Music Industry Terms

Cover song

A cover song is a new performance or recording of a song that was previously written, recorded, and released by someone else. Sometimes covers are new versions of older songs that are in the Public Domain, while others are versions of songs still protected by Copyright.

Publishers and publishing rights

When you write and record a song, two rights are created: the right to the recording (a.k.a. the master) and the right to the underlying song itself (a.k.a. the publishing).

A music publisher is a company that owns or deals with publishing rights. A music publisher can do things like collect royalties, place songs in films and television shows and match up songwriters with collaborators to create yet more songs. However, a music publisher doesn't have to do any of these things, unless it is required to do so by contract. Indeed, you yourself might be a music publisher without even knowing it, and you may or may not have done any of these things.

If you've written a song and haven't sold off or transferred all of your rights to someone else, you have retained your publishing rights and are a music publisher. If you have transferred your rights to someone else, that someone else is now the music publisher for your songs. Perhaps you've sold off your songs to a traditional publisher like Sony/ATV Music Publishing for a hefty advance, or perhaps you've given a company like Songtrust the exclusive right to administer your publishing rights, i.e., to collect income on your behalf in exchange for a percentage of the profits. Those organizations are also music publishers.


A copyright is a bundle of legal rights that gives the owner the exclusive right to make copies of the work and to do a variety of other things related to making copies of the work.

In the United States, a copyright gives you six exclusive rights to:
  • Make copies of the work
  • Create derivative works based on the work
  • Distribute the work
  • Publicly perform the work
  • Publicly display the work
  • In the case of a sound recording, publicly perform the work through a digital audio transmission

To better understand the concept of copyright, which is a form of intellectual property, think of the world of real property and imagine that the copyright to your song is actually a six-bedroom house that you own. Since you own the house, you can do what you want with the house or give others permission to do things in the house. Likewise, if you own the copyright to the work, you own exclusive rights to make copies of or use the work -- and you also have the ability to give others permission to do these things.

If you rented one of the rooms of the house to someone, you would still retain ownership of the entire house, and the person renting your house would have to abide by certain rules agreed upon in your rental agreement. Similarly, if you gave someone permission to use your copyright, you would be giving someone a license to use the copyright. You would of course still own the copyright even if you licensed out some of the rights, just as you would still own the house if you rented it to someone else.

If you were to sell your house, the house would be owned by someone else and would no longer be owned by you. Similarly, if you were to transfer all of the exclusive rights under your copyright to someone else, you would be assigning ownership of your copyright and would no longer own it.

Pro tip: Just as you probably would not sell your house or rent your bedroom out to a stranger for free, you may want to make sure that you are compensated when you give someone permission to use your copyrighted work or when you transfer ownership of your copyright to someone else.

Public domain

A public domain work is a work that is not protected by copyright.

When a work is not protected by copyright, others are free to make copies of the work, perform the work, create derivative works based on the work and generally make use of the work without having to obtain a license.

A work's public domain status is based on copyright law, but since the copyright laws vary from country to country, the rules of public domain vary as well.

In the United States, the most common types of public domain works are those which are:
  • Government works and documents
  • Works that have been transferred to the public domain by their creators, and
  • Works that are old.

How old? It can be surprisingly difficult to get an answer to this question, since the copyright laws of the United States have changed over time. The copyright to a work that you create today will last for the duration of your life plus another 70 years, but the rules that apply to the works of yore are not the same rules that apply to music created today. In fact, the rules of public domain are complex enough to take up an entire spreadsheet.

A general rule of thumb under U.S. Copyright Law is that works published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, but in situations where you really, really need an answer and you're not sure about the public domain status of a work, you may consider giving your friendly local copyright attorney a call.

