ASCAP Licensing: Frequently Asked Questions
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Do I Need an ASCAP License?

Frequently Asked Questions (General)

  • We often use the expression "they're playing my song," not always remembering that while we may have emotionally adopted the song, it still legally belongs to the songwriter who created it, and the music publisher who markets it. When you use other people's property, you need to ask permission.

  • A public performance is one that occurs either in a public place or any place where people gather (other than a small circle of a family or its social acquaintances). A public performance is also one that is transmitted to the public; for example, radio or television broadcasts, music-on-hold, cable television, and by the internet. Generally, those who publicly perform music obtain permission from the owner of the music or his representative. However, there are a few limited exceptions, (called "exemptions") to this rule. Permission is not required for music played or sung as part of a worship service unless that service is transmitted beyond where it takes place (for example, a radio or television broadcast). Performances as part of face to face teaching activity at a non-profit educational institutions are also exempt. We recommend that you contact your local ASCAP representative who can discuss your needs and how ASCAP can help you.

  • ASCAP gives you a license to entertain your customers, guests and employees with the world's largest musical repertory. One of the greatest advantages of the ASCAP license is that it gives you the right to perform ANY or ALL of the millions of the musical works in our repertory. Whether your music is live, broadcast, transmitted or played via CD's or videos, your ASCAP license covers your performances. And with one license fee, ASCAP saves you the time, expense, and burden of contacting thousands of copyright owners.

  • Copyright owners enjoy a number of different rights including performance rights, print rights and recording rights. Rental or purchase of sheet music or the purchase of a record does not authorize its public performance.

  • 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).

    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

    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

  • Quite simply, to our members. All the fees we collect are distributed as royalties, after deducting operating expenses (currently 11.3%).

  • Check out ACE (ASCAP Clearance Express), ASCAP's searchable database of performed works, along with writer, publisher and recording artist information.

  • Yes, you will need permission to play records or tapes in your establishment. Permission for radio and television transmissions in your business is not needed if the performance is by means of public communication of TV or radio transmissions by eating, drinking, retail or certain other establishments of a certain size which use a limited number of speakers or TVs, and if the reception is not further transmitted (for example, from one room to another) from the place in which it is received, and there is no admission charge. Your local ASCAP licensing manager can discuss your needs and advise how ASCAP can help you.

  • The annual rate depends on the type of business. Generally, rates are based on the manner in which music is performed (live, recorded or audio only or audio/visual) and the size of the establishment or potential audience for the music. For example, rates for restaurants, nightclubs, bars and similar establishments depend on whether the music is live or recorded, whether it's audio only or audio visual, the number of nights per week music is offered, whether admission is charged and several other factors.

    Concert rates are based on the ticket revenue and seating capacity of the facility. Rates for music used by corporations ("Music In Business") are based upon the number of employees. College and university rates are based upon the number of full time students; retail store rates depend on the number of speakers and square footage. Hotel rates are based on a percentage of entertainment expenses for live music and an additional charge if recorded music is used.

    Because ASCAP has over a hundred different licenses and rate schedules, one will likely fit your needs. ASCAP operates under the principle that similarly situated users should be treated similarly. This assures fairness and consistency in our licensing. For example, rates for restaurants of the same size, with the same use of music are the same regardless of whether the restaurant is in Oshkosh or New York City.

  • Yes. When you place a caller on hold and transmit music via your telephone lines, that is a public performance of the music. It is your responsibility to obtain permission to perform ASCAP songs from ASCAP or directly from the copyright owner. ASCAP represents tens of thousands of copyright owners and millions of songs and an ASCAP license will give you the right to perform them all.

  • If the performance is part of face to face teaching activity at a non-profit educational institution, permission is not required. Permission is required when music is used as part of training seminars, conventions, or other commercial or business presentations.

  • Some people mistakenly assume that musicians and entertainers must obtain licenses to perform copyrighted music or that businesses where music is performed can shift their responsibility to musicians or entertainers. The law says all who participate in, or are responsible for, performances of music are legally responsible. Since it is the business owner who obtains the ultimate benefit from the performance, it is the business owner who obtains the license. Music license fees are one of the many costs of doing business.

