Music Licensing

Thank you for joining our vigorous exploration of music licensing and copyright. If you are here to contact, or research an agency click here Licensing Agencies

Do I need a license? Do you have music playing in your business? If its live music, karaoke, or even CD’s or an mp3 player over your stereo system, you need to have a license from a music licensing organization to be compliant with federal laws. There are three licensing organizations that license performance rights for the majority of music copyright holders in the U.S. – BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC. Many venues choose to take a chance that they will not be caught, and most succeed, however if you are found to be not be in compliance with licensing laws, you could be at risk of paying very severe fines. While the fine is ultimately decided by the federal judge presiding over the case. If the court finds the violation was “willful,” or not accidental, the fine could be as high as $150,000 per song. The choice, of course, is yours. http://wahospitality.org/wise-buy/music-licensing

How Musical Royalties Work The royalty trail begins when the song is registered with one of the three performing rights organizations mentioned above. Once a song is registered, it becomes part of that PRO's collection and is available to all of its users. Most of those users have a "blanket license" to use any or all of the PRO's music, however some users license on a per program basis and only pay for the music they actually use. (This is good for users who don't use that much music.) The PROs deduct money for their operating expenses and the rest goes to the songwriters and publishers. http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/music-royalties.htm

ASCAP And BMI Are Killing Local Music Scenes | opinion | The Guardian recently had an article wondering if "the internet" was killing the idea of the local music scene with a "local sound." In discussing that article, Glyn Moody says it's much more likely that it's absurd licensing regimes that are killing local scenes. Indeed, the excessive demands of licensing and collection societies have really damaged local music scenes harming countless up-and-coming musicians by closing down the main venue for most new musicians to build up their performance chops through demands for ridiculous and excessive licenses. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100611/0351569781.shtml

Is ASCAP [BMI - SESAC] Hurting Live Music Venues? | opinion | On February 13, 1914 composer Victor Herbert was eating dinner at the Hotel Claridge in NY City when he heard the piano player in the restaurant playing one of his compositions. As he looked around the bustling restaurant, he realized that while the patrons were eating and spending money, they were enjoying the music he wrote. The Hotel was making money, the piano player was getting paid, but he was getting nothing even though it was his music that was entertaining the people around him. http://www.makingascene.org/ascap-hurting-live-music-venues

Justice Department rocks music industry with ASCAP-BMI decision | opinion | The Justice Department sent an earthquake rumbling through the music industry Thursday morning, even as it insisted that it wasn’t changing a thing.
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ed-ascap-bmi-justice-department-20160804-snap-story.html

Herbert v. Shanley Co., 242 U.S. 591 (1917) | Supreme Court Ruling The performance of a copyrighted musical composition in a restaurant or hotel without charge for admission to hear it but as an incident of other entertainment for which the public pays infringes the exclusive right of the owner of the copyright to perform the work publicly for profit under the Act of March 4, 1909, c. 320, § 1(e), 35 Stat. 1075. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/242/591/case.html

A Closer Look at the Department of Justice’s ASCAP and BMI Consent Decree Review If the music industry itself can’t figure out who to pay, it seems wholly unreasonable to pass that burden on to music users who are even less well positioned to make that determination -- doubly so given that the basic function and value proposition of the PROs is they distribute royalties to the right people.
https://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/a-closer-look-at-the-department-of-justices-ascap-and-bmi-consent-decree-re

Copyright and the the Music Marketplace As the Copyright Office observed in a 2015 report, there is a shortage of reliable, publicly available data about who owns songwriting copyrights. A service can easily identify who owns the copyrights to the recording of a song, but “there is no comprehensive, publicly accessible database that can be used to match” that information with songwriting credits. Making matters worse, publishers come and go, catalogs of compositions get sold, and new rights organizations are emerging to compete with ASCAP and BMI. Without 100% licensing, a service may have no way of knowing that it won’t get sued for playing songs in the catalogs it has licensed. https://copyright.gov/policy/musiclicensingstudy/copyright-and-the-music-marketplace.pdf

How to Legally Sell Recordings of a Cover Song | with links | There are two main ways to obtain song licenses: working directly with the rights owners (the do-it-yourself method) or paying a service to handle the whole thing. http://nimbit.com/legally-sell-recordings-cover-song/

