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Q: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies? ( Answered,   6 Comments )
Subject: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies?
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: car13lin-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 07 Oct 2004 08:19 PDT
Expires: 06 Nov 2004 07:19 PST
Question ID: 411526
I am putting together compilation CD's,TO SELL, using previously recorded
material.  Much of it dates back to the 30's-40's- 50's...but may have
been re-released in CD form.  8-14 different artists sing/play on each
CD. How do I determine royalty payments and how do I go about paying

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 07 Oct 2004 08:30 PDT
There are several large databases that can be searched for
licensing/royalty information for particular pieces of music.

If you want to list a few of the recordings you're thinking about, I
can run a prelimiinary search and see if they're listed.

If you don't care to list them in this public forum, I can certainly
refer you directly to the databases, so you can search yourself.  They
are very comprehensive, but there's certainly no guarantee that you'll
find every single piece of music that you're looking for -- hunting
down licensing information for old pieces of music can sometimes take
a lot of detective work.

Let me know your thoughts on this.


Clarification of Question by car13lin-ga on 07 Oct 2004 09:42 PDT
Thanks for the prompt response!

Example of one compilation:  The song is "Moonlight In Vermont."
Artists:  Willie Nelson, John Frigo, Johnny Smith, Joe Williams, Ben
Webster, Ron Davis, Billie Holiday.


Remember I am using an existing recording.  Isn't there a mix of
composer/artist/label royalites?

Perhaps the data bases will help...if they give me $$$ amounts and to
whom and where to send $$$.  PLEASE SEND THEIR LOOK-UP ADDRESSES.

Thanks again for your effort. I appreciate it!!!

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 07 Oct 2004 11:30 PDT

It's me again.

With a bit more digging, I realize that the type of licensing you're
looking for generally comes DIRECTLY from the record company that
produced the recording (they've already negotiated all
sub-arrangements with singers, musicians, etc. so that you should only
have to deal with the one record company).

The databases I mentioned earlier are for getting rights to songs, but
not for rights to specific recordings.

For instance, to contact Sony Music/Columbia Records, their website notes:


To inquire about licensing music, website questions, etc, please
contact on the East Coast: Jane Settles (212-833-7700) or on the West
Coast: Kate Naylor (310-449-2555). Your question will then be referred
to the proper person within Sony Music Entertainment. You can also
email us at


So...I think the best I (or anyone else) can do is to track down
similar contact information for other record companies, if you can
provide us the relevant list.

Details of costs, restrictions, etc, depend entirely on what you're
proposing to do with the music, how many copies you'll produce, etc. 
You'll have to discuss that directly with the appropriate companies.

Best of luck...and let me know how you'd like to proceed on this.

Subject: Re: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies?
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 11 Oct 2004 18:08 PDT

As I'm sure you're aware by now, the business of licensing existing
recordings can be a murky one.

Fortunately our friends at the Recording Industry Association of
America (RIAA) have a helpful discussion of "How to Get a License". 
You should read it through at their website:
(I'd reproduce it here, but their lawyers would be on me like a mouse on cheese!).

They also provide some helpful contact information about the major
record companies, and the addressess/phone numbers to get in touch
with for any licensing questions.  These are:

Universal Music Group 
(MCA, Geffen, Mercury, Island, etc)
Business & Legal Affairs
Universal Music Group
70 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
tel. (310) 865-9571 

Warner Music Group 
(Warner Bros., Atlantic, Elektra, etc)
Mark Ansorge, Esq.
VP Business Affairs/New Technology
Warner Music Group
75 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10019
tel. (212) 275-1348
fax (212) 405-5297

Sony Music Entertainment Inc. 
Business Affairs
New Technology and Business Development 
550 Madison Avenue 
New York, New York 10022-3211 
fax (212) 833-7204 

BMG Entertainment 
(BMG, RCA, Arista, etc)
David Seklir
Senior Director, Business and Legal Affairs

EMI-Capitol Music Group North America 
(Capitol, Virgin, Chrysalis, etc)
Alasdair McMullan, Esq.
VP Legal Affairs
1290 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10104
tel. (212) 492-5056
fax (212) 492-5095

From what I've heard, the big record companies don't freely permit
licenses, and don't necessarily see them as much of a money-maker for
the company (unless you're talking to them about a car commercial, or
the latest IPod TV spot).  In general, they seem to be more concerned
about protecting their property, than finding new licensing
opportunities.  Perhaps that's one of the reasons why it can be so
difficult to find the correct contact information!