  • Licenses for jukeboxes are available through the Jukebox License Office. The JLO makes it convenient and economical for you to obtain the permission you need for your jukebox by serving as a "clearinghouse" that provides authorization to perform virtually every copyrighted song in the United States and much of the world.

    The JLO is a joint venture of the United States performing rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. The JLO offers a license which provides total access to all songs in the ASCAP, BMI and SESAC repertories. The Jukebox License Agreement is a single, economical, annual license that provides the authorization required to publicly perform copyrighted songs on a jukebox. Jukeboxes that are licensed by the JLO, must display a certificate in the title strip holder of each jukebox. If you see a jukebox without a certificate, please complete and return the Tips card or email the name and address of the location and name of jukebox operator (if known) to

    Establishments where music is performed by some means other than the jukebox (DJ's, bands, tapes, etc.), still need a separate license from ASCAP (or the individual copyright owners) covering these other performances. The Jukebox License Agreement only provides authorization for jukebox performances.

    The jukebox, or "coin-operated phonorecord player," qualifies for the Jukebox License Agreement if it is a machine or device that:

    - is used solely for non-dramatic public performances of music; and
    - is operated by coins, tokens, currency or the like; and
    - is operated by patrons of the establishment (not employees), who make their selections from a list of titles; and
    - is located in an establishment making no direct or indirect charge for admission.

    If your jukebox fails to meet any of these criteria, it does not qualify as a "coin-operated phonorecord player" under the Copyright law and performances on that jukebox cannot be licensed through the JLO.

    Please contact the JLO with any other questions you may have or to obtain a jukebox license.

    Jukebox License Office
    1700 Hayes St., Suite 201
    Nashville, TN 37209

  • A list of performed works is available on the ASCAP Clearance Express on our Website. For addition information on ASCAP's members, the variety of music in the ASCAP repertory, and the resources available to those seeking more information on ASCAP's members and the ASCAP repertory, click here.

  • Section 110(5)(B) provides a limited exemption for certain performances of music in food service, drinking and retail establishments by means of radio and television transmissions.

    The exemption applies only to performances of music originated by a broadcast radio or television station or a cable system or satellite carrier, only if no direct charge is made to see or hear the performances, only if the performances are not further transmitted beyond the establishment where they are received, and only if the original transmission is licensed by the copyright owners -- that is, the radio or television station, cable system or satellite carrier is licensed by the copyright owners or their performing rights organizations.

    The exemption contains objective standards which will enable both music users and copyright owners to determine whether particular radio and television performances are exempt from copyright liability. Two types of music users are exempt, under different standards: a food service or drinking establishment (defined as "a restaurant, inn, bar, tavern, or any other similar place of business in which the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being served food or drink, in which the majority of the gross square feet of space that is nonresidential is used for that purpose, and in which nondramatic musical works are performed publicly") and an other establishment (defined as "a store, shop, or any similar place of business open to the general public for the primary purpose of selling goods or services in which the majority of the gross square feet of space that is nonresidential is used for that purpose, and in which nondramatic musical works are performed publicly").

    A food service or drinking establishment is eligible for the exemption if it (1) has less than 3750 gross square feet of space (in measuring the space, the amount of space used for customer parking only is always excludable); or (2) has 3750 gross square feet of space or more and (a) uses no more than 6 loudspeakers of which not more than 4 loudspeakers are located in any 1 room or adjoining outdoor space; and (b) if television sets are used, there are no more than 4 televisions, of which not more than 1 is located in any 1 room and none has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches.

    An other establishment (e.g., a retail store) is eligible for the exemption if it (1) has less than 2000 gross square feet of space; or (2) has 2000 or more gross square feet of space and satisfies the same loudspeaker and television set requirements as for food service or drinking establishments.

