Friday, October 28th, 2022

Publishing a Cover Song on YouTube the Right Way

What Cover Song Licensing Does and Doesn’t… Well, Cover

YouTube has been the hub for cover song artists since the platform’s early days. I mean, just look at Pomplamoose, Shiro Neko, or Nick Pitera; all of these artists got a start on YouTube and now have amassed huge followings of people who crave their creative covers and videos! But if you’ve ever cruised YouTube for covers, you’ve definitely seen video descriptions along the lines of “I do not own this music!” in an attempt to keep them from getting removed. So just how do you post your covers on YouTube? Well, there are a couple different ways and they both require different kinds of cover song licensing. 

What is Cover Song Licensing?

“Cover song licensing” typically refers to mechanical licensing, a specific kind of purchasable license that lets you legally distribute covers of another person’s composition and make money off of those covers. When you purchase a mechanical license, it essentially makes sure that the copyright holder of the composition you’re covering gets paid out for the use of their creation.

With Soundrop Distribution, one of the easiest ways to get a cover song up on YouTube is to distribute to YouTube Music because your Soundrop distribution provides you with a mechanical license. A Soundrop mechanical license covers your distribution to all the music stores we offer, and releases that are sent to YouTube Music are also available for listeners on just regular ol’ YouTube, too. 

However, your standard mechanical cover song licenses don’t allow you to post a YouTube video of your own outside of YouTube Music. Mechanical licenses are for audio-only media. If you’re pairing the cover with video of any kind (like a music video or a lyrics video), that’s gonna require a synchronization (or sync) license, which is totally separate from mechanical licensing. If you want to make a music video or lyrics video for your cover and post it to YouTube on your own, you’ll want to grab one of those to make sure your bases are covered. Without it, you could get a claim on your video, a takedown notice, or in the worst case, sued (which, like, yikes). Although Soundrop doesn’t provide you with a sync license, we recommend our buds over at for your sync licensing needs! 

YouTube Covers: How to Stand Out

Now, we can’t talk doin’ it right without talking strategy. With licensing all squared away, here are a few of our fave ideas for making the most of your cover song music video: 

  • Showcase your originality: Make your video stand way out from the original music video and the tone of the original track. If your instrumentation is super different (like a metal version of an ’80s pop tune), lean into that aesthetic and play it up! Show that, while this may be a cover, you are 100% original. 
  • Parody/riff off of the original video: Another fun way to move forward–plant easter eggs in your video that reference the original for eagle-eyed fans or parody pieces of it! Your fans will love spotting the similarities and thusly noticing how different your cover of the song is. 
  • Match the tone: Find ways to make your video match the tone of your cover. Acoustic version of “Running Up That Hill?” Find a calm, warmly lit location, hit it with a moody filter, and emphasize the chill! Doing an EDM cover of “Truth Hurts”? Lean in to lots of dance and movement, and play up your costumes and visuals! 
  • Camera tricks: You don’t have to have a fancy camera set-up to make a quality music video. You can honestly even use the camera on your phone: just prop it up on a flat surface to keep it steady and make sure you’re recording in landscape! 

Promoting Your YouTube Cover

Once your cover video is live, get blasting it to your socials! It’s important to get the word out not only to your fans, but to fans of the original who might love finding a different take on a classic. Sneak a peek at the hashtags people tend to use when talking about the original artist’s music online, then use those tags in your posts to help your video pop up in their feeds. You can also always tag the original artist–you never know, they might see it and love it! Just make sure to do this politely and definitely don’t spam them 😅

Of course, you can also use your free account to set up a YouTube Player campaign to post that video. YouTube Players are really great: you’ll create a webpage with your video embedded, then you can add “conversions” like links to your channel, your Twitter, your Instagram, and places to stream/download your release. A one-stop shop, totally for free, so if someone loves your video, it’s super streamlined for them to become a new fan.

Get started with your covers on Soundrop today!