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[Blog] Breaking Into The Music Industry: The Harry Fox Agency (HFA)

ChaseLawyers On: Breaking Into The Music Industry

Today’s Topic: The Harry Fox Agency (HFA)

Under US copyright law (and in most other developed countries), an individual has

copyright ownership in his/her original musical composition as soon as he/she fixes

it in a “tangible medium” (like writing it down or recording it). One of the important

ways in which composers can profit from their creation of a new musical composition is

when it is used in a sound recording (a “record”). When a musical composition is used

in a record and a copy of that record is sold, the owner of copyright in that record (there

can be many different sound recordings of any particular musical composition – think

about all the different versions of “White Christmas”) pays a “mechanical royalty” to the

composer under what is called a “mechanical license.” Under the mechanical license, the

composer grants to the sound recording owner (usually a record company) the right to

reproduce and distribute the copyrighted musical composition. The Harry Fox Agency

(HFA) is the premier agency in the United States for issuing these mechanical licenses

from composers to record companies. HFA issues these licenses, collects “mechanical

royalties” from the record company and (after deducting HFA’s own fee) distributes

the royalties to the copyright owner of the musical composition. Most composers are

represented by “music publishers,” which specialize in maximizing composer revenue

and depend on HFA to collect on the mechanical licenses which HFA issues on their (and

their composers’) behalf.


Of course, composers or their music publishers could issue and collect on their own

mechanical licenses, but most publishers instead use a mechanical licensing agent,

like HFA, to issue these licenses and collect mechanical royalties on their behalf. For

publishers (or composers who try to administer their own copyrights), HFA offers

a cost-effective alternative to issuing licenses one-by-one to record companies and

collecting royalties themselves. And for record companies – who are the “licensees”

under mechanical licenses — using HFA’s services is much less tedious than requesting

mechanical licenses from each individual publisher. So, if a composer’s publisher does

not affiliate with a mechanical licensing agent like HFA, the composer and publisher

could either be missing out on entire streams of revenue or spending more money than is

necessary because they are issuing licenses inefficiently.


Artists: please consider HFA and all related matters in taking your material to market.

Educate yourselves and obtain the protection necessary in order to maximize your

revenue in today’s music industry.


By: Barry Chase, Greg Bloom, and Michael Epstein from ChaseLawyers.

ChaseLawyers, with offices in New York and Miami, concentrates in all matters related

to arts, sports, and entertainment.

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