involved:

Electricity Generators:

The links above are not recommendations, they are simply examples of companies you can explore to get started in finding what you need.  Your choice of a company should include such factors as location, price and add-on prices, availability, reputation, customer service.   Most such companies will be able to give you a lot of information.  For example, if you tell a company that you will have a 2 day festival with 200 people present all day and night, the company can tell you how many toilets you will need, etc.

Here is a basic checklist to get you started in planning a concert or festival campground: (These are numbered for convenience, but all items are important.)

  1. Zoning 
  2. Permits
  3. Local laws
  4. Inspections required 
  5. Campground temporary - can you get a permit for that?
  6. Is the ground surface suitable to tents?
  7. What must be done to the ground surface to make it suited for tents?
  8. Surface cushioning, leveling, drainage
  9. Flood plain areas?
  10. Electric wires overhead?
  11. Lighting danger?
  12. Sewage and water run-off? 
  13. Presence of wildlife
  14. Presence of mosquitoes, ants, mice, etc. 
  15. Presence of any endangered species
  16. Insurance - how much and can you get it?
  17. Water sources
  18. Water for drinking.
  19. Showers - are there any?
  20. Toilets - can you rent portapotties?  How many will be needed legally? Price them out.
  21. Hand-washing stations
  22. Servicing of portapotties, Cleaning several times per day
  23. Toilet paper, paper towels, soap 
  24. Electricity
  25. Basic Lighting
  26. Trash bins and collection
  27. Recycling
  28.  Clean-up during and afterwards
  29. Security and safety
  30. Layout done accurately to scale
  31. Plotting the space, marking the space
  32. Temporary fencing for exterior perimeter 
  33. Fencing to demark roads, areas, toilet area, etc.
  34. Layout marked or fenced, "street" signs and space signs made and posted
  35. Signage
  36. Car Parking
  37. Car parking layout – must follow recommended sizes
  38. Parking accommodations for handicapped
  39. In and out allowed? How many times per day?
  40. Alcohol allowed in?
  41. Layout to accommodate cars and camping; should not mix or dangerous 
  42. Picnic benches, tables, chairs?
  43. Preparations for possible severe weather conditions
  44. Having a central fire pit and shelter/ tent/ dome
  45. Not allowing campfires 
  46. Propane and cook stoves allowed or not? 
  47. Establishing a business entity for accepting payments
  48. Establishing a reservation system
  49. Establishing reservation and refund policies
  50. Camping price per car? per tent? Per person?
  51. Campers should have ticket to event, show it to reserve campsite
  52. Plan to have any “glamping” sites, that is glamorous camping with nice tents, furniture, etc, provided? (These rent for higher prices) 
  53. Noise ordinances, drug ordinances, drinking, guns, weapons, fireworks, glass
  54. Working with local sheriff (you don't want them coming on property)
  55. Emergency Medical Techs on location at all times
  56. Preparation for medical emergencies such as overdoses.
  57. Advance prep for med helicopter, ambulance, etc.
  58. Children, babies – allowed or not?
  59. Camping 18 and up only?
  60. Waivers of liability
  61. Rules stated on website before purchase of camping spot
  62. Dogs, cats, snakes and other pets brought by campers?
  63. Handicapped accessibility? Ramps, portapotties
  64. Availability of phone service, radio, wifi
  65. Need to run phone line for campsite business/ emergency contact within camp and to the outside? Buy/ rent satellite phones/ radios? (This can be especially true in a ravine, cave, mountain valley, deep forest area)
  66. Note: some ticketing systems depend on availability of phone service/ wifi to check authenticity of tickets.
  67. Food vendors
  68. Food vendor licensing, permits, health department inspections
  69. Presence of potable water for kitchens
  70. Source of electricity for kitchens 
  71. Other vendors - sunscreen, insect repellent, flashlights, etc.
  72. Possible entertainment on site 
  73. Cleanup, Damages, Repairs, Restitution, Trash, Recycling
  74. Set-up Time needed in advance (How many days/ weeks?)
  75. Break down / clean-up time needed after? (How many days?)
  76. Tire treads, ground damage, resurfacing (especially if it rains)
  77. Hiring people for entry gate security, layout, set up, security all day and night, EMTs, recycling, toilet maintenance, trash pickup.

