MENC Collaborates on Initiative to Help Educators Navigate Music Licensing

On June 5, executives from the leading music education, mechanical licensing and serious/educational music publishing organizations The Harry Fox Agency (HFA), The National Association for Music Education (MENC), The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), and the Music Publishers’ Association (MPA) announced an unprecedented collaboration to connect America’s music educators with the music catalogs they need to license when they record student performances. The announcement was made during the annual meeting of the MPA at the Harvard Club in New York City.

Recordings of student performances are commonplace, but educators are often unaware that under U.S. Copyright law, these recordings must be properly licensed. These four organizations have come together to address this issue, with the goal of providing the MPA members’ serious and educational music catalogs through HFA’s online mechanical licensing service, Songfile®, for fast and easy licensing by the members of MENC and MTNA.

The MPA will encourage its publishers that are not already HFA affiliates to register their catalogs for mechanical licensing through Songfile and will also provide marketing support. MENC and MTNA have committed to reach out to their members through their events and publications to educate them on the need for mechanical licensing and direct them to HFA’s Songfile. HFA will provide a specially-branded Songfile portal for the initiative, and will work with the other partner organizations to offer other licensing opportunities. Through Songfile, educators can obtain licenses for CDs, cassettes, LPs, and permanent digital downloads from HFA’s entire database of over 2.3 million songs in all genres. Licensing royalties from Songfile are paid to publishers on a commission-free basis.

“Through the years, MPA’s members have discovered that many school concert performance recordings were not being properly licensed – not deliberately, but because educators were unaware of how mechanical licensing works,” said Lauren Keiser, President of the MPA. “We wanted a way to get the message out to America’s music education community and connect them with our publishers’ songs for licensing – and working with HFA, MENC, and MTNA was the best way to achieve this.”

“Licensing is how the publisher, and ultimately the songwriter, is compensated for the use of their music,” said Gary L. Churgin, President and CEO, HFA. (Established in 1927 by the MPA, HFA represents over 37,000 music publishing catalogs for licensing in the United States, issuing licenses and collecting and distributing the associated royalties.)  “MPA publishers can register their catalogs with HFA just for Songfile licensing – their serious music repertoire is just what many of MENC and MTNA’s members need to license for their recordings. This is a real ‘win-win’ for all our organizations and the many thousands of individuals that we represent.”

“There are thousands of school music programs in the United States, and most have concerts on a regular basis. Many concerts are recorded as keepsakes and fundraisers, and people don’t realize that this activity requires mechanical licenses or assume that the recording company has taken care of all licenses,” said Michael Blakeslee, the Senior Deputy Executive Director, MENC. “This is a great opportunity for MENC to educate our members about this issue and provide them with an easy-to-use solution, Songfile.”

“Licensing is not part of the typical curriculum for the music educator, but in actuality, teachers often suddenly find themselves with this responsibility,” said Gary L. Ingle, Executive Director and CEO, MTNA. “MTNA wants to help its members be well-rounded professionals, and in the 21st century, that includes a knowledge of music licensing.”

HFA’s Songfile is an easy and fast way for those who plan to make and distribute 2,500 copies or less of their recordings to obtain the necessary mechanical licenses for cover versions of songs. Licenses can be obtained for CDs, cassettes, LPs, or permanent digital downloads. More details of the initiative will be announced in the coming months.

Songfile Website

Official Press Release (pdf)

Elizabeth Lasko, June 9, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education