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CD Baby announces one-stop distribution AND cover song licensing for standard single releases.

Putting your own spin on a popular song is a great way to reach new listeners. But in order to record and distribute a cover song, you need to secure the proper license and pay the publishers. That often comes with a lot of paperwork and ongoing accounting headaches — until now.

With CD Baby’s cover song licensing, you can license and distribute your cover song (to platforms like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc.), manage it all from one account, and CD Baby will handle all of your accounting and mechanical royalty payments FOREVER.

You just pay a one-time setup fee of $14.99 per song (in addition to the one-time signup fee for worldwide music distribution). CD Baby will secure the required mechanical license and pay any mechanical royalties you owe to the publisher/s for sales of that cover song.

Yes, CD Baby will take care of all that work for you — AND automatically pay the publishers each time your cover song has a sale, so you no longer have to keep a running tally of your cover song sales for the purposes of renewing the license. This “covers you” (pun!) for the sales of your cover song forever.

It’s easy and affordable cover song licensing AND distribution, built into the same signup process. There’s no other charges, no recurring fees, and the royalties you owe are deducted automatically before your sales revenue goes into your CD Baby account. Simple.

Here’s how to license your single-song release:

  • Sign up your new single at members.cdbaby.com
  • Select the “cover song” option in the sign up process
  • Pay the additional one-time processing fee of $14.99*
  • CD Baby will then secure the proper license and take care of paying the songwriters and publishers as your music sells

During the song registration process, CD Baby will ask for information to help identify your cover song to be sure the correct license is secured.

That information includes:

  • Original Song Title
  • Original Composer/ Songwriter
  • Original Performing Artist
  • Song Source Link (if you have a YouTube video or other link that will help ID the song)
  • Song Source Notes (ie. If this is a song from a Broadway production, opera, motion picture etc.)

How to license cover songs on your album:

CD Baby Cover Song Licensing is currently only available for singles. A full-album cover song licensing service will be in place soon, but until then, please check out Loudr.

How much does it cost to secure a license through CD Baby’s licensing service?

Setup fee

CD Baby charges a one-time fee of $14.99 per cover song to secure the proper mechanical licenses. There are no other out-of-pocket costs beyond that point, since CD Baby takes the mechanical royalties you owe to the publisher/s for each sale of that cover song directly out of your sales revenue.

Royalty Fee

Every time you sell a cover song, you owe the publisher/s of that song a mechanical royalty of $.091*.  With CD Baby’s Cover Song Licensing service, CD Baby takes that owed royalty amount out of your earnings for each sale and pays it directly to the publishers for you, so you never have to worry about mechanical royalty payments again.

Remember, CD Baby still takes a 9% cut of your net digital distribution earnings, but does NOT keep ANY additional cut for taking care of your mechanical royalty payments. That’s what the initial setup fee is for.

Your earnings for a cover song sale will look like this:

Cover Song Sale earnings (after the download store takes its cut) – CD Baby Commission (9%) – $.091 (the mechanical royalty owed for the cover song) = Artist Share

* $.091 is based on the length of the song being 5 minutes or less. An additional fee of $0.0175 x (duration in minutes or fraction thereof, rounded up to whole minute) will be taken from songs longer than 5 minutes.

To license and distribute your cover song today, get started HERE.


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  • Not CDs. You’d still need to go to an agency like Harry Fox to secure the license for physical product.


  • Streaming services, by and large, set aside mechanical royalties and pay them to royalty collection societies, publishing administrators, etc. So you don’t usually have to worry about paying mechanicals on cover songs that are streamed.


  • The country-of-origin of the song shouldn’t matter in terms of our ability to secure the license, BUT… if you translate it or change the lyrics, it’s no longer a cover song. It’s considered a derivative work, and you then need to get the permission of the publisher to distribute.


  • It’s only for tracks that we’re distributing. That way we can take the mechanical royalty right from the download revenue and pay it to the publisher (as sales happen, rather than having to worry about bulk licensing or collecting more $$ from artists down the line).


