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Aug 10, 2022 - 6:46:56 AM

Timbis

USA

4 posts since 3/31/2012

Is it legal to record traditional bluegrass songs……. I’ll fly away, salt creek, blackberry blossom……. Stuff like that. Thanks for anything you can tell me.
Have a blessed day!!!!!

Aug 10, 2022 - 6:56:48 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

27714 posts since 8/3/2003

I'm not a lawyer, but I think as long as you're using the recording for your own use/enjoyment and not trying to sell it to others, there would be no problem. If you're on a site that says the music is copyrighted, you might want to check with someone who IS a lawyer to be sure you're within the law.

When I'm trying to learn a new song, I record the song, then play it back several times as I write down the words. I listen to it several times until I get the melody in my head and then probably don't use it or listen to it again since I know how to sing and play it.

Aug 10, 2022 - 7:07:49 AM

Timbis

USA

4 posts since 3/31/2012

Hey Texasbanjo, thanks for the reply, I am actually wanting to record the songs. Im trying to find out if there is a resource for songs that are possibly public domain. Aren’t most of these songs been around for ages and anyone can play or record them?

Aug 10, 2022 - 7:21:35 AM

beegee

USA

23068 posts since 7/6/2005

BMI and ASCAP are the primary licensing agencies. In the not-too-distant past, BMI was cracking down on performances and things like juke-boxes for playing licensed tunes without paying royalties. When I was running th Eastern NC Bluegrass Assn, they would periodically send me notices and warnings about performing licensed songs. Traditionally, performers tend to modify tunes and claim them as personal arrangements or change the titles. I'm sure BMI and ASCAP have their guidelines on their websites,

Edited by - beegee on 08/10/2022 07:22:19

Aug 10, 2022 - 8:01:41 AM

427 posts since 11/9/2021

Most ( but not all) fiddle tunes are public domain an can be recorded freely for performance or sale. Much fewer banjo tunes have the same status. Enforcement of copyright really depends on how much visibility your recording gets. If you record a song and your recording sells 20 copies, well no one is going to chase you for that. Record it and you sell 1000 copies, they might. We recorded and performed one song, and we thought it was a traditional song. One day an audience member came up and said 'Have you guys gotten permission to do this tune? My friend wrote it for another group'. Next thing I know, the author contacted me. We gave him a lump sum of $40 for past sales, and sent him a nickel for every CD sold after that. We solicit the nickel from the audience at performances so we are able to send Mr. XYZ his friggin nickel. So, are your a hot shot up and coming band whose going to sell 1000's of copies? Or a few at the local pub ? Its a matter of scale.

Aug 10, 2022 - 8:11:19 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

27714 posts since 8/3/2003

Okay, I misread your original post, as far as public domain songs.

There's a list of public domain songs here: pdinfo.com/
And there's a list somewhere the contains mainly bluegrass, gospel and old time country songs. I can't find it but maybe someone has the URL to it.

Aug 10, 2022 - 9:10:11 AM
likes this

2013 posts since 2/10/2003

If a tune is in public domain, and you record a version similar to another artist, there still could be rights issues that arise. An artist can own a copyright on an arrangement of a tune even if the tune is in public domain.

Aug 10, 2022 - 9:23:23 AM

2013 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Timbis

Is it legal to record traditional bluegrass songs……. I’ll fly away, salt creek, blackberry blossom……. Stuff like that. Thanks for anything you can tell me.
Have a blessed day!!!!!


Also, specifically “I’ll Fly Away” is not in the public domain.  You can record it, but depending on what you do with the recording, there would be certain licenses needed. 

Aug 10, 2022 - 9:23:28 AM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

1695 posts since 8/9/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Timbis

Is it legal to record traditional bluegrass songs……. I’ll fly away, salt creek, blackberry blossom……. Stuff like that. Thanks for anything you can tell me.
Have a blessed day!!!!!


To answer your question we need to know what territory you're in, what the end use of the recordings will be and which ones you want to use.

 

You can go to the BMI and ASCAP repertories online and search for virtually any song out there, it will show you who the rightsholders are if it's not in the PD.

Aug 10, 2022 - 9:29:37 AM
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15529 posts since 12/2/2005

BMI, ASCAP and SESAC are performer's rights organizations; they're the ones who (theoretically) are responsible for performance royalties (as in, on discs or in live venues) of copyrighted material.

