How to Make Song Covers for YouTube Legally

8 Steps on How to Make Song Covers for YouTube Legally

A lot of singers know how to make song covers, but they’re not doing it legally. To make song covers for YouTube legally, you need a mechanical license in addition to a synchronization license. Getting a synchronization license and a mechanical license is the only legal way to release cover songs. But, this is only for YouTube. There is no way to legally release a cover music video on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. But, if you upload a cover music video illegally, it can be removed. If you repeatedly upload illegal cover music videos, some social platforms, such as Facebook, will delete your account.

These are the steps to legally do a cover music video and get paid for it.

Step 1 – What Should I Pick?

The first step to knowing how to make song covers is knowing how to choose the right song. If you want to create one of the best cover songs possible, you’ll want to follow these tips!

  • Good songs to cover are ones that match your style and image.
  • Due to the mass amount of cover songs on YouTube, you should pick a song that doesn’t already have a ton of cover videos on YouTube of it. As a result of less competition, it will be easier to get your video to rank higher on YouTube.
  • Good songs to cover are ones that you can make sound amazing. You want people to be wowed when they see this video!
  • If you play an instrument, pick a song that you can play your instrument in too! Showing off that you play an instrument will help you stand out!
  • Choose a song that you think your fans will enjoy as well. For one of your cover songs, you could even have your fans vote to choose the song! You could use voting polls on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter to get your fans involved.
  • You’re well on your way to one of the best cover songs!
Step 2 – Mechanical License

If you want to record yourself singing a cover song legally, you need a mechanical license. Even if you don’t plan on creating a video to go with the song, you will still need a mechanical license. You can secure a mechanical license through three different companies including; 

  • Harry Fox Agency Songfile – HFA Songfile will handle most but not all mechanical licenses. HFA Songfile will cost you $16 for one song or $14 per song for 6+ songs.
  • Loudr – Loudr will handle all mechanical licenses. Loudr will cost you $15 for one song, $14 per song for 6-10 songs, $13 for 11-20 songs, $12 for 21-50 songs, $11 for 51-100, or $10 per song for 101+ songs.
  • Easy Song Licensing will handle all mechanical licenses as well. Easy song Licensing will cost you $14.99 for one song, $13.99 for 6-10 songs, $12.99 for 11-20, and $11.99 for 21+ songs.
Step 3 – Synchronization License (Sync License)

Find what Performance Rights Agency (PRO) the song is registered under.

    • To do this, you can do a Google search of the artist’s name and “performing rights organization”.
    • The PRO will be BMI, ASCAP,  SESAC, or GMR if the artist has a PRO in the United States.

    Furthermore, you will need to head to the PRO’s page designated for sync licensing. SESAC’s site has a form for you to fill out. BMI’s and ASCAP’s sites have Repertory’s that you’ll need to search through. For GMR, you will need to email them.

    • BMI – On the BMI website you can search for your song. You can search by the artist, publisher, songwriter, composer, title, BMI work #, or ISWC #. Locate the correct song. Then you will see the publisher’s contact information. You would then need to email them a request for a sync license, and finally, you wait.
    • ASCAP – On the ASCAP website you can search for your song. You can search by the song title or the artist. Locate the correct song. Then you will see the publisher’s contact information. You would then need to email them a request for a sync license, and finally, you wait.
    • SESAC – On SESAC you will just need to fill out the form. Once you fill out the form on SESAC, you just need to submit and finally wait 4-6 weeks for you quote.
    • GMR – Click “Obtain a License” on the bottom of this page. An email will open, where you can request the sync license. Then, you wait.
Step 4 – Wait – Mechanical License and Sync License

Wait for your Mechanical License and Sync License to be approved before you spend the time and energy on recording a cover music video.

How to Skip Steps 2 through 4

If you’ve made it this far, you’re starting to realize that learning how to make song covers is no easy feat. Lucky for you, there is another way to accomplish steps 2 through 4. But, it only works with YouTube and won’t work with every song (but will work with most). It’s a company called We Are The Hits. Check it out, it could save you a lot of time and headache.

There are also some songs that you can monetize directly through YouTube. Unfortunately, you won’t know if your song makes this list until you upload it. You can read more about this here.

Step 5 – Record Your Video

Once you finally have been approved, you officially know how to make song covers for YouTube! You’re ready to record your music video! If you’re putting this much effort into your video, you want it to be good! Here are some tips:

  • Put your own spin on the song. Cover songs are meant to show your unique style and voice.
  • Because you want this video to look professional, you’ll either want to invest in video and editing equipment or befriend someone that has it already! But you would be surprised what a tripod and an iPhone can do!
  • Great lighting can make or break a video. Either shoot your video in a sunny place or use lights inside!
  • While the looks of the video are important, how you sound is even more important! So make sure you use a microphone and make sure you’re in a quiet area.
Step 6 – Copyright Your New Video

Whether you are only getting a mechanical license or are getting a mechanical license and synchronization license, you will then want to get a copyright for your Sound Recordings. This will give you the rights to the sound recording of your version of the song. Get it copyrighted before you put it on YouTube.

Here’s how get your sound recording copyrighted:

  • Click here to access the forms. You can print them and mail them in, or you can fill them out online. There are two forms to choose from based on the copyright you are looking for.
  • Form SR (Sound Recordings): “Use Form SR for registration of published or unpublished sound recordings. Form SR should be used when the copyright claim is limited to the sound recording itself, and it may also be used where the same copyright claimant is seeking simultaneous registration of the underlying musical, dramatic, or literary work embodied in the phonorecord.” (Form SR) You can get the form SR here.
  • Form PA (Performing Arts): “Use Form PA for registration of published or unpublished works of the performing arts. This class includes works prepared for the purpose of being “performed” directly before an audience or indirectly “by means of any device or process.”Works of the performing arts include; (1) musical works, including any accompanying words; (2) dramatic works, including any accompanying music; (3) pantomimes and choreographic works; and (4) motion pictures and other audiovisual works.” (Form PA) You can get the Form PA here.
  • Since this is a sound recording, you’ll want the Form SR. Complete the form and submit it.
Step 7 – Upload Your Video to YouTube!

You’re finally ready to upload your video to YouTube. Monetizing your video will pay you per view once you hit $100, if you meet the qualifications. For more information on how to do that, click here.

Step 8 – Promote Your Video

You may now know how to make song covers for YouTube, but if no one sees it, what’s the point? You also need to promote your new video!  Send it to your fans in your newsletter and share it on all of your social profiles. In addition to posting on your own social profiles, ask your fans to support you by sharing it too!


In conclusion, knowing how to make song covers the right way is a long process but it is a great way to help your music get discovered.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice provided by an attorney of your choosing. TuneGO, Inc. does not warrant or represent that the information in this post is accurate for all people or in all circumstances and encourages you to seek qualified legal counsel in all instances. TuneGO, Inc. will not be responsible for your reliance on any information contained in this article.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Adleigh says:

    Yeah but HOW do i make a cover…..
    Like post one or even start to MAKE the video cover?

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