Samples and remixes of recordings

A sample of a recording is a piece of a recording that has been spliced into a new track. Artists and producers sometimes use samples as a creative tool to evoke nostalgia for a certain era, to pay homage to a classic artist or genre, or to juxtapose different pieces of music in order to create a quirky sound. If you're a fan of hip-hop or dance music, or if you've listened to pop music recorded in the last 20 years, you've probably heard more than a few samples.

A remix of a recording is an entire recording, from beginning to end, that has been edited to create a track that sounds different from the original version. Think of it as the same full track recording by the original artist -- same voice, same stem tracks -- but with changes that give the music a different feel. If you're a fan of dance music, whether deep house, dubstep or drum & bass, you're probably familiar with artists that release multiple versions of the same track -- some faster or slower, some with a different tempo or with a longer intro/outtro.

To be clear, when we refer to remixes here, we're talking about a track that contains someone else's recording, albeit with edits and creative changes. If you've re-recorded the track before making said tweaks, you've probably recorded a cover song and should check out our section on cover song licensing.

If you're using a sample of someone else's recording, you'll need to obtain permission from the rights holder that owns the recording (usually a record label), as well as permission from the publisher that owns the song. You'll need to negotiate with both the label and the publisher, who each have the exclusive right to grant or deny permission to anyone who wishes to use samples of the work, as well as the right to set terms and request (or not request) payment for the sample use.

In the case of a remix, you need to negotiate with the label, which has the right to grant or deny permission to create a remix, as well as the right to set terms and either receive payment or pay you for the remix. The publishing, however, can be licensed using the same mechanical license used to distribute cover songs.

While Team Loudr enjoys the occasional remix or sample as much as you probably do, you should be aware that we do NOT handle licensing for samples and remixes. You can use Loudr to sell as many cover songs as you want but our licenses do not extend to the use of sampled recordings or the creation of remixes based on someone else's recording.

If you'd like to release music using samples or if you'd like to make a remix of someone else's recording, you'll need to get a license, a different kind from the license that Loudr currently handles. Try consulting an artist's attorney or a music clearance company. Please feel free to hit us up at support@loudr.fm for a referral.

Interpolations and medleys

What is a medley?

A medley is a series of songs or song segments recorded into a single track by an artist. The songs play one after another and may sometimes overlap. In the case where the songs are owned by someone else, the artist must obtain a license for each song to record them into a medley.

Fun fact: back in the day, "potpourri" was another term for a medley.

As with cover songs, Loudr can help you get the licenses needed to sell your medley online, provided that you've created your own recording from scratch. You'll need to include all of the songs that you covered in your medley when you upload the track to our systems so that the songs get matched to music publishers and get licensed.

What is an interpolation?

An interpolation is a piece of someone else's composition spliced into a new track, rather than a segment of a recording. Think of it as a sample, but one where you record your own version of the song and then mix a piece of it into your own creation rather than dropping in someone else's already-recorded music.

Here are some examples of interpolations:

  • Remember that song "Ghetto Supastar" from the 90's by Pras? The chorus of the song, sung by Mya, uses the melody from the Kenny Rodgers/Dolly Parton song "Islands In The Stream". That melody is an interpolation
  • If you record a cover of One Direction's love song "Story of My Life" but only use that chorus in your own song, where the rest of the lyrics were written by you and not One Direction's songwriters, that would be an interpolation that requires a license.
  • If your original funk song has an instrumental interlude that consists of your funk guitarist performing the melody of the song "Tequila", that interlude is an interpolation.

Unlike medleys and cover songs, Loudr does not license interpolations. You'll need to obtain permission directly from the publisher or publishers that own the song or try consulting an artist's attorney or a music clearance company. Please feel free to hit us up at support@loudr.fm for a referral.

Learn about music rights

Importance of cover song licensing

When you record a cover song, you're recording your own version of someone else's copyrighted song. While you may own the cover of "Roar" that you painstakingly recreated in your home studio with Asiatic flutes and a sitar (and without Katy Perry), someone else still owns the rights to the song itself -- the lyrics, melody and song structure.