Paragon Studio Trident Audio Board Refurbished

Free Music for Youtube Videos

FREE Music for Youtube Videos
by Sue Basko, Esq.

Do you like making videos for Youtube?  If so, our good friends at Youtube have worked hard to give some really great options for you to use really good music for free on  your Youtube videos.

The first option is a free music library.  You can use this on any of your Youtube videos.  The Youtube Audio Library has music that can be selected by genre, instrument, mood, or duration of the piece of music.  There's a lot of good music to choose from.  Go to the site and play around with the settings and listen. You'll hear some excellent selections to suit most videos.

This is what the Audio Library looks like:
what the Youtube Audio Library looks like. 

SFX Categories
Some SFX Selections in the "Water" Category
The Audio Library also has Sound Effects, or SFX for short.  Select the "Category" tab and you will find about 20 SFX Categories, each of which has about 20 selections.  There are so many great sound effects.   The picture on the left shows the Categories.
←← Sound Categories.

Sound Effect Selections→→
One the right, you can see some of the sound effect selections listed under "Water."  You'll find all kinds of water sounds from bubbling brooks to waves washing up on the shore, to a drinking fountain.

what the Ad-Supported Music looks like 

 The second option is Ad-Supported Music. These are a few hundred of  the most popular songs that lots of people want to use in Youtube videos.  The Youtube people have worked hard to cut deals for these songs to be used for free.  When you use one of these songs, an ad will play first and that ad money goes to the people who own the song. Or there might be those in-screen ads.

The Ad-Supported songs are a collection of today's most popular songs for Youtube videos along with some songs that have been popular for a few years.  In today's selection, you'll notice "Uptown Funk," which is very popular for school videos; several songs from "Fifty Shades of Grey," a few songs by Taylor Swift, the hugely popular "Gangnam Style," and a few hundred other songs that a lot of people like.   Some of these would be great for a Youtube wedding or vacation video, a travel video, a dance video,  or you own homemade tribute music video.  You can use all these songs in your Youtube videos without paying any money or getting any licenses. The songs have been pre-licensed by Youtube for your use in Youtube videos.

Each one of the Ad-Supported Songs has a different set of restrictions. You can see the restrictions by clicking on the arrow by the song.  Here we show the restrictions on two different songs.

Comparison of the Use Restrictions on 2 Ad-Supported Songs

Let's compare the restrictions on the two songs, "Love Me Like You Do," and "Uptown Funk." Notice that neither song allows you to monetize the song. That is going to be true of all the Ad-Supported songs.  You get to use the song for free, but your use of the song is supported by the ad revenue that goes to pay the copyright owners of the song.

The second restriction is whether Playback is blocked in any nations.  For some reason, Germany is a party to very few of the song agreements, and Playback is blocked in Germany on many of the Ad-Supported songs.  Notice that is the case with "Love Me Like You Do."  Playback of "Uptown Funk" is blocked in 244 countries.  That means your friends in the U.S. will be able to watch your video, but friends in other nations will not likely be able to watch.  The restrictions on each song are unique, so you need to click the arrow by each song and find out what the deal is with that particular song.

If you are choosing an Ad-Supported song, you will want to check on these restrictions to be sure you pick a song that suits your needs. If you want your song to be playable almost worldwide, you need to choose a song that is blocked in as few nations as possible.

Keep in mind, the use of this music is for use in your videos on Youtube only.  If you plan to host your video other places, the Youtube music licensing deal does not hold.  But remember -- Youtube videos can be embedded on most websites and social media, including on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and Wordpress.

To embed a Youtube video, you copy the embed code and paste it in to any place on a website that accepts HTML.  You can choose a size, or you can make it any size by deleting in the height and width in the embed code, and replacing it with new numbers.  Be sure to choose a height and width that maintains the original aspect ratio.  For example, if the embed code is Height 300 and Width 500, then you must change each number proportionally, such as Height 150 and Width 250.  Otherwise, you will get a misshapen picture.

To show a Youtbe video on many social media sites, you just add the URL link. This is true on Facebook and Twitter.

Have fun making Youtube videos with this free music!  Please feel free to send me links to the videos you create.

Camping for Concerts and Festivals: Creating a Campground

Paragon Studio Trident Audio Board Refurbished

Synch Licensing: Using a Song in a Film or Video

Synch Licensing: Using a Song in a Film or Video 
Most Basic Thing in Music Law #2
by Susan Basko, Esq.

