How can an music artist get permission to record and sell songs written by other people?

You will need to get a mechanical license to get the permission to record a song. Here is a website that offers this service http://www.songclearance.com Alternately you can contact the publisher directly. Another palce to go is http://www.harryfox.com

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    It’s difficult to be unbiased to your own songs. You spent so much time writing and revising it that you can’t imagine it to be bad. It’s a good idea to pretend you’re an audience member listening to your song for the first time. Keep in mind that they may or may not know a thing about you. In fact, they may not care about you at all. You want the song to sell itself, and to give the audience a reason to pay attention. An easier method would be to have unbiased friends listen to them. Keep in mind the genres they prefer and how musically trained they are. Regardless, you are marketing your music to the average listener who probably does not have as much musical training and may not appreciate some of the subtleties involved.