MUSIC COPYRIGHTS & OWNING YOUR WORK
If you write your own music or compose your own instrumental tracks, there are many artists that do not realize that they have to make sure that they are the sole and rightful owner of their work. Musicians need to make sure that they retain their original and master recordings. Creating the copyright to your music is not that difficult, but there are some things that you should know and do so that others don’t steal your original melodies, lyrics, or recordings.
If you ever want to allow another producer or creative to license your recordings, there are two separate licenses that they have to obtain:
- Composition – This is the lyrics and melody that make up your song.
- Recording – Also called the “master”, this is the final recording of your song.
Granting both of these licenses requires that you own both of these things, so if anyone else helped you with one or the other, they have owner rights and will have to grant permission for licensing as well.
The most important part of owning all of your original work is documentation. You need to have written agreements and contracts for anyone who was involved with or had a hand in the songwriting and recording. If it is just you and you alone, this makes things much easier. Keep metadata for every song that you compose, and categorize your musical tracks in this type of fashion (you can do it on an excel spreadsheet easily):
- Musical Track Name (Title)
- Artist (musician)
- Musical genre (and possibly also the subgenre)
- Composer/Publisher (if different than the artist)
- Date created or released
This will also help when you decide to submit your music that you have an organized collection of all of your music information in one place. The final master recording that you make should be in a high-quality MP3 or a WAV file for digital submissions.
You also want to register your copyrighted music online – there are two places that you can do this. There is BMI or ASCAP, and both will allow you to register your song as the composer.
One thing you should not do is ever use snippets of other music, or borrow lyrics/speeches from other artists out there. Many of these things are already copyrighted, and could cause issues, resulting in the possibility of a lawsuit.
If you have any questions about how to make sure that you are the rightful owner of your original music or how to obtain music licenses, consult with a lawyer or someone within the music field that can provide you with more insight. See if you can find a music-focused lawyer who can provide you with more details on copyrights, licenses and the documentation that is necessary to own your music.
Now, you are ready to submit and promote your music without worrying about anyone stealing your original work. It can be helpful to use your own channels within social media and email to alert your fans where they can find your music!