You are making a film or video.  You want to use a song or part of a song, even a few seconds of a song, in the film or video.  To do this legally, you need a SYNCH license, or SYNCHRONIZATION LICENSE.  This is also often called a "Music Clearance."

A Synch License is not the same as a Mechanical license and you do not get it from the same place and it does not cost a similar price as the very inexpensive mechanical licenses.

WHAT YOU NEED to use a song in a film or video:

1) A SYNCH license.   This is a negotiated license between the filmmaker and the song publisher.  This is usually and best obtained by using a MUSIC CLEARANCE COMPANY.  The Music Clearance Company will charge a fee of anywhere between $600 - $2000  (more or less) for their work PLUS whatever amount the publishing company is demanding for your use of their song.  The publisher can deny you to use their song and can set any requirements on the use.  The publisher can charge you whatever amount they wish. A synch license is entirely negotiable and up to the whims or desires of the song publisher and/or the songwriter.   


2) A MASTER'S USE license to use the sound recording.  This is a negotiated license between the filmmaker and the record label or other owner of the sound recording copyright.  A Master's Use license is best obtained by using a MUSIC CLEARANCE COMPANY.  The company will charge you about $600 - $2000 to do the work, PLUS whatever amount the record label wants to charge for use of its recording.  The record label can deny you use of its recording and can charge whatever price it wants. 

If for some reason, you can get a Synch license from the publisher, but cannot get a Master's Use license from the record label, you may want to go on Itunes and find cover versions of the song and try to get a Master's Use license on one of the existing cover versions.  

To use a song in a film or video, you hire a Music Clearance company to get you a Synch License and a Master's Use license. The Music Clearance Company will probably charge a total of about $1200 - $4000 for this work and the publisher and record label can charge whatever amount they want.   Every film or video should have a music budget. The more money in your music budget, the more likely you are to be able to get the music you most want. 

 And keep in mind, if  the Music Clearance company has to go into extra difficulty to try to get the songs you desire, it will cost you more in fees for their service.  

 It is not a good idea to try to do this work on your own.  It is very complex work and the negotiations and contracts are nuanced.  In addition, there can be many publishers on a song, and many owners on a sound recording.  This is work best left to experts.  Many publishers and record labels will not even deal with a person trying to do it on their own as it presents the publisher and record label with too much risk.  In addition, most E&O (errors and omissions) insurance companies will only cover work by a reputable Music Clearance company, and most film festivals and film distributors require good E&O insurance. In other words, if you want to do anything with your film, you need to use a good Music Clearance company.  Another option is to use a Music Lawyer, but this will probably cost you more in fees, although a lawyer with independent music clients may be able to get you use of good music from one of their clients.

If you are on a very tight budget, you might want to use music from a pre-cleared royalty-free music library.  You may not get the exact song you hoped for, but you can get music in any genre or style from a music library.  If you use music from a music library, be sure to have a music lawyer read and analyze the contract.  Some libraries that advertise as being free music actually charge down the road for commercial use or distribution, and some have a time limit for use of the music so that your film or video will "expire" in a year (or whatever).  Just because a website says "Free Music," don't assume that to be fully true.  Have  a music lawyer check it out.

When a song is edited into a film or video, usually only a few seconds of a song are used.   When applying for a Synch License or Master's Use license, the publisher or record label will want to know how many seconds of the song you plan to use and which seconds.  Longer use of a song is usually for a credit roll at the ending, or sometimes the beginning, of a film.  

The publisher and record label will also want to know such things as what sort of film it is, where it will be shown, who you are and your track record, what company you are with and its track record, who are the cast and crew, the nature and genre of the film and of the scene in which the song will be used, the budget for the film, and other such factors. Sometimes a publisher, record label, or artist will want to see the completed scene or film before they give approval for their song to be used.  Using all those factors, the publisher and/or record label will decide if they want you to use their music and if so, how much they will charge. They will also determine other terms they may want in the contract. 