I want to record or videotape a song or record. Do I need permission, and how do I obtain it? If you want to make copies of, or re-record an existing record, tape or CD, you will probably need the permission of both the music publisher and the record label. A music publisher owns the song (that is, the words and music) and a record company owns the "sound recording" (that is, what you hear... the artist singing, the musicians playing, the entire production). http://www.ascap.com/licensing/licensingfaq.aspx#general

Why Federal Policy Matters to Musicians - Now More Than Ever In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it the Internet--whose potential was only beginning to be realized due to the new possibilities of broadband--was in danger of suffering a similar fate. Musicians and independent labels realized that in order to prevent the Internet from becoming like consolidated radio--where just a handful of companies can control what you hear and when--there needed to be some basic rules of the road so that independent musicians or labels can compete alongside the biggest companies. In part due to musicians getting involved, policymakers have become more invested in ensuring that the Internet remains open and accessible to everyone, including creators. But the fight isn't over yet--now's the perfect time to learn what's at stake and what you can do about it. http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2013/09/why-federal-policy-matters-to-musicians-now-more-than-ever.html

Copyright Tutorial for Musicians Copyright law allows you to gain economic value by giving you a bundle of rights in your music. These rights are not absolute and are subject to the rights of other creators and the public. However, if somebody uses your music without your permission and their use does not come within the scope of the limitations provided by law, you are entitled to significant relief for violation of your rights. https://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/copyright-tutorial-for-musicians

Why you should think twice before joining ASCAP, BMI or SESAC | opinion | It’s one of the top 10 questions I’m asked: ASCAP, BMI or SESAC? Which one should I Join? Here’s a rock ‘n’ roll answer: How about none of them. At least not right away.All of these competing Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) spend a great deal of their members’ money selling “belonging” as if there is an immediate benefit to membership, like collecting money that they have been holding for you. But experience indicates that you’d be better off waiting to sign with any of them. Wonder why? Here’s the truth about PRO’s in this three part series taken from Moses Avalon’s latest book, 100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business.http://www.mosesavalon.com/why-you-should-wait-to-join-ascap-bmi-sesac/

Why you should join ASCAP, BMI or SESAC | opinion | It would be foolish for any songwriter who’s ever had his or her material publicly performed (regardless of the audience size) to not register with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO), yet so many artists let that revenue opportunity fall by the wayside, deciding to put it off until they’re “bigger.” What these artists are failing to realize is that even if their only fans are mom and dad, any time that song is played in any public setting with commercial intent, the songwriter is owed royalties. These royalties are collected and distributed by entities called Performing Rights Organizations, who only take a small administrative fee off the top of the royalties bands are owed for their services. http://indieambassador.com/articles/ascap-bmi-sesac-compared

Copyright Lawsuit Against Medina Bar: 'Unauthorized' Show By Local Classic Rock Cover Band Caused 'Great and Incalculable Damage' Venues where music is played — bars, restaurants, clubs, theaters, whatever — must pay a licensing fee to the licensing company or they risk facing federal lawsuits from those massive national organizations. BMI owns the public performance rights to 8.5 million songs and they want to make sure they get their cut from any place that plays any of them, recorded or live, even if it's just hosting a performance of by small-time cover band made up of regular guys with day jobs getting together for the fun of it (the band is not liable: it's the sole responsibility of the venue to get the license). http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2014/03/21/copyright-lawsuit-against-medina-bar-unauthorized-show-by-local-classic-rock-cover-band-caused-great-and-incalculable-damage

Historic Aurora Bar Sued for Copyright-Infringing Karaoke "We never want to see the music shut down, but if our licensing efforts are unsuccessful, we might take legal action,” Gumer says. “At the end of the day, it is BMI’s job to protect its songwriters and make sure they are compensated if their music is performed in a public setting.”
https://www.westword.com/music/bmi-slaps-sand-creek-lounge-with-a-copyright-infringement-lawsuit-over-karaoke-11062966

SWAT team raids DJ studio | opinion A federal SWAT team assisted the RIAA in a raid on the studio of Atlanta musician DJ Drama in Atlanta to help the recording industry enforce copyright law. The target wasn’t even a commercial piracy operation. http://reason.com/blog/2007/01/17/swat-meets-copyright and http://techliberation.com/2007/01/17/swat-teams-enforcing-copyright/