  • You don’t need to worry about mechanicals for cover songs that are streamed because (thankfully) the streaming platform is responsible for getting that money to royalty collection societies, publishers, publishing administrators, etc.


  • 1. No. YouTube cover song videos are not covered by a mechanical license. They require a sync licensing since it’s video paired with audio. BUT… we all know that hardly anyone is securing a sync license to release cover song videos. The way around this is Content ID. YouTube will ID your cover song video, monetize it with ads, and pay the publishers of the song a share of that money. The publisher CAN have YouTube pull your video down, but that’s rare these days. Most are happy to earn money through Content ID claims on your video.

    2. Not necessarily. If you use a portion of the original track, you need the permission of the master recording owner. You can clear the sample with them, or they can tell you no. If they say it’s fine, they set the terms for the sample’s usage. That being said, if the original artist or composer has authorized the remix and provided source material, it’s probably a safe bet that they’ll let you distribute the track. Just make sure to iron out the details with them about whether they want to be listed as a co-writer of a NEW track (the remix version), or if they should be the sole writer of a new cover song version.


  • Not yet. We’re working on that, but right now it’s only for newly distributed singles.


  • Unlike with CDs and downloads, streaming services pay mechanicals — so you normally don’t need to worry about mechanicals on streams.


  • Thankfully, streaming services set aside and pay mechanicals to rights holders or collection societies, so you don’t need to worry about streaming mechanicals. Just downloads (and CDs/vinyl, of course).


  • Hi Matthew,

    Right now our solution is only available for singles, but we’re working on an album solution.


    • Kadmium

      Any news on when that album solution will get here? I’m eager to release an album of covers.

      • It’s definitely in the works, but definitely a ways off. How’s that for some definite vagueness? I would say if you’ve got the music ready and you want to distribute, check out Loudr or Easy Song Licensing to take care of the mechanical licenses, and then you can still distribute through CD Baby.

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  • Streaming services you don’t really need to worry about. They set aside and pay mechanical royalties to publishers and publishing admins and collection societies directly. You really only have to worry about downloads and vinyl/CD.


  • We don’t handle anything with derivative works. That’s something that must be negotiated between the creator of the new composition and the publishers of the original. It’s not really possible to set up a quick scalable solution for derivative work licensing, because — unlike mechanical licenses for cover songs — the license isn’t compulsory. The publisher can deny you the right to create a derivative work for any reason at all.


  • The streaming services do pay out the mechanicals, though that’s not really a blanket statement. It depends on their terms of service. Spotify and Apple Music pay the mechanicals themselves, and you don’t need to worry about it.

    On some other streaming platforms — ones that aren’t monetized across the board — you probably would have to secure your own mechanicals for streams, but even then there isn’t a set rate; it varies based on the volume (not loudness ; ) of streams.


  • That’s a cover.


  • Your distributor (hopefully CD Baby ; ) asks whether a song is a cover or not during the signup process, and that information is included in the metadata for any partner service that requires it.

    Also, you are paid by Spotify for the stream of the sound recording (sometimes called the streaming fee, or the streaming license fee). But Spotify does not directly pay mechanical royalties. Those are distributed to publishers or publishing administrators. So if the original artist is also the songwriter, they’re hopefully receiving those mechanical royalty payments through their publisher or publishing admin deal.

    It’s not really a double payment unless you are also paying the publisher/songwriter directly for those streaming mechanicals for the cover song.


  • How do you know it’s a cover song, and not in the Public Domain? As for tracking down composer/publisher info, try ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, Harry Fox, Library of Congress,…

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  • I’m not sure I understand the arrangement differences well enough to answer. But the simple way to think of this is: if you’re using the melody or lyrics, it’s a cover song (or a derivative work) and would require a license (or the permission of the publisher, in the case of a DW).

  • P.

    This eliminates a BIG hurdle for me as far as a song I wanna cover. I can put the song on my EP and not have to worry about getting sued plus I don’t have to drop it as a free/mixtape song and not make money off it.

