If you are doing a recording project in the music business, you will want to know about mechanical licenses. No matter how small a “run” of your project you print or make available for download, you need to understand the legal and ethical responsibilities you have to the publishers of your songs. Here’s a simple summary from the Harry Fox site:

If you are manufacturing and distributing copies of a song which you did not write, and you have not already reached an agreement with the song’s publisher, you need to obtain a mechanical license. This is required under U.S. Copyright Law, regardless of whether or not you are selling the copies that you made.

You do not need a mechanical license if you are recording and distributing a song you wrote yourself, or if the song is in the public domain. If you are not sure if the song you are looking to license is in the public domain, and therefore does not require license authority, we suggest you use the search on www.pdinfo.com.

How much does a mechanical license cost?

The current US statutory mechanical rights fee is $.091 (9.1 cents) per physical or digital copy. That 91 cents is to be divided among all publishers, who then distribute to their writers according to the contract they have with the writers (not your job to do this). So if you want to buy a license for, say,  5oo physical plus 500 digital copies, you’d divide $91 among all publishers per song on your project. In addition, if you obtain a license through Harry Fox, there is a small processing fee.

How do you get these licenses?

Your record label or label rep has to obtain licenses either directly or through the Harry Fox Agency if the song is licensed there,  from each publisher /co-publisher of the song. Yes, that’s the tedious part… your label must contact and obtain mutually signed  mechanical licenses from all publishers who own each separate song. Fyi, publisher info can be obtained by asking the writers. And again, the agreement is between the label and the publishers, not the writers.

When do you need to get these licenses?

The label should pay for a mechanical license for each song before they are sold. The label would estimate how many digital or physical units they would want to sell at first (many times 500 of each) and pay $ .091 (for 1000 units the total for each song would be $91) to split between publishers (who then split it with their songwriters).

Information you’ll need to collect for each song:

  • Writer and co-writer name(s), PRO(s) [BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, etc), percentage(s) and addresses
  • Publisher and co-pub name(s), PRO(s), percentage(s) and addresses for where to send payment

Other random FAQ's about mechanical licenses:

  • Licensor= Label rep would be whoever represents the record label.  Licensee= the publisher of that particular song.
  • Yes, you need a license form for each song, even with the same songwriter and publishing co.
  • No, the songwriter does not sign the license… the publisher does. The agreement is between label and publisher.
  • The label would then pay the publisher the mechanical license fee.
  • How the songwriter gets paid...  the norm is that the pub company will split mechanicals with the songwriter, according to the contract they have between them. This is not the label's responsibility; it's the publisher's.

What does a typical custom mechanical license  (not Harry Fox) look like?

When a record label approaches me concerning one of my songs, I give them any co-pub information so they can contact those publishers, and I issue this for my own publishing company. I got this form from an independent record label, btw:



License Date: x/xx/xxxx

Licensee:                                                                                 Licensor:

name  of record label rep                                                 name of writer, c/o name of Pub company

street                                                                                        street

city, state, zip                                                                       city, state, zip

The Composition(s) covered under this License, as well as the total amount due per song per use, are listed in the table below.

Song Title License Type Units Publisher[s](%) Total Licensor % Net Rate Amount
Name of song Mechanical ???physical copies,

??? digital downloads

Names of all

publishing companies

% Percentage

for this particular licensor

$0.091 $xxxx
Total Amount Due $xxxx

Label copy/Copyright notices for each Composition:

Title of song, writers and co-writers



(c) Copyright xxxx. Names of publishing companies All rights reserved. Used by permission.

License Provisions/General Rights For All Uses:

1.       In connection with your exercise of the right and license granted herein, you shall have the right to make a musical arrangement of the Composition(s) to the extent necessary to conform the Compositions to the style or manner of interpretation of the performance and/or publication involved, provided however, that any such arrangement shall not change the basic melody or the fundamental character of the Composition(s). You hereby transfer and assign to Publisher(s) all rights, title, and interest in and to any such arrangement.

2.       Licensor hereby warrants and represents that it possesses full right and authority to grant the rights and license herein described for the percentage of each Composition owned or controlled by said Licensor. Licensee warrants and represents that it is the rightful owner or lawful assignee of the owner of the master recordings, if any, to be made and distributed pursuant to this license.

3.       In the event that you fail to pay royalties to Licensor on all copies manufactured and fail to remedy such default within thirty (30) days after written notice given to you by certified or registered mail, this agreement and all rights herein granted shall automatically terminate and such termination shall render either the making or distribution of copies of the product(s) for which the royalty has not been paid actionable as acts of infringement under the United States Copyright Law.

4.       This license is limited to the rights expressly granted herein and does not authorize any use of the aforesaid musical Composition(s) not expressly set forth herein. By way of illustration, but not limitation, this license does not include the right to change, arrange or adapt the lyrics or music, or alter the fundamental character of said musical Composition(s) or to use the title thereof as the title or sub-title of the product(s).

5.       You agree to identify the Composition(s) on your project as detailed in this license.

6.       Licensor shall have the right to inspect and audit your books and records relating to transactions involving the rights granted herein upon reasonable notice.

7.       All rights not herein specifically granted are reserved by Licensor. All rights granted here in are on a non-exclusive basis.

8.       The Territory covered by this license is the United States only.

9.       If Licensor license less than 100% of a composition to you, it means that there are other owners of the composition that Licensor does not represent.  It is your responsibility to secure permission from these publishers directly.

10.     The term of this license shall be a one-time manufacture and eventual distribution of the number of units stated herein. Upon the expiration of this license, all rights herein granted shall cease and terminate, and the right to make or authorize any further use or distribution of the product(s) made hereunder shall cease and terminate.