    Of course, this exemption is limited to those radio or television performances; the law requires that public performances of copyrighted music by other means such as live music, karaoke, CDs, MP3 and digital files, background music services and DVDs require permission obtained either from the copyright owners or from their performing rights licensing organizations.

Frequently Asked Questions (TV)

  • - Access to every variety of music you need to attract and entertain your viewers.
    - The immediate right to perform great new music written or published by our members.
    - The right to perform music in the repertories of more than 90 affiliated foreign societies.
    - The right to perform music in commercials and jingles.
    - An indemnity if a claim for infringement is made against you, your staff or your advertisers based on the performance of our members' works.

  • The ASCAP television license does not provide the right to authorize retransmissions of broadcasts of ASCAP music over televisions and loudspeakers in stores, restaurants or other locations open to the public, or by means of music-on-hold systems. To learn more about ASCAP's other license agreements for these types of uses, please see General Licensing.

    The ASCAP license does not provide the right to record copyrighted music, or change the lyric of a copyrighted work and use it in a commercial jingle or station promotional announcement. These are known as "mechanical" and "synchronization" rights and you should deal directly with the copyright owners for permission to record music or change a song. Contact information for specific works in the ASCAP repertory can be found on the ASCAP website, You may also want to contact the Harry Fox Agency at (212) 370-5330.

  • Each of the networks have negotiated blanket license agreements with ASCAP.

  • Currently, commercial local television stations may choose between two license types - Blanket or Per Program. Both licenses give the station full access to the ASCAP repertory. However, the Per Program License requires the licensee to report to us the music content of all of its local and syndicated programs (i.e., non-network programs) on a monthly basis, and the fee is based in part on that report.

  • On Thursday, August 9, 2012, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote approved the agreement reached between ASCAP and the Television Music License Committee (TMLC) on a new industry-wide license agreements covering the period January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2016 ("LOCAL STATION BLANKET TELEVISION LICENSE AGREEMENT" and "LOCAL STATION PER PROGRAM TELEVISION LICENSE AGREEMENT"). The parties' agreement ends the pending Rate Court litigation and provides coverage for all broadcasts by local stations, including both primary channel broadcasts and those made on secondary digital channels, and for all audio-visual content streamed on station-affiliated websites, or delivered as part of programming supplied by stations via mobile, wireless and any other digital platforms, so long as each entity involved in the transmission or retransmission of such programming other than the licensed station has an economic relationship to the licensed station.

    The new agreements are being provided to all eligible stations that are either represented by the TMLC or have agreed to be bound by the terms of the ASCAP/TMLC agreement. The principal features of the new license agreement are set forth below, with links to the new license agreement and Judge Cote's Final Order.

  • An industry-wide flat dollar annual fee has been negotiated between ASCAP and the Television Music License Committee ("TMLC"), which is made up of representatives from local television stations. The industrywide blanket fees for the period 2012 to 2016 agreed to with the TMLC are as follows: $91.5 million for each year 2012 to 2014, and $92.0 million for 2015 and 2016.The industrywide fee is then allocated among individual stations, in accordance with a methodology devised by the Committee (and approved by a federal court) to produce each station's annual blanket license fee.

    There are two steps to the TMLC's allocation formula. First, the industrywide fee is divided among all the television or "ADI " (Areas of Dominant Influence) markets across the country. For example, Omaha is a market; Dallas-Fort Worth is a market. The share of the total for each market is weighted according to size. The Dallas-Fort Worth market is weighted higher than Omaha, for instance, because Dallas-Fort Worth has more viewers. The result is that total fees paid by all of the stations in the Dallas market are greater than total fees paid by all of the stations in the Omaha market.

    Once the total fee for a market has been calculated, it is allocated to the individual stations in that market. This allocation is based on verified household ratings: i.e., how many people watch each station. A highly rated station in a market will therefore pay a greater fee than a station with a low rating. And, overall, a highly rated station in a large market will have a higher blanket fee than a highly rated station in a small market.

