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How to Record and Release Cover Songs: An Interview with HFA

NEW YORK (Hypebot) – HFA provides rights management, licensing and royalty services for the music industry. With over 46,000 music publishing clients, HFA issues the largest number of licenses for the use of music in both physical and digital distribution formats. HFA also serves the D.I.Y. market with Songfile®, the company’s fast and easy online licensing tool.

I interviewed HFA’s Director of Marketing & Communications, Dalita Keumurian, to find out more about Songfile and the process of recording and releasing cover songs.

Q: So let’s start from the beginning. What does HFA do?

HFA represents publishing companies for mechanical licenses in the U.S. A mechanical license grants the right to reproduce a copyrighted musical composition on CDs, records, tapes, and certain digital configurations like digital downloads.

HFA’s services include issuing licenses and collecting and distributing royalties on behalf of its music publishers. HFA also makes sure that publishers are properly paid for the uses of their copyrighted musical compositions.

Q: What is Songfile and why was it created?

HFA’s online mechanical licensing tool, Songfile, was created to cater to the DIY market. A mechanical license is required when an artist wants to record and distribute a song he or she did not write. Songfile makes it easy for artists to obtain the proper mechanical licenses to release these cover songs in physical or digital formats.

Q: Are there fees associated with using Songfile?

Royalties for mechanical licenses obtained through Songfile are set at the current statutory rate plus an HFA processing fee.

Q: What formats can licenses be obtained for?

Users can obtain mechanical licenses for physical releases, such as CDs, cassettes, or LPs, as well as digital formats such as digital downloads, ringtones, and certain types of interactive streams.

Q: Are there any minimum/maximum reproductions for licenses?

For physical releases, digital downloads and ringtones, Songfile can be used to get mechanical licenses for up to 2,500 units. Songfile can also be used to license up to 10,0000 interactive streams.

If a user needs licenses for more than 2,500 units, we suggest setting up a Licensee Account with HFA. More information can be found on that here.

Q: Is there a set price for licenses, or do they vary?

The cost to use the Songfile service is $16 per song (plus the statutory mechanical rates). If a user licenses more than 5 songs in one transaction, the processing fee is reduced to $14 for each additional song (i.e. for songs 6 and up).

The statutory rate is set by section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The current statutory mechanical royalty rate for physical recordings and permanent digital downloads is 9.1 cents for recordings of a song 5 minutes or less, and 1.75 cents per minute or fraction thereof for those over 5 minutes. You can find more information here. You can also check out our online mechanical royalty calculator.

Q: Are any other licenses needed to release a cover song?

If an artist is releasing a straight cover song (a version of a composition that he or she did not write) in one of the formats listed above only a mechanical license is needed.

Q: Do artists still need to obtain licenses if they are not going to sell the recording of the song(s)?

Unless an artist is creating a recording covered under the fair use section of the U.S. Copyright Act, he or she needs to obtain a license for recordings regardless of whether he or she is selling them. It can be kind of a gray area, so we advocate artists licensing their cover songs even if they’re not intended for profit. If artists don’t obtain licenses, the original songwriter(s) won’t be paid.

Q: Are the licenses immediately available, or is there a processing delay when using Songfile?

Licenses purchased through Songfile are available in 24 hours or less. Most are processed in as little as 10 minutes!

Q: Which territories are covered by licenses obtained through Songfile?

Different countries have different mechanical licensing laws. Songfile mechanical licenses are only valid for uses manufactured and distributed in the U.S. and its territories.