 It will be your responsibility to have the song properly listed in the credits.  Filmmakers get E&O insurance (Errors and Omissions) to cover any unknown defects in the clearances and /or errors or omissions in the credits.   To qualify for such insurance coverage, you usually will have to use a good

Recording a Cover Song: Most Basic Things in Music Law #1

Recording a Cover Song: Most Basic Things in Music Law #1

It's easy to legally record a cover song.  A cover song is a song written by someone else.  Just go to and pay a $15 service fee and about 10 cents in songwriter royalties for each copy of the song that you wish to make.  Easy Song Licensing takes care of all the work for you. So, if you want to make 100 copies of a song you, will be paying  the $15 fee plus about $10, or $25 total.

UPDATE:  Limelight will stop taking new orders in March 2015, and the service will be closing.  There is a different company that would like your service, Easy Song Licensing, which you can find here:

You can also use a service by Harry Fox.  Or you can do it yourself, but that is complicated.

These kind of licenses are called mechanical licenses.  The royalties are called mechanical royalties.  Mechanical royalties are used to make CDs, internet downloads, vinyl (wax), etc.

The mechanical royalty fee is the same per copy for any song, whether it be by an incredibly famous artist or by a local songwriter.  The royalty rate has been set by law, or statute, and so is called a statutory royalty.  The royalty rate at this time is about 10 cents per song copy. 

The songwriter or publisher is compelled by law to allow you to record the song once you give notice of your intent to take a license on it.  That is why a mechanical license is called a compulsory license.  It is compulsory for the songwriter/ publisher to give you the license.  Easy Song Licensing and Harry Fox take care of the process of giving notice to the right people and paying the royalties.

In most other nations, the songwriter royalties are paid after a song copy is sold.  In the U.S., the royalties are paid upfront in advance, before the song copies are sold or distributed.

You owe song royalties for every copy you make, whether you give those away for free, sell them, or let them sit in a box collecting dust.

These rules apply if: 
1) You are recording and producing the recording in the U.S.; 
2) You are selling the recording in the U.S.;
3) The song is subject to the U.S. Copyright laws.  Songs from musicals or operas are not subject to this law.  To record those,  you must deal directly with the publisher.

 And .. that is all there is to it.  So, go record your favorite hit song.  Have fun.

Camping for Music Festivals: Creating a Campground

Paragon Studio Trident Audio Board Refurbished

Cover Songs:
Performing and Recording Them Legally

Cover Songs: Performing and Recording Them Legally
by Sue Basko

See also: Recording a Cover Song: Most Basic Things in Music Law #1

See also: Cover Songs on Youtube for information about doing a live performance of a cover song and putting it on Youtube.

See also: Limelight: Cover Song Licenses for information on how to get a cover song license easily and inexpensively through Limelight, a song clearance company. But please read the rest of the blog post below so you know what you are doing.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

If you read my last post about Music Samples - How to Use Them Legally, you saw how complicated that is! Recording cover songs is MUCH easier! You may wonder why it is so much easier to record a whole song than it is to simply use part of a song that is already recorded. The difference is that the U.S. Copyright law gives you a statutory right to record a cover song, while it does not give you a right to use samples. Samples came about after the law was written, and the law has to evolve around the new uses of music. Law moves much slower than do art or technology.

WHAT IS A COVER SONG? A cover song is the everyday term for a song that is being performed or recorded by a different artist(s) than the one that wrote it or the one that first made it famous. For example, if you record or perform a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, that is a cover. According to the law, once a song subject to U.S. Copyright has been recorded and distributed publicly, anyone can obtain a license and record the song, and pay statutory royalty rates.

WHY COVER SONGS ARE GOOD FOR ROCK BANDS OR SOLO PERFORMERS: A cover song gets you noticed. Often, a cover song is the biggest seller in a band's repertoire. Listeners will be attracted to your band because they hear the familiar song, and they may then want to hear your own songs. They may even buy your own songs.

Cover songs are also tributes to the music and musicians you admire. Cover songs also give you a way to be creative within constraints, causing newness within the familiar. Cover songs give you a way to be part of musical history. You, too, can be one of the dozens of famous and not-so-famous bands that have recorded Ca Plane Pour Moi. If you sell songs on Itunes, when a user searches by song name, your name will be in the list with all the famous people that have also recorded the song.

THE AMAZING THING ABOUT RECORDING COVER SONGS: The most amazing thing about recording cover songs is that the statutory royalty rate is exactly the same no matter whose song you cover. The rate is the same whether you are covering Dave Matthews or the guy who plays the local open mic. This rate is set by law.  (At this time, the rate is about 10 cents per copy you will make, give away, or sell.)

