Law & Policy

Video: Music Licensing Agreements, the Basics You Should Know


I have covered music licensing in the past but will republish, in the nearest future, even more on music licensing that should help you all.

What is a License?

A license is a limited permission you the artist or record label gives to a third party to sell, distribute, reproduce your music etc.

Remember the basics of Nigerian copyright law I discussed in the Genevieve Nnaji Mirror Boy Copyright Infringement case? With your copyright, you can reproduce, publish, distribute, make derivative works etc. of your work. When you do any of the aforementioned, you are essentially licensing your music, although you could outright sell your music.

What are examples of scenarios where artists or labels license music?

1. Nollywood films: We are now seeing more Nollywood filmmakers synchronize the works of Nigerian musicians in their films. For this to happen, there must be a “Synchronization Licensing Agreement” of which that filmmaker pays the artist/label for that use.

2. Radio/TV:  When radio/tv organizations play your music, they should have a license to use your work. In the USA, they would obtain what we call a “blanket license” from performance rights organizations like ASCAP or BMI. You get paid for ASCAP/BMI playing intermediary, on your behalf with these radio stations etc. In Nigeria, COSON, is tasked with now essentially doing the same thing.

3. Restaurants, Hotels, Airlines etc.: There is a rise in restaurants, hotels and airlines that do business in Nigeria. All of these companies love their “elevator” music. In English, this means they need the songs of artists to create a great ambience for their customers/patrons. This is where your music comes in. When these organizations use your music, they again have a license. They don’t own it outright and they do need to pay you. COSON is also supposed to begin collecting fees on behalf of artists in this regards. Sign up with COSON if you haven’t already.

4. Commercials- same discussion as the Nollywood films.

5. Fashion Films: From HVS by Bukky Are to Jewel by Lisa label, Nigerian designers are now producing fashion films to promote their work. The music they use is licensed music. It is either directly paid for or some kind of mutually beneficial scheme negotiated with the artist/label.Where they use your work without your permission, it is an infringement of your copyright.

I’ll get into more details in future including performance rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI here in the USA versus what Nigeria’s performance rights organizations, or lack thereof. For now, watch my interview with the man who created the first legal book on licensing in the USA, and probably around the world. His name is Greg Battersby. He has licensed some of the world’s biggest brands. In my interview, we focus on the termination clause in license agreements.

My mic was out of commission so I had to take copious notes just in case something else went wrong. Ignore the background noise and enjoy.



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AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law website and podcast show empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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