In a stunning reversal, a federal judge ruled that all copyright claims against “Happy Birthday” are invalid and declaring that the song is in the public domainand free to use. Its a huge loss for Warner Chappell Music who bought the rights in 1988, but its a big win for enterprising musicians.
Now that a federal judge has declared “Happy Birthday” in the public domain, anyone can record and release their own version of the track and keep 100% of the royalties. Here are 4 ways that enterprising musicians can make money from “Happy Birthday”.
1. Record and release a unique version of :Happy Birthday” that fits your style. – “Reggaeton Happy Birthday”, “Hard Rock Happy Birthday”, “Happy Birthday Country Style” – the possibilities are endless. Consider releasing similar versions using different search friendly names [“Indie Happy Birthday”, “Happy Birthday Indie Rock Style”, “If My Morning Jacket Sang You Happy Birthday”].
Some of your fans will be willing to buy or play the track now, but it could also provide small ongoing income as friends and family search iTunes for the perfect birthday song to share.
2. Shoot a quick quick YouTube video – Not only is it a great promotional tool for your new track, but it could also lead a small (or not so small) on going income stream. To collect funds, you’ll need to sign up with a synch collection service like those offered by CDBaby. Make sure they also make your version of Happy Birthday available for use by others on YouTube.
3. Offer fans a customized version – Once you have the basic tracks recorded, its not much work to sing a customized version that uses the fans name. You could charge – many fans and their friends would be happy to pay to have there favorite artist sing to them – or you can offer it a prize or premium to an uber fan.