Can I sell copyrighted recording of blues and jazz from the 20s and 30s on CD

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  • Hi,

        I've become interested in a a trend that has come about recently. There are a growing number of companies that create monthly subscription boxes, some of them selling rock collections, 80s mix tapes, etc. I would like to sell blues and jazz recordings from the 20s and 30s. I've seen descriptions of the copyright requirements varying from a "mechanical" license which seems to have a standard cost of 30 cents per song per CD to a variable cost based on the owner of the recording (which could be the label that made the recording or the desdendants of the recording artist.

       Not being used to this subject I'm confused by all this. I feel that if the cost of using a recording can varying greatly it won't be a practical undertaking. I've bought blues collections from Time Life but they have copyright lawyers on retainers and know whether selling recordings is practical for someone of average means. 

       I'd appreciate any advice. 


  • Hello Neil:

    It's very hard for me to answer your question. Music copyright is complex and a new law on music copyright passed in 2018, and everyone is still trying to figure it out. Even recordings from before 1924 may still be protected by aspects of state law.  A music copyright specialist would have a fuller response.  Your project sounds daunting when you consider the copyright implications.

    I am sorry I cannot be more helpful.  Perhaps call a music library???


  • Hello Neil,

    Here is some info, though not answers:

    The 2018 law is the Music Modernization Act. It is still in the process of being implemented, as Carries says.

    You might also be interested in the similar work of the Music Modernization Act:


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