PERFORMING A COVER SONG LIVE: The rock band or solo performer does not need a license to perform a cover song live. It is the club, restaurant, or concert venue that is supposed to obtain a license or licenses for generally hosting music performances, which includes the live music as well as the recorded music they play over the sound system. These are licenses from PROs, or performing rights organizations, namely ASCAP, BMI, SESAC. These organizations sell licenses on their websites. They also send agents to clubs and restaurants to try to get them to buy a license.

Sometimes a venue or store will tell you that you cannot play any cover songs. This means they have opted not to buy any music performance licenses from the PROs. If you are told this, you must be very careful not to play those songs. Do not try to sneak them in.

If you are planning a residency or major tour where you will be renting venues, and you plan to play cover songs, part of the planning should be to be sure each venue has proper licensing.

Also, if you are planning a show or repertoire that is wholly or mainly cover songs, you should check with the applicable PRO to see if they insist you have a license. If the venues you play have licenses, you are covered. If you are producing your own shows at locations without licenses, you may need to obtain a license. Granted, most cover bands do not bother with any of this and simply forge ahead and play the cover songs.

If yours is a cover band, you will find some pertinent information at Picking a Name for Your Rock Band and Protecting Your Band Name or Singer Name with Trademark or Service Mark.

RECORDING A COVER SONG: If you want to record a song that falls under the jurisdiction of U.S. Copyright law, you have a statutory right to do so if it meets these requirements:  

  • 1) The song must be a non-dramatic musical work (not an opera or a musical play.)
  • 2) The musical composition must be already recorded.
  • 3) The previous recording has been distributed publicly in the U.S.; and
  • 4) The use of the recording will be in audio only (not videos or music videos).

5) ALSO -- this statutory right is ONLY for songs that will be recorded and sold in the U.S.

So.. what does this mean? For the most part, it means that if you hear a song on the radio or on Itunes or on a bought CD, and it is not an opera or musical, and you want to make a recording of it yourself, but not a video, you can do that. That means you cannot use the compulsory licensing system to make a "cover" of a song from Les Miserables, but you can use it to make a cover of a song by The Ramones, System of a Down, Neil Diamond, Ben Folds, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Simon and Garfunkel, etc. Note: If you want to cover a song from an opera or musical, contact the publisher directly and ask permission. It is not automatic and they have the right to say yes or no and to charge as they will.

COMPULSORY LICENSE: The compulsory license is compulsory for the songwriter/publisher, who MUST allow you to record the song, and you MUST pay the statutory royalty rate to the songwriter/publisher.

LIMITS: When recording someone else's song using a compulsory license, you do not have the right to change the lyrics or to change the basic character of the music. There have been lawsuits where a sedate or stuffy song was made raunchy or profane, or even lively. You have been given the right to make a "copy," but not to create a "derivative work." A new arrangement is a derivative work. You can and should "make it your own," but if you make a mess of it or make someone gasp, you might get a lawsuit.

MECHANICAL LICENSE: The license to record and sell a cover song is called a mechanical license. A mechanical is any song recording, including vinyl, CDs, or digital downloads.

MECHANICAL LICENSE AND ROYALTY RATE: A mechanical license is the compulsory license that allows you to record and sell someone else's song in the U.S., and in exchange you pay royalties to the songwriter at statutory rates, which is 9.1 cents per copy for songs 5 minutes and less. For songs longer than 5 minutes, it is 1.75 cents per minute, rounded up.

HOW TO GET THAT MECHANICAL LICENSE : Some songs are listed with the Harry Fox Agency, which is a non-profit agency established in 1927 by the National Music Publishers Association to handle mechanical licensing on songs. (NOTE: MANY songs are NOT listed with Harry Fox -- including songs by independent songwriters who are not signed with a publisher or who self-publish. But Limelight covers those.) Harry Fox will issue you a limited quantity license for song recordings that will be produced and distributed within the United States. This service is called "Song File." Harry Fox charges a $15.00 processing fee per song and the royalty fees for the number of copies you estimate you will sell. If you are making more copies, they have plans for that as well. This is a convenient way to get the mechanical license.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

The Harry Fox Songfile service can only be used for song recordings that will be produced and sold in the U.S. If the recording is going to be produced or sold outside the U.S., you need to contact the publisher directly. Songs produced or sold outside the U.S. are not subject to the statutory mandatory licensing, and the songwriter or publisher can deny you the right to record the song and can set any price.

