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.

Casey Rae


Casey Rae is the Chief Executive Officer of the Future of Music Coalition, a national nonprofit organization for musicians and composers. He is also a musician, recording engineer, educator and author. Casey regularly speaks on issues such as emerging business models, creators' rights, technology policy and intellectual property at major conferences, universities and in the media. He has testified before Congress on artist rights and is committed to building bridges across sectors in order to identify possible solutions to common challenges. Casey has written dozens of articles on the impact of technology on the creative community in scholarly journals and other publications, and is a regular commentator on the impact of technology on creators in media outlets such as NPR, Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, Billboard, L.A. Times, Gizmodo, The Hill, Ars Technica, Sirius XM Radio and more. Casey is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and is the President of the Board of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. He is the principal of, a media, technology and policy consultancy. In his "spare time," he runs the DC-based label Lux Eterna Records and publishes The Contrarian Media.

Roger Pao


Roger Pao, JD, is an attorney and educator with extensive experience in online education and an interest in dynamic, innovative pedagogies. He is currently Assistant Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the New England College of Business and Finance. A graduate of Harvard Law School, magna cum laude, and Duke University, summa cum laude, he has served as a subject matter expert for and taught a variety of online undergraduate and graduate-level law and business courses. While a law student, he served as President of the Arts and Literature Law Society (ALLS) at Harvard Law School.

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.


PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higherMac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, SafariFlash Player: current versionQuickTime: current versionAdobe Reader: current version
Windows Vista SP2 or higherIntel Pentium or higher1 GB RAM500 MB hard drive space recommendedSound cardSpeakers or headphones for your computer
Mac OS X 10.7 or higherIntel Mac2 GB RAM500 MB of free HD spaceSpeakers or headphones for your computer


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

Next Term Starts June 27

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

Contact an Advisor

Mon-Thu, 9AM-8PM ET
Fri, 9AM-5PM ET
Call or Text Us at

Int'l: +1-617-747-2146

Create an Account

Secure form. Berklee Online will not sell or rent your email address to third parties. Our privacy policy.
Sample a Lesson