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Under the Covers: Obtaining a Mechanical License for a Song You Didn’t Write

It happens to many musicians: you hear an inspiring song and want to inspire others by releasing your own version. You want to do right by the creator(s) of the song by taking the ethical (and legal) route, but where do you start?

The Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) is a music licensing collective that represents the vast majority of music publishers and copyright owners doing business in Canada. Our Pay-As-You-Press department issues mechanical licenses for physical music products released in Canada.

Let’s say an artist would like to release a cover version of a song. The artist would visit our website to download our Application for Mechanical Licensing and the CMRRA Royalty Calculation Sheet. The statutory royalty rate for this example would be 8.3 cents per copy of the song, as it is under 5 minutes in length. The artist will pay for the number of copies of the song that they press (plus any applicable taxes and fees) and then receive their mechanical licence accordingly.

If a song is being released online, the online service will pay CMRRA directly, so therefor a mechanical license application for digital releases isn’t needed.

However, If the artist decides to alter the integrity of the song (such as by changing the lyrics or arrangement) they would need to contact the copyright owner(s) directly to obtain permission.

For more information about obtaining a mechanical license, please visit our website. If you have any questions, please email: payp@cmrra.ca and one of our friendly staff will be able to assist you.

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