The Music Licensing Quagmire - Part 2 - Diving In

Yesterday, I started explaining about the music licensing process works, relating to the CD we are producing. The first post was a basic overview of how mechanical licenses work. Now I'll get into what I had to do.

The first step is to identify exactly who the copyright administrator is. This is not as easy as it sounds. Some songs have several copyright holders. Fortunately there are some resources available.

For Christian music, the best resource to start with is CCLI. Many churches have a CCLI license, which allows them to display and copy song lyrics. CCLI has a service called SongSelect, which allows churches to identify the copyright information on a given song. You have to be sure that you have the correct song, though, because there are often multiple compositions with the same title. For example, SongSelect lists about thirteen songs with the title "Tell the World." Two of those songs are copyrighted by Hillsong Publishing. So you have to be sure you get the correct song.

Most publishers (a.k.a "record companies") don't want to bother with copyright license requests. So, they sublet that business out to other companies that handle those requests. Out there in the world, the big dog on the block is the Harry Fox Agency. HFA has a vast amount of resources for copyright information. If you ever have a question about copyright licensing, their information center probably has the answer. HFA has a service called Songfile, which allows artists to easily gain compulsory mechanical licenses for literally millions of songs. (You can also get a lot of very dry, leagalese information from the U.S. Copyright Office. Look for a sexy little document called Circular 73. Sounds like something out of a bad spy movie. )

But... not many of the Christian publishers work with HFA. But there is a resource specifically for the Christian music industry, called Music Services. Music Services represents many of the larger Christian music publishers, with one noteable exception. Using their website to obtain licenses is very easy. Simply create an account, search for the song, requests the type of license you want. They even let you batch up the requests into a project. Very nice.

I said there was one noteable exception: Integrity Music. Integrity does all of their music administration in-house. Buried deep in Integrity's flash-laden, slow-loading website is a link to their music administration department. The link is here if you don't feel like going on the Easter Egg Hunt. Once you find the right page, there are links to request the proper license. You need to fill out a separate request for each song. (We were requesting seven from Integrity)

Of course, there is one in every crowd. In this case, the one was a song called "We Prepare the Way," written by Rick Pino. Rick is an alum of Christ for the Nations Institute, like our friend Kari Jobe. But... I could not find this song listed with anyone. When all else fails, you go to the source, and in this case, that's just what I did. Rick runs a ministry called Fire Rain Ministries down in Texas. An email to them was poorly timed by me over the Christmas holidays. A second email in January was answered right away by their music coordinator.

All three of these resources handled things in very different ways. Stay tuned for more info on that...


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