How Do I Pay Royalties for Music I Use?

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Any piece of intellectual property such as music, written content or artwork is automatically subject to copyright protection by the producer of the original piece of work. Copyright infringement and stealing ownership rights has long been a problem, especially since the introduction of Internet media streaming. If you would like to use a piece of music you don't own, you need the owner’s position to grant you permission to use it legally. Some musicians publish their works under the Creative Commons License, allowing anyone to use their music as long as they provide credit to the owner. Others require a fee to be paid in exchange for using their music. These are referred to as royalty fees.

Choose a piece of music that you want to use for your own purposes. Determine how you want to use that piece of music. You will be subject to pay different royalty fees depending on whether or not you want to reproduce the music, perform or broadcast the music live, synchronize the music for commercial purposes, or print and publish the sheet music.

Determine who exactly you need to contact to be granted permission to use the music for your own use in exchange for a royalty fee. Depending on how you will be using the musical piece, you will need to look at the appropriate performing rights organization (PRO), recording company, or mechanical rights agency to arrange the transfer of copyright and royalty payment process.

Contact the individual owner of the music, publishing company, agent or record company by phone or email to lay out your request for usage for the music. Clearly describe how you wish to use the piece of music so that an appropriate contract and royalty fee can be drawn up by the owner or record company.

Agree to the terms and conditions and sign the contract after receiving it from the owner of the musical piece. This is referred to as the “transfer of copyright” of the song to the publisher in exchange for payment. Depending on the specifications of the agreement, you may or may not be able to alter the original sound components of the musical piece.

Pay the appropriate royalty fees by credit card, check, or another form of payment as requested by the owner of the music.

Publish the musical piece in accordance to the agreement made between you, the publisher, and the owner or company that owns the piece of music. Follow all terms and conditions. Refrain from using or republishing the music in anyway way that dishonors the specifications of the agreement.


  • Directly contacting large record companies can be difficult and sometimes impossible. Instead, try searching online for specific music websites that are designed to accept royalty fees form the general public in exchange for transfer of copyright.


About the Author

Elise Stall is an experienced writer, blogger and online entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since 2009. She currently blogs at Elise's Review. She has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and a postgraduate diploma in small-business management from George Brown College.

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