Music Licensing

There are many ways in which music can be exploited, including recording it on CD or other digital formats, through digital downloads and streaming music services, using it in advertising, film or TV, using it on websites, and in print music. Acting on behalf of the songwriters and composers they represent, music publishers license certain uses of the music for a fee, providing a revenue stream for the writer.  Below is a list of the most common types of licences, with a brief explanation of how they work.


Recording a song involves reproducing it. There are special provisions in the Copyright Act that govern the reproduction of musical works in audio recordings for retail release. Briefly, these provisions allow for the recording of songs provided the copyright owner has made or authorised the first release of a recording of the song, he or she is notified that the song will be recorded, and a royalty is paid.

In practice, these provisions are administered by AMCOS (Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society) on behalf of its publisher members. Most publishers in Australia are members of AMCOS, and this means that in nearly all cases, record companies contact AMCOS to notify the copyright owner that they intend to record the song and to make the appropriate payment. Detailed information about recording music can be found on the APRA AMCOS website here.


Synchronisation refers to setting music to a visual image, such as a television or film production, an electronic game or an advertisement. Again, this is a reproduction of the music. Permission must be obtained directly from the copyright owner, usually a music publisher, who negotiates a licence fee on behalf of the composer. In some cases, publishers and composers agree that the use of music in, say, an advertisement, will not be negotiated by the publisher without first obtaining the permission of the composer.

There is also a separate copyright in the sound recording. This means that reproducing recorded music onto a film, electronic game or video, may require an additional licence for the use of the recording. In most instances the owner of the sound recording is the record company that released the recording.


Print publishing involves reproducing music and lyrics in print form, and in some cases also arranging the musical work. Specialist print publishers undertake this task, either negotiating a fee directly with the composer or with the publisher who represents them.


In the case of digital and online music services such as iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify, in most cases the exercise of the reproduction right (downloading music) is licensed by AMCOS and the exercise of the communication right (playing all or part of a song) is licensed by APRA.

Detailed information about the licences can be found on the APRA AMCOS website here.


There are many ways in which music can be performed or played in public, or communicated to the public. Examples include live or recorded performances at venues, playing music in a business such as a shop or restaurant, and the broadcasting of music on the radio or television, or communication over the Internet. Nearly all composers assign or transfer their public performance and communication rights to APRA, which then administers these rights on their behalf. APRA negotiates licence fees with users of music, monitors their use, and distributes royalty payments to its members. For more information, visit

APRA does not license or collect royalties for 'Grand Rights' performances.  Grand Rights for APRA refers to copyright operas, operettas, musicals, revues, ballets, oratorios and large choral works (exceeding 20 minutes) where the music and lyrics  have been written expressly for the production.  In these cases you will need to apply for a performance licence directly from the Grand Right owner of the work, usually a music publisher.  Separately, APRA acts as an agent on behalf of some music publishers and copyright owners to license some music used in certain dramatic performances, where the music is not specially written for the production.  This is known as a 'dramatic context' licence.  For more information see the APRA AMCOS website here.  

OneMusic Australia and OneMusic New Zealand

OneMusic Australia is an APRA AMCOS and PPCA joint licensing initiative launched in Australia in 2019.

OneMusic Australia offers joint public performance licences so there is no longer any need for separate licence agreements and invoices from PPCA and APRA AMCOS. The new organisation will allow music users to more seamlessly meet their copyright obligations for the public performance of musical works, sound recordings and music videos.

For more information on OneMusic Australia, visit

Similarly, OneMusic New Zealand launched in New Zealand in 2013 and is a joint licensing initiative between APRA AMCOS and Recorded Music NZ. Previously, businesses have needed a licence from both APRA AMCOS and Recorded Music NZ (formerly known as PPNZ Music Licensing) to cover all copyrights in recorded music. Having to apply for two separate licences was both confusing and time consuming for businesses, so OneMusic New Zealand was created to offer a single music licence covering all the permissions needed for businesses and other organisations to play music in public.

For more information on OneMusic New Zealand, visit