When to get permission

If you post music for streaming online, such as on YouTube, or your own web site or blog, make sure to get permission for any songs you did not write, recordings made by other people (such as samples, karaoke tracks, or background tracks), and any lyrics or music notes you display. The types of licenses you need will vary depending on the type of stream. There are three types of streams to consider:

1) Video streams (YouTube, other online video): These include all types of video, plus any stream where an image is displayed over the audio, such as slideshows, displays of text (such as lyrics), and other visualizations. Video streams require a synchronization license. If lyrics or music notes are displayed, a print license is also required.

2) Interactive audio streams (non-video, non-visual, audio-only, on-demand streams): These can be selected, arranged in a playlist, paused, and controlled by the listener (think Spotify, Apple Music). Interactive audio streams require a mechanical license and a public performance license.

3) Non-interactive audio streams (non-video, non-visual, audio-only, non-interactive streams): These cannot be selected, arranged in a playlist, paused, or otherwise controlled by the listener (think Pandora, SiriusXM, traditional radio). Non-interactive audio streams require a public performance license. They do not require a mechanical license.

If any existing audio recording is used, a master license may be required as well. All licenses should be secured before the music is posted or streamed. You do not need to license songs that you wrote yourself or songs that you know are in the public domain.

Who is responsible

Video streams - Video streams are non-compulsory and are typically not handled by the digital service provider. For example, YouTube pays royalties to some publishers that have agreed to a share of ad revenue in exchange for the required synchronization rights to stream video. However, most publishers have not agreed to this, and instead follow the more traditional practice of requiring the individual to obtain synchronization licensing before posting.

Interactive audio streams (audio only) - In some cases, digital service providers (DSPs) like Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp will handle mechanical licensing for interactive audio streams themselves, by electing to become a blanket licensee, and reporting and paying mechanical royalties to The MLC as stipulated in the Music Modernization Act. However, it's important to note that not every DSP handles mechanical licensing of interactive audio streams for you. If you distribute to a small DSP with under 5,000 unique sound recordings or if you distribute on your own website, you need to obtain a license. When in doubt, check the terms of use of the DSP or ask them if they handle compulsory mechanical licensing for interactive audio streams on their service.

Non-interactive audio streams (audio only) - The public performance license required for non-interactive audio streams (and actually, all types of streams) is almost always handled by the digital service provider (DSP), but you can confirm this by checking with the service or the performing rights agencies that administer these licenses in the United States (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC). Outside of the United States, you can check with your local performing rights society.

How the royalties are paid

All video streams require a synchronization license. Synchronization licenses are somewhat complex. You pre-pay royalties upfront based on a custom-negotiated fee. When you hire us, we deliver your request to the copyright holder, negotiate the fee, and present it to you. If you accept, we collect the entire fee from you (which includes the royalties), and then send 100% of the royalties on to the copyright holder. If you need to reorder, a new license is negotiated. You have the option to follow all these steps yourself or hire us for assistance through our Custom Licensing services.

If you use an existing audio recording or display lyrics in your video, the respective master and print licenses that are required are custom-negotiated upfront with the copyright holder in the same way as a synchronization license (described above). For these types of licenses, check out our Custom Licensing services or contact us.

All interactive audio streams (audio-only, on-demand stremas where the listener can choose the order of the playlist and pause and control the songs) require a mechanical license. There are two scenarios to consider:

1) Streams that happen on major digital service providers (DSPs) that handle the required mechanical licensing (Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music): The major music services now typically handle mechanical licensing for all music streamed from their service. They do this by reporting to The MLC and paying a share of their revenues (learn more).

2) Streams that happen on your website, your blog, or any service that does not handle the required mechanical licensing (small DSPs with under 5,000 unique sound recordings): You need to clear the required mechanical licenses yourself. You can obtain the required mechanical license through Easy Song Licensing's Custom Licensing service.

Royalties from audio-only, non-interactive audio streams (where the listener does not choose the order of the playlist, such as terrestrial and web radio) are paid by the streaming services to the public performance rights agencies ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange. The services report numbers of streams to the agencies and pay a portion of their revenues. The agencies then distribute the royalties to their member songwriters (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) and artists (SoundExchange).

How to get permission

1) Video streams: You can obtain the necessary synchronization licenses (video streams), print licenses (lyrics), and master licenses (copyrighted audio recordings) through Easy Song Licensing's Custom Licensing services. Alternatively, you can attempt to locate the copyright owners yourself and request permission.

2) Interactive audio streams: The required mechanical licenses can be cleared through our Custom Licensing services.

3) Non-interactive audio streams: The required public performance licenses can be obtained in the United States by contacting the following performing rights agencies:

ASCAP
BMI
SESAC

Outside of the United States, please contact your local performing rights society. To obtain licensing for any type of web radio that will be broadcasted in the United States, even if the originating server is outside of the United States please contact the following agency:

Relevant music licenses you might need

If you release a video stream on your website, blog, or any service that does not handle synchronization licensing (including YouTube). Required whenever you release a song that someone else wrote, even if you are the one playing the music.
If you release an interactive audio stream on your website, blog, or any service that does not handle mechanical licensing. Required whenever you release a song that someone else wrote, even if you are the one playing the music.
If you release a video stream or interactive audio stream that has an existing audio recording that someone else made, even if it's just a small sample.
If you release a video stream that has song lyrics or music notes.
If you release any stream of a song that someone else wrote. This is typically handled by the services, but might be required if you stream on your own web page, blog, or service.
https://www.easysonglicensing.com/pages/help/articles/music-licensing/music-licensing-for-streaming.aspx