Have you ever wanted to record or use a song but didn't know who to contact for the rights to distribute your copy on CD, stream it, or use it in a film? Not an easy thing to do.
The first step it to check with a mechanical licensing agency such as the Harry Fox Agency. A mechanical license is what you will need to distribute a copy of your song on a CD or stream. A syncronization license will be needed for TV or film. You may also need additional rights from the publisher.
There are two kinds of publishing rights you need to obtain for a song. One if for the sound recording. If you are wanting to use a sound recording in a film you will need synchronization rights from the publisher of that sound recording. This is how the performers and publishers of the recording of a song get paid.
If you are making a recording of a song that is not written by yourself then you will need the music rights or mechanical rights for the composition. That is how the original writers and publishers of a song get paid.
How do you find the publisher of a song? If you have sheet music it may be printed on it. An album or CD of the work may also list the performing rights organization the artist belongs to along with the publisher of the song. If not the next step is to conduct a search at one of the performance rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.