  • All stations electing the Per Program license use their allocated blanket fee as a part of the calculation of their monthly Per Program fee. Each per program licensee must report electronically the music content and the advertising revenue associated with each of its local and syndicated programs on a monthly basis. The station's monthly per program fee is determined in part by the usage of ASCAP music in those programs and the amount of revenue generated by those programs for the station. The per program fee also includes an "incidental use" component. For the license term commencing January 1, 2012, per program license fees will be determined by application of a multiplier of 1.45 to a station's revenue subject to fee.

  • Eligible stations can switch license types twice in a calendar year, so the numbers vary from month to month.

  • None. Stations operating under the blanket license do not have to submit reports to ASCAP in order to determine their fee because the fee is not based upon actual usage of ASCAP music.

  • Call an ASCAP broadcast licensing representative toll free at 1-800-99-ASCAP. We will be happy to explain in greater detail the options available to you. Each station should choose the license most advantageous for its needs.

  • ASCAP and the TMLC have also agreed that beginning in 2015, commercial local television stations will be able to opt for an "adjustable fee blanket license." The AFBL will adjust a station's blanket license fee to reflect the extent to which a station licenses ASCAP works either directly with the publisher and/or composer, or through a source license negotiated with the program producer. ASCAP and the TMLC will be negotiating the terms and conditions of the AFBL, the details of which will be provided once agreement is reached.

Frequently Asked Questions (Radio)

  • - Access to every variety of music you need to attract and entertain your viewers.
    - The immediate right to perform great new music written or published by our members.
    - Access to perform music in the repertories of similar foreign performing rights organizations in nearly every country around the world where copyright law exists.
    - The right to perform music in commercials and jingles.
    - An indemnity if a claim for infringement is made against you, your staff or your advertisers based on the performance of our member's works.

  • The ASCAP radio license does not provide the right to authorize retransmissions of broadcasts of ASCAP music over loudspeakers in stores, restaurants or other locations open to the public, or by means of music-on-hold systems.

    The ASCAP license does not provide the right to record copyrighted music, or change the lyric of a copyrighted work and use it in a commercial jingle or station promotion. These are known as "mechanical" or "recording" and "synchronization" rights and you should deal directly with the copyright owners for permission to record music or change a song. You may also want to contact the Harry Fox Agency at (212) 834-0100.

  • ASCAP's license fees for radio are the product of negotiations between ASCAP and prominent radio broadcasters, principally members of an industry-wide committee, the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC). All of the RMLC members are broadcasters, and represent the entire spectrum of the radio industry. While a court is available to determine fees if necessary, over the years ASCAP and the committee have always been able to agree on license fees and terms.

  • ASCAP and the current RMLC-negotiated license agreements cover the period January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2016.

    ASCAP and the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) have concluded negotiations on a new industry-wide license agreement ("2010 Radio Station License Agreement") that covers the period January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2016. This Agreement was also approved by the ASCAP Rate Court on Friday, January 27, 2012. The Agreement, which has ended the previous federal Rate Court litigation, provides for a return to a revenue-based fee structure, and expanded coverage to accommodate the radio industry's evolving distribution platforms: Internet websites, smart phones, and other wireless devices ("new media uses"), and HD/Multicasting radio channels.

    The agreement provides that interim fees paid during 2010 and 2011 are now final, subject to $75 million in credits attributable to those years. These credits will be allocated to stations in annual $15 million installments from 2012 through 2016. For the years 2012 through 2016, stations electing to operate under a blanket license will pay 1.7% of gross revenue less a standard deduction of 12% for terrestrial analog and HD/multicasting broadcasts and a 25% standard deduction for new media uses. Stations operating under a per program, or "program period," license and that have no performances of feature ASCAP music will pay a fee of 0.2958% of gross revenue less the same standard deductions. Supplemental fees for program-period stations will be consistent with those required under the 2004-2009 license agreement.

  • Your annual license fee reports must be submitted electronically and ASCAP and the RMLC are working together to provide stations with a simple method of reporting that will be available to all licensed stations in 2013.

