Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Which Holiday Songs Are Public Domain?

So you want to do that Christmas album that everyone has been asking for? You probably waited a little too long to get it out this year with any effectiveness, but no problem, except that if you're releasing it yourself you should know that not all holiday songs are public domain (i.e. free to use without paying a publishing royalty). Now you have to ask yourself, "Which songs are public domain and which aren't?"

CD Baby's DIY Musician blog has a great post today about the songs that are in and out of the public domain. They also have a PDF guide to holiday music that you can download for free. Here's the list:

In The Public Domain
“Angels We Have Heard On High”
“Away In A Manger”
“Deck The Halls”
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
“Good King Wenceslas”
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
“It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”
“Jingle Bells”
“Joy To The World”
“O Come All Ye Faithful”
“O Come O Come Emmanuel”
“O Holy Night”
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
“Silent Night”
“The First Noel”
“The Twelve Days of Christmas”
“We Wish You A Merry Christmas”
“What Child Is This”

Not In The Public Domain (including the songwriters - Johnny Marks gets extra props for having 3 songs on the list)
“All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” (Donald Yetter Gardner)
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” (Noel Regney, Gloria Shayne Baker)
“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie)
“A Holly Jolly Christmas” (Johnny Marks)
“Carol Of The Bells” (Peter J. Wilhousky, Mykola Leontovich)
“Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano)
“Frosty The Snowman” (Steve Nelson, Walter E. Rollins)
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin)
“Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)” (Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman)
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, Buck Ram)
“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” (Edward Pola, George Wyle)
“Jingle Bell Rock” (Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe)
“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne)
“Little Drummer Boy” (Katherine K. Davis, Henry V. Onorati, Harry Simeone)
“Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” (Johnny Marks)
“Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” (Johnny Marks)
“Silver Bells” (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans)
“Sleigh Ride” (Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish)
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells)
“White Christmas” (Irving Berlin)
“Winter Wonderland” (Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith)

As you can see, there's a good mix of both, although the newer hipper songs must be cleared before using. If you want to cover a copyrighted song, check out Limelight, a service that specializes in clearing copywritten songs.
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