Licensing the song enables you to legally sell your song in stores like iTunes and to promote your cover recording without worrying about getting a cease-and-desist notice or waking up to discover that your track has been abruptly yanked from all platforms. It also makes you an awesome person because you'll have done your part to ensure that the original songwriters get paid royalties for their hard work.

I'm a musician. What license do I need to sell my song?

What kind of license do you need? View larger image

Learn more about these music biz terms in our FAQ:

Common uses of music and the licenses needed

Want to use music in your project? Maybe you need background music for a video, want to use that sick guitar solo you found on Soundcloud, or want to create a cover version of one of your favorite songs. If you're making use of music that was not 100% created by and owned by you, you'll need to obtain the proper license(s).

Here are a few common types of music uses (and the licenses they require):

  • Using music in the background of a TV show, movie or Internet video = synchronization license
  • Using music in the background of a video game = synchronization license
  • Playing background music at a bar, concert hall or other business = public performance license
  • Playing music on a terrestrial (regular old) radio broadcast = public performance license
  • Playing music in a streaming service = interactive public performance license
  • Playing music in an Internet radio broadcast = non-interactive public performance license
  • Using a sample of a recording in your new recording = sound recording sample license
  • Using a sample of a composition in your new recording = publishing sample license
  • Recording a cover version of someone else's song = mechanical license*
  • Someone else recording a cover version of YOUR song = mechanical license*
  • Use as background music in a podcast = podcasting license

*If you'd like to record your own cover of a song, Loudr can obtain mechanical licenses on your behalf.

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The two rights created when you write and record a song

When you write and record a song, two rights are automatically created:

  1. The right to the recording, which is sometimes referred to as the sound recording, the master recording, or "the master".
  2. The right to the underlying song itself, which is sometimes referred to as the song, the composition, or just "the publishing". This right encompasses the words, the song structure, the melody and all the things that make a song a song.

This distinction is an important part of music rights, since "Who owns the master?" and "Who owns the publishing?" are often the first two questions to ask when trying to find out who owns a piece of music. Someone who owns the master may not necessarily be, and in fact often is not, the person who owns the publishing.

Some examples:
  • If you record a cover song of the Lady Gaga song "Bad Romance", Sony/ATV Music Publishing owns the publishing (through its deal with Lady Gaga herself, Ms. Stefani Germanotta) and you own your recording of the song.
  • If you write and record a hit song without the aid of a record label, and Universal Music Publishing manages to get you to sign a publishing deal with them, you would own the master and UMPG would own the publishing.
  • If your best friend Chloe records a cover of one of your songs, your friend Chloe owns her version of your song (the master), but you still own the song itself (the publishing).

Company and Brand

How Loudr is related to Joypad Records

Joypad Records was an independent San Francisco-based label, providing copyright clearance, digital distribution, and royalty reporting for video game music and cover songs. Joypad's mission was to be a one-stop destination for anyone wanting to sell their game OST or game cover songs. Joypad Records combined with a unique online bundling platform called Bundle Dragon and formed Loudr in 2013, although game music continues to hold a special place in our hearts.

How Loudr is related to A Cappella Records

A Cappella Records was a record label geared around a cappella music. With the number of cover songs coming out of the scene, it was clear that copyright clearance, digital distribution, and royalty reporting were all things that the a cappella community desperately needed. ACR's mission was to be a one-stop destination for anyone wanting to sell a cappella album with a minimal amount of hassle and legal wrangling. The ACR team has been at the core of Loudr's creation and the a cappella spirit is still live and well in our office - we make quite a bit of musical mouth-noise while working!

How Loudr is related to re:discover Inc.

re:discover Inc. is our official business-type name. We used to be called "A Cappella Records Inc." back in the day, but decided to go for something a little more inclusive of ALL types of music. We like the idea of re-discovering music through cover songs and original track releases, and although Loudr is our main product these days, the name remains a reminder of our greater goal.

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