I got a frantic message from an indie artist this week. She had a very upsetting note from one of my cowriters, saying to have her attorney contact her. He had been surfing the web, noticed that she cut his song and released it to radio. Problem was, he had not received any mechanical money or signed a mechanical license for the release! No one had contacted him, in fact, about even having a cut on the song.
She had indeed tried to contact his major co-pub, but had not received word back. However, she didn't pursue getting in touch with them. She put the song out and was planning on paying when publishers replied to her. (DANGEROUS)
Releasing a song without proper mechanical licenses from all publishing companies involved can really get an artist into legal trouble. And this is happening... a lot... making a lot of artists vulnerable to lawsuits. Cover yourselves and take care of all mechanicals before you go to the expense of releasing, promoting and marketing your songs!
Another thing you should be sure to find out is whether or not the song you want to record has been recorded and released by an artist before you. If not, you actually have to get permission from all publishers to obtain a first rights license. You and your producer should discuss this before your tracking session!
Though he was justifiably upset, the co-writer of the song I'm talking about did agree to allow this song to continue and will not press legal charges... as long as the artist takes care of getting mechanicals paid pronto. So this should turn out win-win for everyone.
However, it's not a good idea to count on grace from all writers and publishers. Word to the wise... take care of mechanicals BEFORE you release your songs!
Not sure what mechanicals are? See this blogpost at my production website.