Music Licensing

Everyone--artists, intermediaries, and listeners alike--stand to benefit from a well-designed music licensing system that encourages a robust marketplace. The development of legal music services is a leading force in decreasing infringement online. But despite the success we have seen with some online music services, our current music licensing system leaves a lot of room for improvement.

The complexity of music licensing is one of the main impediments to an optimal licensing system, both for compositions and for sound recordings. Another impediment is the impact of consolidation of big corporate rightsholders on the development of new platforms that give more options for independent artists and music fans alike.

A marketplace with a small number of licensors may be less complex but actually makes life more difficult for new services and independent artists. When the top three record labels control so much of the market they're considered indispensable to a new service, they have an effective veto power and can use their leverage to impose a tax on innovation in the marketplace.

PK is working for a fairer music marketplace where:

  • artists can get their music on the market and receive a fair price for it,
  • users can experience the music they want how they want, and
  • new services can innovate without being beholden to gatekeepers.


  • The music distribution system should serve musicians and listeners. Every company in the middle--from record labels to online services--exists to serve those two groups.
  • The music licensing system should encourage a competitive, innovative market of new services that are accountable to music fans and musicians.
  • The largest content owners (major labels and publishers) should not take advantage of the current music licensing system to stifle competition and entrench their own gatekeeper positions.

To learn more check out the following:

We submitted these comments to the U.S. Copyright Office about the music licensing marketplace.

Jodie Griffen testified for the House Judiciary Committee on the topic of music licensing.

We also produced a Copyright Tutorial for Musicians.

Here are the PK experts on this issue:

Be A PK DIY'er and Donate Any Amount


Choose the amount you would like to donate to help support public knowledge

The Latest