Clearing Copyright: YouTube Cover Songs

Cover songs are a fast and relatively cheap way to get your talent noticed and discovered on YouTube.

Making and uploading an inexpensive music video, synced to a cover song record, has helped many undiscovered singers share their talent with the world – and even some stars of today, make their claim to fame.

But how do you make sure your video does not get suspended, or your account terminated?

In order to legally publish your cover song music video to YouTube, you need permission from the original song copyright holder, to use their song in conjunction with your cover recording and visuals.

Although the standard YouTube license offers a thin layer of protection for public domain songs, it does not guarantee that the original copyright holder of the song you opt to cover, automatically offers their approval – meaning your cover could potentially violate copyright and be taken down at any time.

There’s nothing worse than this, especially after you’ve collected some views, likes and subscribes already.

The permission you need to get to do things legally, is called a synchronisation license and a mechanical license, for the song you opt to cover and publish on YouTube.

There are many music rights companies that can help you get this license, so you may proceed to legally upload, share and publish your cover song video – without the risk of having it removed, or committing copyright infringements.

One such company that can help you get permission, is called Kobalt Music.

Normally, your copyright clearance request would have to be directed in writing to the original publisher of the song you opt to cover. They will then review your request and decide to grant or deny it – and if any fees or royalties will be payable by you per digital “performance” of the song.

Obviously this can work out much more expensive, than it is actually worth – if you are not careful.

It also means you would have to establish who the song’s original copyright holders and publishers were, make contact with them, and then motivate what title you want to cover, and why. Their approval is not guaranteed.

Kobalt Music can do all this on your behalf (there are other companies too, if you search for “clearing synchronisation rights” on Google).

Instead of charging you a fee, they will “monetize” your cover song video on YouTube, on behalf of the original publisher, collecting ad revenue from YouTube that your cover song generates, and sharing that revenue with their client (copyright holder), if the song you opted to cover is in their catalogue.

This way, the clearing of the synchronisation rights won’t cost you anything, and allow you to publish and share your cover video legally, keeping your views, likes, subscribes and followers.

If in addition, you now also learned how to “tag” your cover music videos on YouTube, to get more views, likes and subscribes from YouTube’s search engine, you could build a fan club, literally even while you sleep, if the song you opted to cover was in reasonable demand.

From there, you could also sell an MP3 download of your cover song, using annotations and links in the video description AFTER you clear the mechanical rights to the song, using a service like Easy Song Licensing and CDbaby.

The mechanical rights allow you to record, release and distribute your music for sale on a “top-up” basis. For every copy you plan to sell either digitally via download, or as a physical track on CD, you buy a unitary license and then recon your licenses with actual sales, buying additional units if necessary.