11.     This agreement shall be binding upon the heirs, legal representatives, successors, and assigns of each of the parties hereto. The rights granted herein may not be transferred or assigned by you to any other party without written permission from Licensor.

12.     This license constitutes our entire agreement and cannot be modified except by written instrument signed by both parties. This license shall be construed and interpreted by the laws of the state of Tennessee applicable to agreements wholly to be performed therein.

Mechanical License Provisions (if applicable):

1M. You are hereby granted the non-exclusive right and license during the term of the United States Copyright in the Composition(s) to make and distribute the following phonorecords embodying a single performance of the Composition(s):

2M. As used in this agreement, all terms and phrases, including the word “phonorecord” and the phrase “made and distributed” shall have the meaning ascribed thereto in the United States Copyright Law and the regulations properly adopted in connection therewith, unless otherwise specified or defined herein.

3M. For phonorecords manufactured and distributed in the United States the royalty rate payable is the statutory mechanical rate.

By signing below, you agreed to abide by all of the terms of this agreement.

Agreed to:


By: ____________________________________________________________________

Date: _____________________


By: ____________________________________________________________________

Date: ________________________


If you would like a blank copy of a mechanical license as an MS Word doc or Excel file , let me know where to email it.
Creating a win-win situation for the artist/label and the writers/publishers keeps great music rewarding for all. Understanding mechanical licenses for music projects is information every record label, songwriter and publisher should have.

If anyone has any other questions or can offer any other information about mechanicals, I welcome your comments!

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131 Responses to “Mechanical Licenses For Recording Projects: What, When, How”

Judy March 13, 2014

You got it… Brenda and Jeff you should see it in your email.

Jennifer Robinson March 19, 2014


Can I please get a blank copy of a mechanical license as an MS Word doc? Thank you. Also, what if you are a self-publisher? How does the mechanical license work then?

Roger March 24, 2014

Hi Judy, great info! Can you please send a blank copy my way? Thank you!

PJ April 4, 2014

Hi Judy – Please send me a blank Word doc of the mechanical license. Thank you so much. Best, PJ

Judy April 4, 2014

Roger and PJ… you should have those in your email. Thx for asking!

Peter May 10, 2014

Can you obtain the vocal tracks after purchasing a mechanical license for remixes?

Chris Bork May 26, 2014

Judy, can I get a Word doc of this mechanical rights agreement? That would be awesome! Thanks!

Chris Bork
Metro Detroit, MI

Judy May 27, 2014

Sent it just now, Chris

Missy May 31, 2014

A Word doc of this agreement would be great. Thanks very much!

Nathanael Brown June 19, 2014

Good Morning,

I’m getting ready to sign a recording/distribuiton deal and they recording company needs the mechanical licesence. Could you provide me with a doc. Form? I have co writters.


Traci June 24, 2014

Hi Judy,

I would love a .doc form of the mechanical license agreement.

Thanks in advance!

Phil July 8, 2014

I would love to get a copy of your Mechanical License as well. If you are a cowriter and the other writer releases the collaborative work as a recorded single, does one writer license the song from the other writer? What license or form is required? Thank you so much, Judy!

Natalie Florance July 16, 2014

Can you please email a blank copy of this in Word form to me? Thank you so much!

Delton Warrick July 17, 2014

Hey Judy your article has been so helpful. Can you send me a word doc of the above contract. thank you so much.

Tony b swift August 2, 2014

Good info judy

Darnell Pate August 5, 2014

Please email this to me if possible

Onesha Steward September 5, 2014

Judy, please email me a copy of your Mechanical Agreement in a word doc. thanks!

Onesha Steward September 5, 2014

Judy, can you please send me a copy of your mechanical agreement in word document. thanks

Judy September 5, 2014

You should have it in your email now, Onesha. Thx for asking and good luck with your project!

Seth September 5, 2014

Please send me a copy of this contract.

Tim Culpepper October 7, 2014

Hi Judy, Can you please email me a mechanical agreement in Word Format? Also, want to ask you if there are more than 1 writers do we each have to sign one or does one stand good for all ? I have the song registered at BMI but want to make sure I cover all basis with the artist and representative wanting to record my song. Is there more than just the Mechanical agreement to have them sign to make sure I’m covered ? Thanks So Much and LOVE YOUR MUSIC !
: )

brandon October 14, 2014

Could you email a DOC version of your license to me? Thanks in advance!

Judy October 16, 2014

Hi Tim… sorry for being so late about getting this to you. OK, the parties who need to process this license is all publishers (yes, each one needs to separately do a license) and the label or other owner of the master recording being done. If each writer owns his/her own publishing company or has no publishing company and just owns all their publishing, then each writer, acting as publisher, needs to do separate mechanical licenses and get paid.

Just get the licenses done and make sure they issue checks to you and all other publishers or writer-publishers. Hope that helps!

Thanks for your sweet endorsement of my music:)

Judy October 16, 2014

I just emailed you, Brandon, with the license. Good luck!

brandon October 22, 2014

Judy – Sorry – I didn’t get it (checked my spam filters). Can you resend?

Barry Hazel October 31, 2014

I would like a copy of this contract in “word” format please? Thanks for your service and help.

Cheryl French November 18, 2014

Could I please get a copy of the form in Word? Thanks in advance

Diane December 8, 2014

Could you mail me a DOC copy? Thanks Judy!

Tim Wootton February 7, 2015

Could I please get a copy of the form in Word.
Thanks Judy.

Tami Pockstaller February 16, 2015

Hi there…would love a copy of this mechanical rights form – in Word format please. Thanks so much!!!

Rj Cowdery March 31, 2015

Good info to know the process.

I’d love a word doc copy of the mechanical rights form.

If you have made the disc available on CD Baby or iTunes (and other formats)
how does that work in regards to keeping track of the digital downloads?
Thanks very much.