LIMELIGHT: There is a new company called Limelight which sells cover song licenses on its easy-to-use website. Limelight charges $15 plus royalties. Limelight represents the musician seeking the license. You can read more at: Limelight: Cover Song Licenses. An advantage in using Limelight is that they can get you licenses from all the independent songwriters, not just those listed with Harry Fox. Limelight is designed by musicians for musicians and is very easy to use.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

If you are selling online, please note the reach of the online store you are using. For example, Itunes has online stores specifically for the U.S., UK, Japan, etc. Therefore, it seems safe to use Harry Fox or Limelight for the mechanical licenses for songs recorded in the U.S. that will be sold on Itunes U.S.

The music sold on Itunes UK is different than the music on Itunes US. Did you know this? Sometimes I have wanted to buy songs off Itunes UK and have not been able to access them from the U.S. Sometimes, the groups will then move their songs onto the Itunes US Store, but other times, I have to get the music a different way.

If your songs are all 100% originals, you do not need clearances and can sell on any Itunes store in the world. But if your songs include covers, you need to get international clearance from the publisher, or from the songwriter if the songwriter self-publishes.

(Royalties are handled differently in different countries. In many countries, with digital sales, the royalties will be deducted from the sale price, along with a service fee for the agency handling the royalties for that nation. If you are selling your own songs (where you own the songwriting copyright) overseas, you may have to apply to these different agencies to collect the amount that was deducted to cover your royalty. Practically speaking, you need a publishing administrator to do this, because of the complications of dealing with the foreign agencies. Unless you are selling a lot internationally, it will be hard to get any company to agree to exert this level of time. )

If you are planning to sell overseas, check with the aggregator or with Itunes and see if the international store where you are selling will collect directly or if you will need to prepay. ALSO -- Consult with a music lawyer! Itunes international stores each cover a group of nations. You need to find out about the ones where you are selling. Basically, unless you can reasonably expect significant sales of a cover song in any given foreign market, the expenditures of handling things correctly will overwhelm any profit.

If you plan to sell your recordings of cover songs internationally, you should work with an experienced music lawyer on this. The process will differ from nation to nation, on whether you are selling downloads or physical copies, on the publisher, and on your own track record . You should budget a significant amount for the legal work on this. It's only worth it if you can expect significant international sales. If you are on a budget, I suggest that you choose one song only to sell internationally, and carefully select your markets. If you pick a song that is 100% covered by one publisher, you've made the legal work that much less complex.

If the song is not listed with Harry Fox or Limelight (note: Limelight says it can get you the license on any song, even from an independent songwriter), or if it will be sold internationally, or if you prefer (I do not know why you would prefer to do this yourself when you can pay $15 and have it done for you by Limelight or Harry Fox), you can locate the publisher or copyright owner of the song yourself, or ask the Copyright Office to do this for you for a fee. You then serve a Notice of Intention to Obtain a Compulsory License on the copyright owner (song publisher or songwriter, usually) or authorized agent of the owner by certified or registered mail. You can find instructions on how to do this at the  this link for the Copyright Office.

You can contact the publisher directly. The major music publishers do licensing right on their websites. Some will not allow you to bargain for small numbers of recordings, in which case, you are better off using Limelight or Harry Fox SoundFile (if the song is available there, and the recording will be produced and sold in the U.S.) For example, some major publishers begin with a royalty fee of $200, which is for about 2200 copies. Most indie bands do a CD run of about 1,000 copies. At Limelight or Harry Fox, royalties for 1000 copies plus the $15.00 fee adds to $106.00.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

But remember -- if you are selling outside the U.S., you must get the mechanical license directly from the publisher. Why is this? Because the law that was created by the U.S. government can only cover transactions related to the U.S. music industry.

Multiple Publishers or PROs on Same Song or with same band. (Please note that PROs are not involved in publishing and not involved in issuing mechanical licenses. PROs are mentioned here because their listings can be a good source to help you track down which publisher represents a certain song or songwriter.) When you are looking for the songwriters of a particular song, you may find that the co-writers on a given song may be represented by different PROs, or may have different publishing companies. There may even be U.S. PROs and foreign PROs, and publishing companies scattered about the globe, all for one song. This is especially so for groups from the UK where one or more of the members now reside in the U.S.

