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What Is Cover Music?

There is often confusion around Cover Music and if it is legal to use.

Just like any other piece of music you want to use in your performance sports mix, Cover Music also requires a license of BOTH the Master and Publishing sides of the song for the rights you need.

What is a Cover Song?

What Is a Cover Song?

Making a cover of someone else’s song means the person making the cover will own the master rights for their new version of the recording but the publishing rights of the original song still need to be cleared with ALL of the writers of the music, via licenses. 

The new Master owner did not write the song and so do not own the publishing rights to the music.

Often Cover Music providers play on the ignorance of teams to this knowledge and include language in their contracts that state the license EXCLUDES the Publishing Rights. This is dangerous for the Team, Music Producer and Event Producer who are still at legal risk by not licensing both Master and Publishing rights.


Let’s take a look at Beyonce’s ‘Run the World’*:





In Beyonce’s example, there are seven deals to do:

  - 1 Master

  - 6 Publishing


If you were to re-record a new version of the song, you would own the Master rights to that new recording of the song. If you wanted to license that to a team, you can sell a license to your new Master version but the End User still needs a license from the 6 publishers.

Publishing rights are far more complicated than the Master rights and so are often more difficult to license.

*This information is just used as an example for educational purposes and may not be correct at the time of reading this.

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Contract Language to Look For

Contract Language to Look For

To make sure you have the rights to the cover version recording, you need agreements in place with ALL the Publishers of the song as well as the owner of the cover version Master. 


Below are some useful extracts of a licensing agreement that you should look for.


Look out for this language in the contract:

Which include the Recording (and thereby the underlying Composition)

Where Recording is defined as:  “the specific sound recording embodying a Composition which the Licensee has chosen to licence;”

And Composition is defined as: “any underlying composition comprising either music and/or lyrics embodied in the relevant Recording(s);”


Make sure the rights have been licensed from both Master AND Publishing sides to:

edit  (cut down) and adapt (including tempo shifting) the music into a mix with other tracks

set a choreographed routine to the music

make copies of the mix for training

post videos of the routine (with the music) on your website and social media - un-monetised videos will likely be covered under UGC agreements the music industry has with YouTube and Facebook.


Look out for this type of contract language for the rights needed to legally mix the music:

Use the Track for the making of a bespoke Mix for the purpose of accompanying a Routine, which may include the Recording (and thereby the underlying Composition) being edited and adapted and combined with other recordings (including without limitation being cut down, tempo-shifted, combined with other recordings as a remix/medley and sound effects and voice over being added).


Look out for this type of contract language in order for you to legally use the track in your Mix:

Put the Track as all or part of the Mix to choreography as a Routine.

Use the Track as part of the Mix

i) to accompany the performance of the Routine by Performer(s); and

ii) for training and preparation purposes with respect to the Routine by Performer(s) limited to a maximum of no more than 35 individuals;


Do you have written warranty (legal promise) and indemnity (guarantee to cover your costs if the warranty turns out not to be true) stating you have all the above necessary licenses in place, to protect you?

The type of contractual warranty language you are looking for from your music vendor is:

We warrant that i) we are entitled to enter into the Agreement and grant the rights granted under the Agreement; ii) the performance of the services and grant of rights hereunder will not violate or conflict with the terms of any other agreement to which we may be bound; (iii) we have complied with all applicable laws and regulations regarding the subject matter herein; and (iv) we are authorized to permit up to a maximum of 35 individuals associated with the Performer(s) to use and copy the Works for training and preparation purposes in connection with the Performer(s) Permitted Purpose.


The type of contractual indemnity language you are looking for from your music vendor is:

We will defend, indemnify and hold the Performer(s) harmless from and against any and all third party claims, suits, demands, liabilities, costs, judgments, penalties or expense (including reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs) that may be obtained against, imposed upon or suffered as a result of any breach of any such warranty or representation, arising from or in connection with any uses of the Works permitted herein or any material breach by us of the terms and conditions of an Agreement.

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