However, with a bit of persistence, you should be able to make some
headway.  At least you have the contact information now to get you
started with the major players.


There are a number of other sites where you can explore copyright
information, and find out more about who-recorded-what, and who owns
the rights.  These include the Library of Congress' Copyright Office,
as well as music industry rights-management organizations such as

I'd be glad to provide links to their search sites, if you'd like to
have them.  But frankly, exploring these might just muddy the some of the comments below make clear (or should I say,
Unclear...!), the business of music licensing can be convoluted, at
best.  However, it clearly is the case that you need to make a first
contact with the record company if you want to use an existing

In one of your earlier comments you asked about contacting me for
future work on this topic.  You can always post a question here at
Google Answers, and any one of several hundred very qualified
researchers will look it over, and answer it if they can.

If you want to, you can direct a question directly to me by saying so
in the subject line and in the text of the question itself (e.g. "For

I hope this information meets your needs.  However, before rating this
question, please let me know if you require any additional
information.  Just post a Request for Clarification and let me know
how I can further assist you.

All the best with your ventures....


search strategy:  Used bookmarked pages for copyright and music
licensing information, along with Google searches on:

"mechanical license"

RIAA (copyright OR license)
Subject: Re: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies?
From: ipfan-ga on 07 Oct 2004 10:31 PDT
The Harry Fox Agency
Subject: Re: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies?
From: pafalafa-ga on 07 Oct 2004 11:42 PDT

Thanks.  I thought of Harry Fox too, but as far as I know, they're no
longer involved in master use rights for actual recordings.  As their
website notes:

HFA does not: 

...Issue licenses for the use of music in advertising, movies, and TV
programs (aka synchronization licensing or "synch").

...Issue master use rights - the right to use an original artist recording. 

...Provide clearance for the use of samples. 

...For "master use" or sampling rights, you will also need to contact
the owner of the master recording, usually the record company that
issued the original recording.


What do you think?  Am I reading it right?  Looks to me as if one
needs to go directly to the record company to work out the licensing

Subject: Re: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies?
From: car13lin-ga on 07 Oct 2004 12:52 PDT
Thank you.  

Yes, you're probably right.  The label paid for the song rights and
negotiated with the artists. I've looked up some labels. Many have web
sites but no general contact data.

For an additional fee can I enlist you to furnish me with contact
information?   I'll have to go through the album cuts to ID the

How do I contact you for additional service?
Subject: Re: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies?
From: ipfan-ga on 07 Oct 2004 13:38 PDT
The language I keyed off of in the original question was: "using
previously recorded material."  Thus, this language off the HFA site
seemed governing: "Under the United States Copyright Act, the right to
use copyrighted, non-dramatic musical works in the making of
phonorecords for distribution to the public for private use is the
exclusive right of the copyright owner. However, the Act provides that
once a copyright owner has recorded and distributed such a work to the
U.S. public or permitted another to do so, a compulsory mechanical
license is available to anyone else who wants to record and distribute
the work in the U.S. upon the payment of license fees at the statutory
"compulsory" rate as set forth in Section 115 of the Act."

So, what car13lin is asking is ~exactly~ a mechanical license since
he/she is using "previously recorded material."  I agree that that is
different from a master use right, but car13lin is not using a master
recording--all of these songs have been previoulsy recorded and thus
are subject to a compulsory mechanical license.  If I am wrong about
that and car13lin is using master recordings, then paf is
correct--you'll have to go to the publishers.
Subject: Re: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies?
From: johnbook-ga on 07 Oct 2004 22:40 PDT
You have to pay for the rights to use the actual sound recording. 
Each record label has a licensing department, and they can help you to
talk about any fees that may be involved.  Some labels also have a
"clearance" department.

Then you have to pay a publishing fee.  For an updated list on those
songs, you can do a search through the databases at
and .  A song can change publishers within the
lifetime of a song, and the databases are always kept current.  When
you do an ASCAP or BMI search, it lists the publisher by name,
address, phone number, and e-mail.
Subject: Re: How do I go about determining and paying royalties to record companies?
From: ipfan-ga on 08 Oct 2004 07:49 PDT

Why does car13lin have to deal with the record companies?  Why isn't
this just a compulsory mechanical license avaialable throught HFA? 
These songs are all "previously recorded."



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