Frequently Asked Questions (Web & Mobile)

  • Send your completed license form via email to

  • The United States Copyright Law grants owners of copyrighted musical works — in our case, ASCAP's individual members — the exclusive right to perform such works publicly. This means that the public performance of such works by others requires authorization from the copyright owners or their licensing representative such as ASCAP. To perform a work "publicly" means, among other things, to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance of the work to the public. This includes Internet or wireless transmissions of music. Just as you pay for use of other forms of property, you must also pay for the use of musical property owned by the more than 565,000 songwriter, composer and publisher members of ASCAP. Our members have authorized ASCAP to license their copyrighted musical works on their behalf. ASCAP also represents and collects license fees on behalf of the members of many affiliated foreign performing rights organizations.

  • In addition to Internet and wireless services, ASCAP licenses hundreds of thousands of other music users. They include television networks, local television and radio stations, cable network and systems, restaurants and dance clubs, hotels and retail stores, background music services, concert promoters, and many others. Music users may also obtain licenses directly from each copyright owner whose works they wish to perform.

  • The ASCAP repertory contains music of every form and style including rock, pop, country, gospel, Broadway show music, film and television music, jazz, Latin, big band, soul, symphony and concert music. If you want to know if a particular work is in the ASCAP repertory (identified by title, and the name of the writer, publisher or well-known recording artist), you may access our extensive, online database of performed ASCAP works, ASCAP Clearance Express (“ACE”), at

  • An ASCAP license authorizes a licensee to perform any and all of the musical works in the ASCAP repertory by means of transmissions by the licensed service. This authorization extends to transmissions of any file format, such as .rm, .mov, or one of the various streaming technologies currently available.

  • First, determine which type of ASCAP license your service requires. If your service is "non-interactive" -- that is, if it does not allow users to select the transmission of particular musical compositions - the appropriate license is our Non-Interactive 5.1 license. If it is "interactive"-- it allows users to select particular musical compositions - the appropriate license is our Interactive 2.1 license . Both of these licenses are available in PDF format on our New Media Licensing Page. Completed copies of the license agreement should be submitted to:

    New Media & Technology
    1900 Broadway
    New York, NY 10023

  • An ASCAP New Media license authorizes the public performance of music in the ASCAP repertory by means of transmission from the license service. It does not authorize the reproduction and/or distribution of the underlying musical compositions, or the performance, reproduction, and/or distribution of sound recordings. These rights require separate authorization from their respective copyright owners or licensing representatives. For example, to obtain a mechanical license for the reproduction and distribution of musical compositions, please contact the Harry Fox Agency, Inc. To obtain authorization to exploit rights associated with sound recordings, please contact SoundExchange Inc. or the record company associated with each particular recording.

  • The copyright owners of sound recordings have new rights set forth in the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. These laws establish explicit rights with respect to digital uses of sound recordings. ASCAP does not license the digital performance of sound recordings (“DPRS”). For more information about DPSR, we recommend you consult an attorney and/or the Recording Industry Association of America ("RIAA").

  • If you have additional questions concerning ASCAP New Media licensing, or your responsibilities under the United States Copyright Law for the performances of musical works by way of an Internet or Wireless service, please contact us here or call 1-800-505-4052.

  • Please see "LICENSE FEE CALCULATION" for an introduction to calculating an ASCAP license fee and selecting the Rate Schedule that is best for your service. Provided you have the necessary data, you may use the RateCalc© to calculate a license fee using each of the three Rate Schedules available with most of our form license agreements.

  • Please provide a good faith estimate for each of the figures and data points requested by your choice of Rate Schedule. With the exception of a projection of $0.00 of Service Revenue (and other revenue-based metrics), zeros and blanks are deemed incomplete and unacceptable.

  • All income generated by your service except that which is attributable to the sale of physical goods qualifies as "Revenue" (as defined by the Non-Interactive 5.1 and the Interactive 2.1 license agreements). Common sources of Service Revenue include income from advertising and/or sponsorships, and subscription fees.