    • Hey P, just wanted to make sure it was clear that right now our in-house cover-song licensing solution is only available for singles. We hope to make this available for cover songs on EPs and LPs soon, but not quite yet. Also, it’s strictly for the licensing of cover songs, NOT for clearing samples or “derivative works” (any new song created by using elements of existing songs). Maybe that’s not what you’re doing, but I wanted to just clarify since you said “mixtape” in your comment.

    • Hey P, just wanted to make sure it was clear that right now our in-house cover-song licensing solution is only available for singles. We hope to make this available for cover songs on EPs and LPs soon, but not quite yet. Also, it’s strictly for the licensing of cover songs, NOT for clearing samples or “derivative works” (any new song created by using elements of existing songs). Maybe that’s not what you’re doing, but I wanted to just clarify since you said “mixtape” in your comment.

      • P.

        The single would be the only cover song on the EP. The rest of the songs are original works.

        The mixtape was mentioned because, as you know, that’s generally how rap/hip hop artists release songs that are hard to clear (samples, covers, etc.). The song I plan on releasing will be a cover song word for word on a new beat.

  • You need the permission of the publisher in order to distribute that derivative work.

  • What do you mean by “selling” the video? If you’re talking about posting it on YouTube, their Content ID system SHOULD take care of the sync licensing/rights issues around posting a cover song video. I say “should” because some publishers don’t want cover song videos of their material posted on YouTube, but that’s really rare.

  • I don’t want to deflate your ambitions around this video, but in my opinion, there’s almost no sense in charging for a video if you’re not a superstar. I can’t remember the last time I paid to see a music video. YouTube and Facebook give people access to almost everything for free (ya know, unless we’re talking about something like Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”), so I would concentrate on getting your cover song video viewed on those platforms, and using that engagement to further your music in some other way than direct monetization of a cover song video. (Subscribes, CD sales, downloads, getting gigs, etc.) I know what you mean when you’re talking about getting a video/download bundle from iTunes. It’s pretty cool to have the bonus material, BUT… it’s probably not worth the headache you’ll have of securing the sync licensing (if they grant it at all) and then negotiating terms around a bundle, etc. Plus, consumer habits are shifting away from storing files on devices, so lots of people would probably just prefer to stream the video on YouTube, rather than having a movie file on their computer. Just my two cents.

  • I think that still counts as a derivative work, since you’re borrowing from an existing composition. As such, you’d need the permission of the publisher.

  • It all depends on the store, but if you use iTunes as an example, they keep 30%. So if you sold a cover song for 99 cents, they’d send us about 70 cents (keeping almost 30 cents). We’d take our 9% fee from that 70 cents (not based on the 99 cent price of the download), subtract the mechanical royalty (and pay it to the publisher), and then pay you the net after those subtractions.

  • Streaming platforms work differently from download platforms when it comes to mechanical royalties. Essentially, they hold them aside and then pay them to the publishers or publishing rights administrators (as opposed to download platforms in the US, who pass the mechanical onto the label as part of the normal payment, and then it’s the labels job to distribute that publishing money). SO… long story short, you don’t really need to worry about licensing cover songs for streaming. Just make sure you enter the correct writer and publisher information into your account when signing up the track.

  • That’s a great question. I’m not sure if there’s a standard procedure, and it might be something you want to consult with an attorney about. This isn’t legal advice, but you COULD try back-paying all mechanicals, sending those payments directly to the publishers, and then secure the proper licenses moving forward. That is, unless some of the rights holders already slapped you with a threat indicating that you are barred from selling these cover songs moving forward (which they can do since you were technically infringing upon their copyright).

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  • Quick question: what are you hoping to get by switching distributors? CD Baby certainly offers more with our standard distribution package (more streaming and download platforms, physical distribution, YouTube monetization, etc.) — but we don’t yet have a built-in solution for full album cover song licensing, which is why I’d want to know what your goals are before recommending you switch to us for that particular release.

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  • Soundrop offers distribution (to Apple Music, Spotify, etc.) and they pay the mechanicals on your behalf directly out of the earned revenue, so you don’t have to worry about ongoing licensing and publishing royalty payments.

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