Industry Tips & Advice: How Music Licensing Works by Marshall Brain Pt 4

Music, May I?

Here are just a few examples of the establishments covered in the forms section of the BMI Web site:

  • Airport
  • Amusement/Theme Parks
  • Athletic Clubs/Dance Classes
  • Bowling Centers
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Competitions/Shows
  • Eating and Drinking Establishments
  • Festivals/Special Events
  • Hotel / Motel
  • Local Governmental Entities
  • Local Television
  • Meetings, Conventions, Trade Shows, and Expositions
  • Musical Attractions – Promoters/Presenters
  • Radio Station Interim
  • Retail Establishments
  • RV Parks and Campgrounds – Multiple Use
  • Shopping Center
  • Skating Rink
  • Symphony Orchestra
  • Web Site


If you own a station or a restaurant and you want to broadcast or play music, what you need are public performance rights– the right to play music that the general public will hear in one way or another. Obviously, if you own a radio station playing 300 or 400 songs every day, you would go insane if you had to obtain public performance writes from every label and publisher. Therefore, public performance rights licensing is now handled by two very large companies named (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) that simplify the process. Each one handles a catalog of about 4,000,000 songs.

A radio station will typically purchase from ASCAP and BMI what are called blanket licenses to broadcast music. A blanket license lets the station play anything it likes throughout the year. ASCAP and BMI decide how to divide up the money among all the rights owners.

Any establishment that wants to play music that will be heard by the general public needs a license as well. If you go to the section of the BMI Web site, you can find a list of dozens of forms to cover every different type of establishment that you can imagine.

Let’s consider this example — a skating rink that wants to play music for its skating patrons needs to fill out . The schedule of fees is right on the form. If you own a rink that has 15,000 square feet of skating area and you charge customers $5.00 to skate, you own a class 6B establishment and you need to pay BMI $205 every year. You would need to do the same thing for ASCAP.

Technically, anyone performing music publicly anywhere has to pay:

  • If you are in a marching band playing in a parade and the song you are playing is an ASCAP or BMI song, the band or the parade organizers have to pay.
  • If you are an aerobics instructor using music in a class, you have to pay.
  • If you are a street musician, you have to pay.

If you do not pay and you get caught, you can be sued. Beware, the fines are pretty steep — sometimes thousands of dollars.



Leave a comment

  1. Pingback:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

Please log in to WordPress.com to post a comment to your blog.

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,498 other followers