Mr. Berry is one of the few artists of his time period to have retained ownership of much of his incomparable catalog of songs, many of which are considered the greatest rock and roll songs of all time! If you are interested in making one of Chuck Berry’s songs a part of an advertising campaign, media project (movie, television, documentary, etc.), or other endeavor, then visit the “Business Inquiries” link of this site to provide the details of your proposed use.
If your interest is solely confined to recording a “cover” of a Chuck Berry song for release as an audio-only recording, you typically would need a mechanical license, as opposed to a synchronization license which apply to uses of audio music applied to moving images. In many instances, a cut off of 2500 units of a CD, cassette, or even permanent digital download, will determine the process involved in getting the necessary clearance to issue your recording. For the record, yes, you do need a mechanical license to issue a recording of your version of a Chuck Berry song, even if you are only pressing “a few copies” on your own to sell at your local concerts.
The following statutory mechanical rates are effective as of January 1, 2006: For songs that are five minutes or under: 9.10 cents, or 1.75 cents per minute in excess of five minutes. For example, a song that is anywhere between 5:01 and 6:00 in duration would be computed at 6 x $.0175 equaling $.105 per unit. Be advised that these rates do change periodically.