Music Licensing

Author: Scott Sellwood | Course Code: OMBUS-496

Licensing powers virtually every use of music, from digital download stores, to live performance, to music across mixed media. Through creative licensing, artists have made $10K on Twitter in one night, transformed albums into mobile applications, reached over 100 million listeners every day, and worked to collect every dime owed to them. Music Licensing sheds light on the nuts-and-bolts behind music monetization and how licensing is the touch point to generating revenue for artists, songwriters, labels, and music publishers. This course is designed for people who own or manage music copyrights—master recordings or underlying compositions—and who wish to exploit those copyrights for financial gain. You will obtain a conceptual understanding of basic licensing terms, opportunities, and strategies and apply that knowledge to monetizing your own creative intellectual property (IP). You will also learn important background details about rights licensing history, in addition to how to navigate complex industry statutes and apply practical business techniques.

The course will include a mix of several real-life examples and hypothetical situations, in-depth explanations, and review of agreements, alongside a wide array of exclusive video interviews with music supervisors, licensing society speakers, and experts in the publishing world. Successfully completing the course will enable you to monetize your creative IP across various licensing uses, whether you are a songwriter, artist, record label, or publisher. You will know how to register your works with relevant performing rights organizations, understand the differences between master/publishing revenue streams, identify opportunities to create new avenues for placement, and use online resources to introduce your music to potential placement agents. You will also be able to create a summary licensing plan capable of acting as a business plan for your licensing efforts.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • identify current opportunities and how to create new avenues for placement of your own music
  • register your works with relevant performing rights organizations to ensure income streams
  • understand the differences between master and publishing revenue streams related to performance, mechanical rights, synchronization, and alternative revenue streams
  • understand the complexities between U.S. and international rights clearance and what barriers they place for songwriters and artists in collecting on distributed works.
  • design a distribution strategy (domestic and international) to distribute music via multiple channels (including iTunes, online radio stations, etc.)
  • use online resources to introduce your music to music supervisors, ad creatives, and video game producers
  • identify royalties to be collected and how you can collect them directly or via third parties
  • prepare a summary licensing plan

Lesson 1: Licensing Basics

No Such Thing as a Sell Out? Moby's PlayA Tale of Two CopyrightsKnow Your RightsBasic License LanguageAssignment 1: Licenses

Lesson 2: Mechanical Rights

What Is Mechanical Licensing?Statutory Royalty RageDay-to-Day Mechanical Licensing OperationsPaying Royalties and AccountingThe Future: Music in the Cloud and Mechanical LicensingA Cover Song: The Market PotentialAssignment 2: Mechanical License Scenarios

Lesson 3: Performance Rights and How They Generate Revenue

The Importance of PerformanceHow It Started in the United StatesHow Does Performance Licensing Work?How Are Performance Royalties Calculated and Distributed?Royalty Maximization StrategiesAddressing the Playing Field and Your CatalogueDirect Licensing: Wave of the Future?Assignment 3: Register Your Work

Lesson 4: Synchronization Licensing ("Sync, Part 1")

What Is Synchronization Licensing?The Key Players in SyncThe ProcessMixed Media: Differences between TV, Film, and Advertising UsesSync Licenses and Key TermsMethods of Representation in Placing Your MusicLibrary MusicAssignment 4: Profile a Key Player in Sync Licensing

Lesson 5: Alternative Revenue Streams via Placement ("Sync, Part 2")

Opportunities Available "Off the Grid"Indirect (Delayed) Revenue vs. Direct (Immediate) RevenueYou Tube = Radio + MTVVideo and Channel Monetization/PartnershipsContentID MonetizationAssignment 5: Alternative Revenue Streams

Lesson 6: Creating Opportunities ("Sync, Part 3")

Basic Ways of Creating OpportunitiesPlacement Industry Trade SecretsGoing DIYMaximizing Financial ReturnAssignment 6: Choose an Advertisement

Lesson 7: Distribution 2.0

Brief Overview of Distribution 1.0What Are the New Distribution Outlets?What Are the Royalty Rates?What Developments in Distribution 1.0?What Do Record Labels Do to Justify Their Share?Assignment 7: Evaluate Performance of Current Distribution Channels

Lesson 8: Sampling and Mash-Ups

What Is Sampling?Compare/Contrast the "Sampling" SpectrumOverview of a Sample ClearanceThe Flip-Side of the CoinAssignment 8: Research Appropriate Rights Holders

Lesson 9: Licensing Internationally, Part 1

Outside of U.S. LicensingU.S. SocietyE.U. SocietiesU.S., Canada, and MexicoReview a Global Map Outlining SocietiesAssignment 9: Identify a Plan for Getting Rights

