Releasing a remix is undoubtedly one of the best ways to get exposure and put your name on the map as a DJ or producer. With its help, you can reach new audiences of listeners and artists off the back of already existing hits. However, this step to stardom can quickly backfire and turn into a lawsuit if you don’t go through the release process the right way. This article covers all you need to know about the legalities of publishing a remix.
What is a Remix?
Before we dive into the legal matters, let’s first get the definition of remix out of the way.
A remix is a sound recording that has been edited to sound different from its original state by adding, removing and/or changing pieces of the original song.
What makes it different from a song cover, is that a remix includes some or all parts of the original while a cover is considered to be a re-creation of an existing song.
Do You Need Permission to Remix a Song?
Yes and no. You are free to remix songs for your own pleasure all day every day, no contact with the record label or artist is required. However, if you want your remix to ever see the light of day – uploaded to YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify and/or played publicly – you must seek copyright permission.
Of course, you may ignore the rules and put up your remix on YouTube and other platforms, but be wary of the outcome. Most of the popular platforms have sophisticated algorithms that quickly detect copyright infringement and remove the content. If you manage to bypass the algorithms and even somehow monetize your remix, expect legal repercussions. Everything you’ve earned (and more) will eventually be taken away by the copyright holders.
Who Owns the Rights to a Song?
There are two types of copyrights that any song you want to remix has:
1) The master recording rights, usually held by the original artist.
2) The song copyright, usually held by the publisher.
The owners may vary, so it’s best to make a search in dedicated databases like BMI, US Copyright Office, Harry Fox, ASCAP, SongFile and SESAC. You can also just look up the publishing company, get their contact information (usually available on their website) and ask them directly about the ownership.
How Can You Get Permission to Remix a Song?
Once you’ve determined the owners and found their contacts, it’s time for a pitch.
In order to make a proper request, add ‘Copyright permission request’ into the email subject line to clearly state your intention, and be polite, straightforward and confident in the email body.
If you contact the artist directly, don’t write long paragraphs about your love for their music and how it’s changed your life. One sentence about it is enough to get your point across. Remember that this permission request is first and foremost the initiation of a business relationship – treat it as such.
The following template is a great example of how to approach an artist about the song remix permission:
If you contact the publishing company, it’s best to craft your pitch abstaining from slang – keep it clean-cut and formal.
Here is another template fitting the purpose:
What Do You Do After Securing the Permission?
If all went well and you’ve got the permission from all required parties, you sign an agreement detailing how the royalties will be split. Usually the original artist pay the remixer an upfront one-time flat fee in exchange for the licensing contract. There is also an option to sign up for a royalty sharing agreement instead.
More often than not the original artist and remixer split the royalties, and each side gets 50% of the earnings. You will be able to negotiate the terms and look into the options better when the agreement is brought up – it’s hard to estimate how much you will get, it all varies from case to case.
After you seal the deal, you are free to create an official remix, upload and share it on your accounts without the fear of copyright infringement. The remixers are also usually provided with the original stems – studio-quality recordings of vocals, backing track or separate instruments from the song. It’s gives a lot more creative freedom and makes for high-quality remix.
What If They Say ‘No’?
Move on. It’s a pity but not the end of the world.
Don’t ask them to reconsider, don’t wonder about the reasons.
There is a whole lot of songs you can redirect your attention to, keep trying to find the artists and publishing companies that actually vibe with your vision and sound.
Hone your craft – the better you are at remixing, the higher your chances to secure the deal. LALAL.AI is your helping hand – quickly split songs into 8 stems and practice creating fire mixes!