Originally Posted by L-feld
Don't know where you're operating, but here in the U.S. we have compulsory licenses for covering other peoples' songs. It's great. No permission necessary IF THE SONG HAS ALREADY BEEN RECORDED. The composer only gets priority if the song hasn't been recorded.
If you're performing live, the venue already pays a fee to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC who distribute the performance royalties to the composers. Same thing if you're performing on the radio.
If you're recording the song, you owe mechanical royalties for each copy of your record that is manufactured. The Harry Fox Agency collects these. You should essentially include it in your manufacturing costs.
Don't sweat it too much. It's not a very big deal unless you make changes to the song (like Weird Al, or interpolating it as the hook or beat of a rap song, or whatever, which are considered "derivative works" and require an additional license)
yes that's all well and great but...
you can only then release in the u.s.
and if your cover gets put on a cd and sold say in france or germany guess what...
you'll wish you'd secured permission from the original artist
or say the original is a foreign track not released in the u.s. but copyrighted to prevent others from pulling a "der kommisar" - "don't turn around" on you (song ended up in 13 languages by various artists).
if it was never released just copyrighted or was released on cd not online or online never in print and you go the other way round ...
i realize my example was of a sample and not a good one (too late) but the fact is you can get bit in the ass quite hard if you aren't careful. it's not an automatic pass or go situation you have to carefully look at the original track's release and go from there.