Ho ho ho! Holiday time is upon usâand with all the celebration, festivities and family time comes all the nostalgic music we love so much.
It seems like every year shopping malls and radio stations start piping Christmas music earlier and earlierâwhether itâs the classic hits or a new cover album from your favorite A-list pop star.
So, itâs no surprise that Christmas songs are among the most streamed music in existenceâMariah Carey’s instant classic “All I Want For Christmas is You”, has literally been streamed over a billion times on Spotify.
Christmas songs are among the most streamed music in existence.
So, if youâre interested in making a Christmas album of your own may be wonderingâhow does Christmas song licensing work?
Not every famous Christmas song is in the public domain, even if some of the classic ones are from decades past.
If you want to cover a classic Christmas song, thereâs a few things to keep in mind to make sure everyone is collecting the right royalties.
In this article, weâll explain how to identify public domain Christmas songs and weâll explain how you can license cover songs for any track thatâs still not public domain.
Ready to start planning your Christmas album? Letâs get these chestnuts roasting!
What are public domain Christmas songs?
Public domain Christmas songs are songs that have lost their copyright protectionâmeaning anyone can use the lyrics and melodies to create their own version and sell as their own.
The key to understanding how to identify whether a Christmas song is in the public domain is to find its original publishing date.
As of 2021 in the United Statesâany work from before 1926 is most likely in the public domain.
As a general rule of thumbâas of 2021 in the United Statesâany work from before 1926 is most likely in the public domain.
So if you want to cover classic Christmas songs like O Christmas Tree, Silent Night or Jingle Bells you wonât need any special license because they were all written before 1925.
Your best bet is to Google the publishing date or look in a database of public domain songs.
However, newer songs like White Christmas, Little Drummer Boy or Jingle Bell Rock will require you to obtain the proper licenses or clearance to use in your own musicâwhether youâre sampling or covering the song.
Fortunately, you can easily pick up a cover song license from digital music distribution services like LANDR Distribution, the only distribution service that offers cover song licensing for a one-time fee.
Not sure whether a Christmas song is in the public domain? Your best bet is to Google the publishing date or look in a database of public domain songs.
In general, traditional songs, hymns and carols that have been around for over a century are fair game. If the original recording of the song has electric guitar in itâ¦ you might be out of luck.
If the original recording of the song has electric guitar in itâ¦ you might be out of luck.
For example, you canât sample Boney Mâs rendition of “Angels We Have Heard on High” without sample clearance since they own the mechanical royalty.
List of popular public domain Christmas songs
To help you out hereâs a list of popular Christmas songs that are currently in the public domain.
You can use the melodies and lyrics for these songs freely without fear of violating any copyright laws.
1. âJingle Bellsâ
2. âSilent Nightâ
3. âO Christmas Treeâ
4. âJoy to the Worldâ
5. âHandelâs Messiahâ
6. âWe Three Kingsâ
7. âO Little Town of Bethlehemâ
8. âThe Nutcracker Themeâ
9. âDeck the Hallsâ
10âHark the Herald Angels Singâ
11. âGood King Wenceslasâ
12. âAngels We Have Heard on Highâ
13. âTwelve Days of Christmasâ
14. âThe First Noelâ
15. âGod Rest Ye Merry Gentlemenâ
16. âCome All Ye Faithfulâ
How to cover a non-public domain Christmas song
If you want to cover a classic tune thatâs still in the public domain, youâll need to purchase a cover song license.
Fortunately, cover song licenses are not difficult to obtainâLANDR currently offers cover song licensing for releases on LANDR Distribution for a one-time fee.
Once you have a cover song license for the particular song youâre covering you may freely release it under your name or projectâs nameâof course youâll still have to pay songwriting royalties to the owner, but youâll keep the mechanical royalty.
To help you out hereâs a list of classic Christmas songs that are still in the public domain.
1.âAll I Want for Christmas is Youâ – Mariah Carey
2. âThe Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire)â – Mel TormÃ©
3. âJingle Bell Rockâ – Bobby Helms
4. âRockinâ Around the Christmas Treeâ – Johnny Marks
5. âFeliz Navidadâ – Jose Feliciano
6. âSilver Bellsâ – Jay Livingston, Ray Evans
7. âLittle Drummer Boyâ – Catherine K. Davis
8. âRudolph the Red Nosed Reigndeerâ – Johnny Marks
9. âChristmas Lightsâ – Lil Yachty
10. âFrosty the Snowmanâ – Steve Nelson, Walter E. Rolands
I think you get the ideaâelectric guitar and sounds like it wasnât composed for a church choir? Probably not a public domain christmas song.
Your Christmas cover album is still a go!
Youâll just need to grab some cover song licenses for any tracks that arenât in the public domain.
Head over to LANDR Distribution and grab your cover song licenses for that next release.
Happy holidays and best of luck with your Christmas cover album!
The post Public Domain Christmas Songs: How to License a Christmas Cover appeared first on LANDR Blog.