Navigating Music Rights: Perspectives and Implications

concert in black and white


Let’s delve into contemporary music rights and their relevance to the workflow of creating, manufacturing, and distributing music.


Consider the genesis of a song – perhaps a scribbled lyric on a napkin or a resonant strum on a guitar. It evolves with melody, sometimes lyrics, and the addition of instruments. Here lies your foundational score, your Music Work, accompanied by the author’s rights it entails.


Imagine your recently composed song, now imagine your sister contributing lyrics to it. You both perform it one evening at a local bar, catching the attention of a record company representative. Impressed, the representative expresses interest in recording your song.

Your song will be immortalized in a physical format or a Sound Recording. However, before that, the record company requires a Mechanical License from the composition rights owners – you for the underlying score and your sister for the lyrics.

It’s crucial to note that composition rights are inherent, thus by granting a Mechanical License, you acknowledge the record company’s limited usage of your song.

Consider this scenario: after successful sales of your original single, an artist from another region records an acoustic cover of your song. This creates another Sound Recording, for which the artist needs a Mechanical License. As your original Music Work now boasts multiple Sound Recordings, your record company holds the song’s Master Rights.


Simplifying with examples from the two Sound Recordings:

Original Song Recording:

  • Primary Artist: You, the guitarist
  • Secondary Artist: Your sister, the vocalist

Acoustic Song Recording:

  • Primary Artist: The cover artist
  • Secondary Artist: The cover artist’s friend, the guitarist

Master Rights and Performer Rights are often discussed together due to their direct relationship with each Sound Recording and its associated performers.

To Recap:

  • Music Work: Your song in its rawest form, be it a lyrical note or a phone-recorded guitar riff.
  • Sound Recording: Your song, now captured. This could be on physical formats like CDs or vinyl or digital formats like mp3s.

Ownership breakdown:

  • You and your sister: As performers, you own Composition Rights in the original Sound Recording and Performer Rights in that copy.
  • Record company: They funded the creation of your Sound Recording, distributed it globally, and conducted marketing efforts, entitling them to Master Rights.
  • Creators of the acoustic cover: They solely own Performer Rights in the acoustic version, and if they recorded it independently, they also possess Master Rights.

The rights discussed serve as universal benchmarks in navigating the intricate realm of music rights, though not all countries have universally recognized and legislated for all three types of rights within their territories.

If you’re an aspiring musician chasing a career towards stardom and royalties, check out the following links for further tips and insights into the legal aspects of music.



NOTE: This post is for general information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. It is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified lawyer in your own jurisdiction and should not be relied upon as such. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.