Buying Music Rights

Buying Music Rights

Musicians invest a lot of time, effort, and passion into every piece they produce. That's why they need to protect their work from exploitation using copyright.

Through copyright protection, a person, company, or organization cannot reproduce, reuse or distribute your work without your permission. Just as copyright protects an artist from exploitation, it also gives them the right to transfer these rights to others. This means that the owner of a song can license or sell the rights to their song. Therefore, if you would like to use a song for commercial purposes or for whatever reasons you may have, you can consider buying its music rights.

This article will help you learn more about buying music rights, how it works and why you should consider purchasing a song.

What are Music Rights?

Music Rights Overview

Copyrights are rules that protect a musician's piece and any recordings of that piece. This means that music rights will protect a song's lyrics, title, artwork, graphics, and any other forms of music-related intellectual property. When a musician records a song, they are the sole owners of every version of the song they create. Therefore, anyone who would like to cover their song or use it for any other purpose will have to get permission from the copyright holder. Music copyright prevents others from stealing a musician's work.

Therefore, holding a copyright for a particular song allows you to sell or legally use it without any limitations. Copyright encompasses a wide range of rights that the owner of a piece might have. These include,

1. Moral rights: These allow only the author to decide whether they want their work to be disclosed, in what form, and under what name, and to demand recognition and respect for the integrity of the work and its authorship.

2. Exploitation rights: Allow authors to get economic benefits for the use of their work. They include reproduction, public communication, distribution, and transformation rights.

3. Other rights: It also includes various rights, such as the right to fair compensation for private copying

Generally, music rights come into play when anyone wants to reproduce, copy, sell, distribute, license, perform or broadcast a piece.

What is a Music License?

About Music License

When buying a song, music licensing is often confused with music rights. A music license allows the holder of a piece to distribute or commercially use a song under certain agreed circumstances. Musicians use licenses to grant permissions to other entities that may be interested in using their musical work.

A license may have various terms that must be adhered to, including the duration of the license, its cost, what another party can do with the son, and what they can't do with the song. Depending on the circumstances, there are different types of music licenses which include:

  • Theatrical License.
  • Public Performance License.
  • Print License.
  • Sync License.
  • Master License.
  • Mechanical License.

What are the Differences between Music rights and licenses?

Differences between Music rights and licenses

Though often used interchangeably, music rights and music licenses are different terms. The main difference between the two comes in the authorship of the piece.

  • When you obtain the license of use, you'll only be allowed to use the song in your own productions. This means you can use it on your YouTube video, advertisements, video games, movies, apps, radio commercials, and many more.
  • On the other hand, obtaining music rights gives you almost all the rights to the piece. This means that a particular song will become your property almost completely, including almost all the subsequent benefits it brings.

Therefore, buying music rights gives you ownership which gives you control, use, distribution, and payments associated with a piece, unlike a license which only allows you to use or distribute. You should consider buying the music rights of a song if you want to be its almost exclusive owner.

Can You Get all the Rights of a Song?

You Get all the Rights of a Song

You'll get almost all rights to a song but not all its rights. This is because music rights encompass a wide range of rights, some of which cannot be transferred.

By buying the rights to a song, you'll be able to acquire the exploitation or economic rights of the song. Exploitation rights are transferable; therefore, if you buy a song, you're free to receive economic compensation for using the work. This means that you can monetize the particular music composition, which includes releasing the recording of the song or issuing a license for the use of the song in a TV show, and radio stations.

However, you should keep in mind that moral rights are non-transferable. Moral rights are the supposed connection between the author and his work. They are manifested in the right of integrity and right of paternity of the work, which is timeless. Therefore, they can only be owned by the piece's author and are unwaivable and inalienable. An artist cannot assign or waive these rights even when another party buys the music rights of the song.

Because of that, it's impossible for anyone other than the author to have all the rights to a song. So all you can do is temporarily or permanently acquire the exploitation rights of the song.

How to Buy the Rights of a Song

Buy the Rights of a Song

Before buying a song, you should understand the difference between music licenses and music rights. This is because music licenses come with their own limitations, unlike purchasing music rights. You should also keep in mind that you can only buy the economic rights of a song and not the full copyright.

With that said, here are the steps you can take to buy the rights to a song.