  • If your service does not generate any income, you may enter "$0.00" on applicable lines of the Rate Schedule.

  • No. Hits are generally considered "clicks" on individual sections or pages within a service. Service Sessions, alternatively, are more analogous to "unique visits" in one-hour increments. For example, if a user visits your service and accesses five pages over the course of 30 minutes before departing, he/she has generated one Service Session (and multiple "hits"). If the user returns to your service for a second visit in the same day, this time accessing 25 pages over the course of one and a half hours, he/she has generated two additional Service Sessions.

  • No. Similar to the difference between hits and Service Sessions, if a user listens to any one or more songs or portions of a song during any individual Session, it is deemed to be a "Music Session." In other words, a Service Session becomes a "Music Session" if any performance of music is transmitted throughout its duration.

  • ASCAP does not grant licenses on a per-song basis. Instead, ASCAP offers blanket licenses that authorize the performance of any or all of the millions of copyrighted musical works in the ASCAP repertory. If you intend to make available one or a small number of songs, you may wish to contact each of the copyright owners (most typically the publisher) for each of the songs you would like to use to request a license. To help you identify copyright owners, ASCAP offers the ACE Title Search tool with which you may search for ASCAP song information.

  • Many licensees submit their initial license fee payment along with their agreement. Licensees may also wait until they receive an invoice from ASCAP.

  • We accept checks, money orders and credit cards. If you wish to make an electronic payment via credit card or eCheck, please go to For payments via wire transfers, please email

  • Yes. You can access your account at your convenience at Once a licensee, you will be assigned an account number and a temporary password. When logged on to your account, you can view your account history, print invoices and make your license fee payments.

  • Pursuant to section 9(b) of our agreement, licensees are required to submit Annual License Fee Reports. These reports confirm your actual license fee for each year in which they are submitted and establish an estimated license fee for future periods. If we do not receive an Annual License Fee Report, section 9(d) provides for a Late Report Payment equal to your estimated license fee plus twenty-four percent (24%). Late Report Payments are reversible upon timely receipt of outstanding reports.

  • You can submit a report by any of the following ways:

    Online Account:

    Postal mail:
    Attn: ASCAP New Media & Technology
    PO Box 331608-7515
    Nashville, TN 37203

    Email (as an attachment):

    Fax: 615-691-7122

    Blank report forms can be found at the following URL:

  • You can retrieve this information from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

  • By April following each calendar year (or any portion thereof) during the term of the agreement.

  • Reports listing the musical compositions contained in your Transmissions for a particular calendar quarter.

  • Only upon a written request from ASCAP. Such requests include Music Use Report formats and instructions.

  • Attn: ASCAP New Media & Technology
    PO Box 331608-7515
    Nashville, TN 37203

  • Log on to your online account via the following URL:

  • Your licensing fees are determined using information contained in your Initial and Annual License Fee Reports. For each calendar year during the term of the agreement, the actual license fee also serves as your estimated license fee for the subsequent year until its conclusion and our receipt of an applicable Annual License Fee Report.

  • If you have removed all ASCAP licensed music from your transmissions and would like to terminate your agreement, contact us, at least, 30 days prior to the end of that calendar year. You can send an inquiry requesting to terminate the agreement through our "contact form." Within the form please include the following information:

    - The reason for terminating the agreement
    - Your account number

Read more about why ASCAP licenses bars, restaurants and music venues

Licensing Terms Defined

  • ADI or Area of Dominant Influence is the geographic area or market reached by a radio or television station. It is used by advertisers and rating companies to determine the potential audience of a station.

