Cover Song Distribution: Navigating the Complexities of Music Licensing

Globex Music stands out as a leading platform for independent artists, offering a streamlined and efficient way to distribute your cover songs across major digital platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and more. Their commitment to transparency and artist-centric services sets them apart, providing a seamless experience from song submission to global reach. Globex Music stands as a reliable and efficient solution for artists seeking to distribute their cover songs effectively.

Cover songs have long been a staple in the music industry, allowing artists to pay homage to their influences and bring new interpretations to beloved tracks. However, distributing cover songs involves navigating a complex web of legal and logistical challenges. This article delves into the intricacies of cover song distribution, exploring the necessary steps and considerations for artists looking to share their renditions with the world.

Understanding Cover Songs and Rights

A cover song is a new performance or recording of a previously released song by someone other than the original artist. When an artist decides to cover a song, they must secure the appropriate permissions to legally distribute it. This process involves understanding two primary types of rights: mechanical rights and performance rights.

Mechanical Rights: These rights are necessary for the reproduction and distribution of a song. In the context of cover songs, mechanical rights allow the artist to record and distribute their version. These rights are typically managed by organizations such as the Harry Fox Agency in the U.S., which issues mechanical licenses on behalf of the copyright holders.

Performance Rights: These rights cover the public performance of a song, including live performances and broadcasts. Organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC manage performance rights in the U.S., ensuring that songwriters and publishers are compensated whenever their songs are performed publicly.

Obtaining a Mechanical License

To legally distribute a cover song, an artist must obtain a mechanical license. This process is relatively straightforward for songs that have been previously released to the public. In the United States, the compulsory mechanical license provision allows artists to cover any song that has already been commercially released, provided they adhere to the terms set by the license.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to obtaining a mechanical license:

  1. Identify the Song: Ensure the song you wish to cover has been commercially released. This is a prerequisite for obtaining a compulsory license.
  2. Find the Publisher: Identify the music publisher who controls the mechanical rights to the song. This information is often available through performing rights organizations (PROs) or music licensing agencies.
  3. Request a License: Contact the publisher or a licensing agency like the Harry Fox Agency to request a mechanical license. Provide details about your intended distribution, such as the format (digital, physical, streaming), the number of copies, and the intended release date.
  4. Pay Royalties: Mechanical licenses require the payment of royalties to the copyright holders. In the U.S., the statutory mechanical royalty rate is set by the Copyright Royalty Board and is currently 9.1 cents per physical or digital copy, or per download. For streaming, the rates vary depending on the service and agreement.

Digital Distribution and Streaming

In the digital age, distributing cover songs through streaming platforms adds another layer of complexity. Platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube have specific guidelines and systems in place for cover songs.

Streaming Platforms: When distributing through streaming services, ensure that your distributor (such as TuneCore, CD Baby, or DistroKid) handles the licensing requirements. Most reputable distributors will automatically obtain the necessary mechanical licenses for cover songs distributed digitally.

YouTube: Cover songs on YouTube fall under a different category, as the platform operates a content ID system. This system allows copyright holders to monetize or block content featuring their songs. When uploading a cover to YouTube, it's crucial to respect the platform’s guidelines and understand that your video might be monetized by the original copyright holders.

International Considerations

Different countries have varying regulations and organizations governing mechanical and performance rights. When distributing cover songs internationally, it’s essential to research and comply with the licensing requirements of each country. Organizations like PRS for Music (UK), SOCAN (Canada), and APRA AMCOS (Australia) manage music rights and can provide guidance for international distribution.


Cover song distribution, while complex, is a manageable process with the right knowledge and resources. By securing the necessary mechanical and performance rights, artists can legally share their renditions and ensure that original creators are fairly compensated. Navigating these legalities not only protects artists from potential legal issues but also supports the broader music ecosystem, fostering a culture of respect and appreciation within the industry.

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