Lesson 10: Licensing Internationally, Part 2

Issues from Territory-by-Territory LicensingIndustry IssuesDirect and Worldwide LicensingAre You Collecting All of Your Royalties?Assignment 10: Create Royalty Collection Strategy

Lesson 11: The Challenges of Music Licensing

Platforms and BrandsLicensing in the Real WorldWhen Should Rights Owners Be Flexible?Publishers vs. LabelsIdentifying New Licensing OpportunitiesAssignment 11: Pick an Area of Licensing

Lesson 12: Complete Your Licensing Plan

Know Your RightsPerformance RoyaltiesSync OpportunitiesAppropriate Distribution Partner/Platform * Identify Potential PartnersAssignment 12: Prepare a License Plan

Scott Sellwood


Scott Sellwood was the senior vice president and senior counsel at RightsFlow, a leading licensing and royalty service provider, recently acquired by Google. He oversaw RightsFlow's business and legal affairs with a focus on developing clients' licensing strategies related to the exploitation of music content. He's worked with clients at every level, including online music services such as YouTube and Rhapsody, digital distributor partners CD Baby, INgrooves, and The Orchard, and record labels such as X5 Music Group and Next Plateau Entertainment for their streaming, karaoke, background music, digital jukebox, synchronization, UGC, and new media needs. Sellwood is a frequent speaker at conferences and universities on topics ranging from publishing and rights management to copyright monetization. He currently works as the strategic partner development manager at YouTube, and formerly served as co-chair of the American Association of Independent Music Licensing and Publishing Committee. Sellwood is not only a proven music business executive, attorney, and strategist, but also an accomplished artist and member of the bands Drunken Barn Dance and critically acclaimed Saturday Looks Good to Me.

E. Michael Harrington


Dr. E. Michael Harrington is a professor in music copyright and intellectual property matters, having lectured at many law schools, organizations, and music conferences throughout North America, including Harvard Law, George Washington University Law, Brooklyn Law, BC Law, Loyola Law, NYU, McGill, Eastman, Emory, the Experience Music Project, Future of Music Coalition, Pop Montreal, and others. Michael has worked as a consultant and expert witness in hundreds of music copyright matters involving director Steven Spielberg, producer Mark Burnett, the Dixie Chicks, Woody Guthrie, Steve Perry, Keith Urban, HBO, Ne-Yo, T-Pain, T. I., Akon, Snoop Dogg, Collin Raye, Tupac Shakur, Lady Gaga, George Clinton, Mariah Carey, and others. He sits on the advisory board of the Future of Music Coalition and the Creators Freedom Project, and is a member of Leadership Music. Michael has been interviewed by the New York Times, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Time, Huffington Post, Billboard, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Money Magazine, Investor's Business Daily, People Magazine, Life Magazine, and Washington Post, in addition to BRAVO, PBS, ABC News, NBC's "Today Show," the Biography Channel, NPR, and others.

Andrea Johnson


Andrea "Ani" Johnson, Associate Professor of Music Business at Berklee College of Music is also an international lecturer and consultant in Music Licensing, Record Company Operations, Marketing and Strategic Management. She recently spoke at MIDEM in Cannes, France on Entrepreneurship and published an article on Music Supervision entitled, "What's Up with MXSup's" in the MEIEA Journal. Previously, Ani worked with Chris Blackwell at Island Records and Palm Pictures/Rykodisc and licensed over 30 albums for artists like Elton John, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Fleetwood Mac. Her work with Gloria Estefan included restructuring their financial systems and managing royalties and licenses for their Sony Music venture. Currently, she owns MonoMyth Media, a Music Supervision company in the Boston (Hollywood East) market and assists artists in placing their music in locally produced films.

Luiz Augusto Buff De Souza E Silva


Luiz Augusto Buff de Souza e Silva is a Brazilian lawyer, with a masters degree in Entertainment, Media and Intellectual Property Law from UCLA School of Law, and a degree in Music Business and Management from Berklee College of Music. Luiz developed experience in the music industry both as a musician, and also working at companies such as Warner Bros. Studios, Ted Kurland Associates, Soundtrack Group, and consulting firm Digital Cowboys. Luiz was a Research Collaborator in the development of the Music Business Finance course and also co-wrote the article "Budgeting for Crowdfunding Rewards" with prof. Peter Alhadeff, published in the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association (MEIEA) Journal.

You should have a basic understanding of music copyright. It is recommended, but not required, that you successfully complete the Copyright Law and Music Publishing 101 courses.


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  • Level
  • Duration
    12 Weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition Add 6 CEUs
    $1,200 + $25

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