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Understanding music licensing is as complex as the 2:30 on the mat...or is it?

Getting to grips with music licensing and which tracks you can have legally have in your cheer mixes can be enough to send you into a spin. So we’re help to clear up any confusion and give you all the information you need to ensure your cheer mix is 100% legal.

Let’s break this down.

Cheerleaders perform routines to remixed and edited music at live events, they also need to give everyone on their team their music mix to practise with, and share videos of their brag-worthy performances (with the music!)

This creates a scenario whereby certain permissions have to be cleared. The permissions, or rights, required are as follows:

  • edit and adapt several music tracks into a mix

  • put a choreographed routine to the mix

  • create a copy of the mix for use at home and in the gym

  • upload a video of the routine online with the music mix

Legal coverage for music use is provided through licenses.

Sounds easy, right? Just get a license and you’re good to go! Not quite.

When a music track is created, there are several rightsholders involved. There’s the artist who performs the track, plus the writers of the song - a single track on average has 9 rightsholders who all need to sign off on a license for it to be used. And it can get even more complex!

Let’s take a look at Beyonce’s track ‘Run The World (Girls)’

In order for you to license this song for your mix, you would need a license from every one of the owners who have a share of the pie! You'll need permission from Universal Records to use their master recording of Beyonce’s performance, and also need permission from the publishers who represent the shares in the writing; all SIX of them! And you need to do this for each song that you use in your mix.

We know a lot of teams are using cover songs as a solution to legal cheer music, but how can you ensure that you are 100% compliant when using covers?

There are two main music rights that must be cleared for your cheer mixes:

  • The Publishing Rights (the copyright in the musical composition, melody, lyrics etc. of a song) and

  • The Master Rights (the copyright in the specific recording of a song, whether it’s by the original hit artist or an unknown cover version).

Making a cover track means the producer will have the master rights of their new version of the recording. But the publishing rights of the original song still need to be cleared with a license. Even though a new artist created a new version of a song, they don’t own the publishing rights to their recording. If you want to use cover music, you still need to get written, legally binding confirmation from the person licensing the track that the publishing rights have been cleared by the original owner(s) of the music as well as the master rights of the new recording.

Now we’ve given you some background information about music licensing for cheer, let’s take a look at what your options are for legal cheer music.

  • Bespoke music - this is completely original music where producers work with artists to write music for your mix. This is often the most expensive option but great for teams wanting music specifically related to them.

  • License already released music direct from the music industry through a platform such as ClicknClear and either have a music producer make you a mix or make your own mix own using free or paid software like Garageband, Audacity, Logic and others.

  • Use pre-made mixes made up of only either original or properly licensed music (including the same rights as required for custom music). This is likely to be your cheapest option but you need to be sure that all the tracks used in the mix have all the required licensed permissions (Master and Publishing). There is of course always the small risk that you turn up to competition and another team has the same mix as you.

  • Use music that is out of copyright - copyright cover has a limited term that in general expires 70 years after the death of the last living writer.. So whilst the music becomes free at that point, you are limited to older music that may not fit the style you are going for.

So there you have it: music licensing and your options for legal cheer music explained. We hope it has cleared up any confusion and answered any questions that you may have, but if you would like to find out more or have any questions on the above, please join in on the conversation on Facebook ‘Using Music in Cheerleading’ or reach out to our team directly and we would be delighted to help out


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