1. Determine whether the song is copyrighted or in the public domain

Determine whether the song is copyrighted or in the public domain

The first step in buying music copyright is ensuring the song is copyrighted. Songs in the public domain can be used by anyone for any reason, whether personal or commercial. Typically, a song enters the public domain after its copyright expires. This is usually 70 years after the death of the original artist. You can use songs in the public domain in any way you please.

However, this is not the case with copyrighted songs whose rights are owned by the copyright holder. You can only buy copyrighted songs; in most cases, current famous songs are copyrighted. You can proceed with the following steps after confirming that the song is not in the public domain.

2. Find the copyright owner

Find the copyright owner

After finding your copyrighted song, your next step is to find and contact the copyright owner. Some of the copyright owners you can contact include:

  • If the song belongs to a less-known artist, it can be pretty easy to contact them. You can reach them through their social networks, personal website, email address, or even their phone number.
  • For more popular authors, their work may be distributed among various entities. Therefore, you may be required to contact the artist, the owner of the song, the record company, or the PROs (Performance Right Organizations) such as BMI. In these complex situations, you'll be required to identify the participants in the song, get their contact information and reach out to them.
  • For music sold in vinyl, cassette, or CD format, the details of the creators and the collaborating companies can be found on the front and back covers.
  • There are also cases where the copyright of a song has been passed from one party to another. Therefore, you'll have to contact the current copyright owner.

You should keep in mind that in some cases, this process may be easier, while in others, it may be complicated. Therefore, it's best to remain patient and research as much as possible to avoid running into any issues.

3. Negotiate the price of the rights

Negotiate the price of the rights

Unfortunately, there are no fixed costs for music rights. Therefore, you may be asked to pay a huge amount in an attempt to scare you away. It can be quite difficult for an artist to let go of their creation. However, by utilizing your negotiation skills and the approximate estimation of future ROI, you should get a good deal.

You can research the artist's charge in royalties and their current and past sales before estimating your investment. A buyer can also delegate to a professional who can help them make a profitable deal.

You should remember that you'll have to negotiate with each party for songs whose rights are distributed among various entities. This will help you ensure that you receive all the benefits associated with the song.

4. Sign the transfer of rights

Sign the transfer of rights

After reaching an agreement, you'll have to make it official and complete your payment. However, before you do anything, it's best to hire a lawyer who is conversant with the music industry and specializes in these types of sales and purchases. A lawyer can help you by:

  • Reviewing the contract
  • Ensuring that all the negotiated terms are included
  • Ensuring that all future possibilities are included
  • Confirming that the rights and obligations of all parties are included in the contract

After a lawyer's approval, you can make your payment and sign the contract to formalize it.

Why Should You Buy the Rights of a Song?

Most people buy the music rights of a song as an investment. When you buy a song, you can exploit it economically and receive a wide range of benefits. You'll earn royalties when the music is:

  • Reproduced on television, parties, radio, and theatres
  • Transformed into different formats
  • Distributed through various media channels

A person can also consider buying a song when they think it might be a megahit in the future. After which, they can consider selling the rights to the song or earning from it. However, buying the rights to a song is unnecessary if you only need background music. There are better alternatives if you want to incorporate background music into your business or productions.

What are the Alternatives to Buying the Rights of a Song?

Alternatives to Buying the Rights of a Song

While buying the rights to a song allows you to use it the way you want, it's not worth it if you're only using the song as background music in your business, advertisements, or productions. There are much faster, more intuitive, and more affordable ways to get your business background music.

You'll have a wide range of music platforms offering royalty-free or stock music that you can use for your business needs. Some of the popular music services for businesses include:

  • Soundtrack Your Brand
  • Rockbot
  • SiriusXM for Business
  • Soundsuit
  • SoundMachine

These services provide music to businesses exclusively for commercial use. As a result, they are more affordable alternatives to buying a song.


Buying the music rights to a song can be a long and tiresome process but worth it. Holding the music rights of a song gives you the freedom to make money from the song, use, distribute and copy it the way you want. Therefore, it's best to buy a song as an investment. On the other hand, if you just want to add background music to your business, you should consider royalty-free music platforms, which are more convenient and affordable. Nonetheless, we have covered everything you need to know if you are considering buying the music rights of a song.

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