Recording is something else. For that, you're supposed to get what's called a mechanical license. The Harry M. Fox agency out of Nashville is the primary broker of those. harryfox.com/

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Aug 10, 2022 - 9:55:32 AM

14910 posts since 10/30/2008

Last time I used Harry Fox for mechanical licenses (to make CDs for sale) the fee was approx. 10 cents per copy per song. It's probably a bit higher now. It can add up. If you record 12 songs on a CD for sale and order 1000 of them made up, and they're all songs NOT in public domain, that's 10 cents (or so) times 12 songs, times 1000 copies. Harry Fox is simply a good clearing house to do all your business in one place, rather than tracking down and dealing with 12 different song owners.

If you're not planning to SELL your recordings, nor use them over loudspeakers in a public business like a restaurant or bar, you don't have to pay anything. As long as they're not used in someway to generate revenue or SUPPORT the generation of revenue, there's no charge. As far as I know anyway.

Aug 10, 2022 - 10:01:07 AM

13585 posts since 6/2/2008

The "mechanical license" for recording is compulsory. That is, you don't need permission to record someone else's already recorded and distributed non-dramatic musical composition. You just send notice to the copyright holder that you're doing it and pay royalty at the statutory amount.  The Harry Fox Agency has a form for collecting and paying royalties but I assume you can pay directly.

The current statutory mechanical license rate is 9.1 cents per track or 1.75 cents per minute (or fraction) of playing time, whichever is greater,  times the number of physical or digital copies produced.

If you intend to make and sell CDs of your recordings of copyrighted songs, then of course you should find the copyright owners and pay royalties.

But if you're talking about home recording and maybe sharing a few copies with friends, no one is likely to find out and it would be hard to make a case that any composer would be harmed by not collecting a buck from you for every 10 copies.

So you decide whether it's worth the trouble to research every song to learn if it's composed and still under copyright or if it's in the public domain by being traditional or having a lapsed copyright. 

Edited by - Old Hickory on 08/10/2022 10:01:51

Aug 10, 2022 - 10:05:10 AM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

1695 posts since 8/9/2019

Mechanical licences are only for printing CDs....

Aug 10, 2022 - 10:10:05 AM

Timbis

USA

4 posts since 3/31/2012

Thank you all for the information!
You’ve given me some things to think over, & some resources to investigate.
Thank you all, have a blessed day!!

Aug 10, 2022 - 1:15:20 PM
likes this

2013 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by ChunoTheDog

Mechanical licences are only for printing CDs....


Mechanical license is also needed for digital download, I.e., if a consumer can click and save the song file, even if the download is free, a mechanical license is needed. Streaming works differently.  

Aug 11, 2022 - 6:36:07 AM

4283 posts since 3/28/2008

Another word of warning: Just because you learned it from a friend, in a jam session, etc., and don't know of any specific author, that doesn't make it traditional or public domain. "I'll Fly Away" (mentioned above) is a great example. So many of us have learned it from jamming, in church, etc., that we assume it's always been around, but it was written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929 and published by the Hartford Music Company in 1932. I'm not sure what the statute is for copyright these days, but at one point the copyright existed for the life of the composer plus 75 years. Brumley died in 1977.

Aug 12, 2022 - 1:48:02 PM

2873 posts since 4/16/2003

OP:

You haven't told us whether you're "recording" for your own pleasure, or if you intended to record music with the intention of marketing it.

If it's "for your own pleasure", record whatever you want and don't worry about it.

If you're recording to assemble an album of sorts "to sell", then you have to be concerned with machine licenses, etc. (as mentioned above).

Aug 12, 2022 - 6:14:55 PM

Timbis

USA

4 posts since 3/31/2012

Hey J.Albert, thanks for the question.
My intention is to record something I would sell through CD Baby.
I’m still very early in the research stage, still deciding on the material. That’s why I was questioning traditional or possibly public domain material. In the past I’ve only written and recorded original music, but I’ve been playing banjo about 8-9 years and I feel like my playing is finding its voice. Thank you all for the input, you’ve all given me plenty to consider.

Aug 12, 2022 - 8:27:24 PM

2013 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Timbis

Hey J.Albert, thanks for the question.
My intention is to record something I would sell through CD Baby.
I’m still very early in the research stage, still deciding on the material. That’s why I was questioning traditional or possibly public domain material. In the past I’ve only written and recorded original music, but I’ve been playing banjo about 8-9 years and I feel like my playing is finding its voice. Thank you all for the input, you’ve all given me plenty to consider.


Cd baby should ask if the songs are covers, originals, or PD and charge you for the appropriate licenses for however you intend to distribute. At least that is how I think they work.  

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