Once an artist releases their musical work, anyone can create and distribute their own sound recording of the work (i.e. release a ‘cover’) as long they secure a mechanical license and pay the owner of the musical work a ‘mechanical royalty’ (currently 9.1 ¢ per copy of the song).
These days, getting a mechanical license to reproduce a song is incredibly simple. Ari Herstand reviewed three services who will help acquire that license for around $15: Loudr, Songfile, and Easy Song Licensing.
Songfile will only issue licenses for songs they represent. Loudr and Easy Song Licensing will hunt licenses down for you(when you don't know the publisher).
Using these services, you estimate how many downloads/CDs you will sell and pay that amount x 9.1 cents (the mechanical royalty rate set by the US government – if the song is under 5 minutes). So if you think you’ll sell 1,000 downloads of your Oasis cover, you would pay $91 up front + the service fee. Every service will then pass 100% of those royalties along to Oasis’ publisher.
Songfile and Easy Song Licensing will only issue licenses up to 2,500 downloads. If you need more you have to go directly to the publisher. Loudr currently offers up to 5,000 downloads through their system, but if you need more you can email them directly at email@example.com.
But there is a common case where you might need more than just a mechanical license. If you want to post a video of your cover to YouTube and you think there’s a chance more than a few people will watch it, you’ll need a SYNCHRONIZATION LICENSE, which covers the combination of the sound with a visual experience.
To obtain a Synchronization License for any song on this portal, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.