But, even with an American rock band, you may see that some songs are with one PRO, perhaps the PRO the songwriters were with in their early days and later songs are with a different PRO. The songwriters may have since signed on to a new PRO, but the songs may not have followed them. Moving a song from one PRO to another takes some doing and some may find it is not worth the trouble. Likewise, a publisher may have signed one band member as a songwriter, but may not have signed all the band members. So, just because a song is by a given band does not necessarily mean that every song that group records is with the same publishing companies or that each songwriter on the song is with the same publisher.

Some publishers will tell you that they do not own 100% of the publishing on a given song; they usually do not actually know who owns the other pieces of the pie. That's why it is your best bet to pay professionals to do song clearance for you. It's also a good idea to carry E&O insurance.

HOW THE COMPULSORY LICENSING LAW CAME ABOUT: The compulsory licensing law was enacted back in the days when "songs" were popular and people bought their 78 rpm records more for the song than for the singer. This was way back in the days before rock bands existed. Back then, a song would become popular and all the singers would want to record it as soon as possible. Publishers started to hold onto songs so they would only be recorded by certain singers, who would make all the money. As a reaction to this, and to let songwriters bring their songs to the people, the compulsory license laws were enacted. The National Music Publishers Association created the Harry Fox Agency in 1927 to handle mechanical licensing. Limelight is a business that was recently formed to do the same work.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.   

Why they are called "mechanicals." Back when the law was established, and even now -- there were basically two ways to make music -- live performances, or by mechanical means. Back then, that meant player piano rolls and heavy, breakable records. Today, "mechanicals" include whatever technology brings about. Not long ag0, music was sold as records, 8-track tapes, and cassette tapes. Now it is sold as CDs and mp3s. Soon, it will be something else.

The royalties for performances are handled by PROS, namely ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Performances include playing live, and also songs played on the radio, over speaker systems at restaurants, bars, clubs, and stores, etc. These are not handled by Harry Fox. Harry Fox represents certain major music publishers in issuing mechanical licenses.

SONGWRITERS REGISTER WITH HARRY FOX AGENCY: Harry Fox allows any songwriter who has at least one song being recorded and sold by a third party to register their songs with the agency. If you are a songwriter and you want other musicians to be able to easily locate your song to obtain a mechanical license, apply to Harry Fox, and if you meet the requirements, register your songs. This is especially important if you self-publish your songs. How is anyone going to find you to get a license or pay you royalties? Please note, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are performing rights organizations and they do NOT handle mechanical licensing or mechanical royalties.

If you are a songwriter, ideally, you will register your songs three places: 1) with the U.S. Copyright Office; 2) with one of the PROs (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC); and 3) with Harry Fox. You may also want to try to get a publisher and/or a licensing company interested in your music. The easier you make it for people to locate who your song belongs to, the more likely you are to make money from your songwriting. Aside from this, of course, you need to promote your song so that the right people hear it.

HOW CAN I FIND OUT WHO IS THE PUBLISHER? Many songwriters register their songs with the U.S. Copyright Office, and/or with one of the PROs - performing rights organizations, namely ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. Below are links to those organizations, so you can search their databases. If a publishing company is not listed, the songwriter probably self-publishes. You can contact the PRO and ask for the publisher contact information.

At the Copyright Office, you can search online or you can pay the Copyright Office to search for you.

You then serve a Notice of Intention to Obtain a Compulsory License on the copyright owner (song publisher, usually) or authorized agent of the owner by certified or registered mail. You can find instructions on how to do this at the this link for the Copyright Office.

SONGWRITERS FROM OTHER NATIONS: There are PROs in other countries, too. If you know a songwriter is from the UK or Australia, for example, and you cannot find their songs in the U.S. databases, then check the PROs from their nations.

To perform a cover song, just be sure the venue has the PRO licensing (or perform the song and assume they are covered).

To record a cover song in the U.S. to be sold in the U.S., use the Limelight or Harry Fox Song File system or locate the publisher, serve them with proper notice, and pay the statutory royalty rate.

FOR INFO ON USING SAMPLES AND MAKING REMIXES, See Music Samples - How to Use Them Legally.

UDATE: As of March 2015, LIMELIGHT is closing its service.  
A different company, Easy Song Licensing, would appreciate your business.