Harry Fox Agency If you plan to hire your own musicians and singers and create an original recording of a copyrighted song, then you need the permission of only the music publisher. ASCAP does not license recording rights. Recording rights for most publishers are represented by the Harry Fox Agency: Harry Fox Agency, Inc. 711 Third Avenue New York, N.Y. 10017 Tel: (212) 370-5330 Fax: (212) 953-2384 www.harryfox.com The name and address of the record company should appear on the record label. The Recording Industry Association of America, a trade organization for record labels, can provide you with more information on the rights of record labels. Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) 1020 19th St. NW, Suite 200 Washington, D.C. 20036 Tel: (202) 775-0101 Fax: (202) 775-7253 www.riaa.com

ASCAP, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Launched: 1914 Official site: http://ascap.com Location: New York, London, Miami, Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta Vitals: With a 410,000-strong membership of composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers, this non-profit is, according to its website, the only American PRO created and controlled entirely by composers, writers, and publishers in music—its Board of Directors is elected by its members. “A music creator is like a small business,” reads ASCAP’s website, “and ASCAP exists to ensure that music creators are paid promptly when their works are performed publicly.” Notable affiliates: Justin Timberlake, Vampire Weekend, Duke Ellington, Dave Matthews, George Gershwin, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Marc Anthony, Henry Mancini Fee: One time, nominal fee of $35 as a writer, and $35 as a publisher. Pay Schedule: ASCAP is the only American PRO created and controlled entirely by composers, writers, and publishers in music—its Board of Directors is elected by its members. “A music creator is like a small business,” reads ASCAP’s website, “and ASCAP exists to ensure that music creators are paid promptly when their works are performed publicly.”

BMI, Broadcast Music, Inc. Launched: 1939 Official site: http://bmi.com Location: Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, London, Atlanta, Miami, Puerto Rico Vitals: Founded by radio executives as a non-profit, BMI now boasts more than 475,000 members, anvd is, according to its website, the most “technologically advanced” and “streamlined” performance rights organization. “Underlying everything BMI does is its philosophy,” reads the BMI website, “an open-door policy that welcomes songwriters, composers and music publishers of all disciplines, and helps them develop both the creative and business skills crucial to a career in music.” Notable affiliates: Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Rhianna, Maroon 5, Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton Fee: “No fees or dues are required for songwriters and composers,” they say, but to join as a publisher, there’s a $250 application fee. Pay Schedule: BMI pays royalties quarterly—as long as royalties exceed $2—and encourages direct deposit. If royalties do not exceed $2, they roll over to the next quarter.

SESAC

Launched: 1930 Official site: http://sesac.com Location: New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, London, Nashville Vitals: As the smallest PRO in the U.S., SESAC has has a selective affiliation process and seeks to signs writers who are professional and serious about their writing career, which they say allows for “personal relationships” between affiliates and the SESAC staff. “With an international reach and a vast repertory that spans virtually every genre of music, SESAC is the fastest growing and most technologically adept of the nation’s performing rights companies,” reads the SESAC site. Note: the SESAC abbreviation is, today, meaningless; the organization was originally founded to serve European composers underrepresented in America before branching out to become a full service PRO. Notable affiliates: Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Cassandra Wilson, Rush, MGMT, Mumford and Sons (via PRS). Fee: None. Pay Schedule: Monthly (radio performance royalties only); Quarterly (all else: January 1—March 31, distributed ~June 30; April 1—June 30, distributed ~September 30; July 1—September 30, distributed ~December 31; October 1—December 31, distributed ~March 31)ut their writing career, which they say allows for “personal relationships” between affiliates and the SESAC staff. “With an international reach and a vast repertory that spans virtually every genre of music, SESAC is the fastest growing and most technologically adept of the nation’s performing rights companies,” reads the SESAC site. Note: the SESAC abbreviation is, today, meaningless; the organization was originally founded to serve European composers underrepresented in America before branching out to become a full service PRO. Notable affiliates: Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Cassandra Wilson, Rush, MGMT, Mumford and Sons (via PRS).