Can I distribute for free a mix CD of tracks that I purchased?

April 24, 2012

Dear Music Lawyer,

I am part of the promoting crew for a music festival. I would like to make a mix CD of tracks we purchased on iTunes from the different artists that will be performing at the festival. This will only be used promotionally as a free handout. Is that okay?


Dear Krisa,

The short answer is no. Buying copies of the tracks does not give you the right to reproduce and distribute the music on mix CDs.

That said, it is pretty common for the organizers of music festivals to want to be able to use clips of the performing artists in promotions. In my experience, festivals usually accomplish this by including a provision in the festival artist's performance contract that permits the festival (and promoters) to use clips of artist songs in connection with promotion of the festival (e.g., on festival website, radio ads). The typical clip length is 30-60 seconds.

I see no reason why you couldn't ask/require the festival artists to approve one or two tracks that you may use in a giveaway promotional sampler CD in connection with festival promotion, especially if only a limited number of such samplers are produced.

—Amy E. Mitchell is maintained by experienced Austin music lawyer Amy E. Mitchell. Please feel free to ask any music law related questions. You will be notified by email when your question has been selected for response, and the response will be posted on this site.

Please note that no responses are guaranteed, and responses provided on this site do not constitute legal advice and may be edited or removed at any time. The purpose of is solely to educate and inform musicians and music professionals about legal issues in the music industry. Accordingly, any posted responses are merely intended to give you general legal insight in order to point you in the right direction.