  • "Blanket license" is a license which allows the music user to perform any or all of over 8.5 million songs in the ASCAP repertory as much or as little as they like. Licensees pay an annual fee for the license. The blanket license saves music users the paperwork, trouble and expense of finding and negotiating licenses with all of the copyright owners of the works that might be used during a year and helps prevent the user from even inadvertently infringing on the copyrights of ASCAP's members and the many foreign writers whose music is licensed by ASCAP in the U.S. [see also Per Program License]

  • ASCAP members grant to ASCAP only the right to license nondramatic performances of the members' copyrighted musical works. Thus, an ASCAP license does not authorize dramatic performances of our members' works. “Dramatic”(often referred to as "grand") rights in musical works are licensed by the composer or publisher, or other licensing agent for the work. Traditionally, in dramatic works, the main motivation is the telling of a story and the music serves to enhance the drama. This was thought to increase the economic value of the music, leading the rightsholders of the music to conclude that they could derive greater benefit if they controlled the licensing of the works themselves.

    Copyright law does not define the terms "dramatic" or "nondramatic." As a result, rightsholders, music users and occasionally the federal courts must attempt to draw the line between "dramatic" and "nondramatic"performances. That line is often unclear and depends on the facts pertaining to a particular performance. As a general rule a dramatic performance usually involves using the work to tell a story or as part of a story or plot. Thus, when songs are employed as part of a dramatic production -- a Broadway musical such as "Jersey Boys" or in a ballet such as Twyla Tharp's "Nine Sinatra Songs," for example -- the performances of the music are dramatic and are beyond the scope of an ASCAP license.

    Other examples of dramatic performances include the following:

    -- performance of an entire (or substantially complete) "dramatico-musical work" that includes songs written for that work. For example, a performance of the musical play "Oklahoma" would be a dramatic performance, as would a performance of all or substantially all of the songs written for the play. This includes both staged performances and broadcasts of the work, whether audio-visual or audio-only (as by playing all or a substantial part of an original cast album over radio). The term "dramatico-musical work" includes, but is not limited to, a musical comedy, opera, play with music, revue or ballet.

    -- performance of one or more musical compositions from a "dramatico-musical work" accompanied by dialogue, pantomime, dance, stage action, or visual representation of the work from which the music is taken. For example, a performance of the song "People Will Say We're In Love" from "Oklahoma" with costumes, sets,stage action or dialogue from the show would also be a dramatic performance.

    -- performance of one or more musical compositions, whether or not such composition (or compositions) is (or are) from a "dramatico-musical work," as part of a story or plot, whether accompanied or unaccompanied by dialogue, pantomime, dance, stage action or visual representation. For example, incorporating a live or recorded performance of "People Will Say We're In Love" into a story or plot -- even though the story or plot is unrelated to "Oklahoma" -- would result in a dramatic performance of the song. Similarly, incorporating a live or recorded performance of "Eleanor Rigby" into a story or plot -- even though the composition was not originally written for a musical play -- would also result in a dramatic performance of the song.

    -- performance of a concert version of a "dramatico-musical work." For example, a performance of all of the songs written for "Oklahoma" even without costumes, sets, props or dialoguefrom the musical play would be a dramatic performance of the songs.

    * * *

    The "nondramatic" public performances of musical compositions that ASCAP licenses on behalf of its members include, for example, recordings of songs that are broadcast on radio (other than an entire -- or substantially complete -- recording of a dramatico-musical work), songs or background music performed as part of a movie or other television program, or live or recorded performances of musical compositions in a bar, restaurant, hotel, store or other place open to the public.

    Additional examples of "nondramatic" and "dramatic" performances include:

    -- in the course of a cabaret show, revue, or a concert with a band or orchestra, presented without costumes, sets, props, stage action, or dialogue, a singer sings songs from several Broadway musical plays, a medley of songs from one particular play, or a medley of unrelated songs: nondramatic performances of the songs. Note, however, that if a medley alters the original songs or includes material in addition to the original songs, the creation of such a medley is likely to require the permission of the rightsholder(s) of the songs to be used in the medley and without such permission, may not be covered by an ASCAP license.

    -- a stage presentation -- at one of the Las Vegas hotels, for example -- in which performances of medleys of three songs from several different Broadway shows are given accompanied by costumes and props resembling those of the original Broadway productions, with perhaps some dialogue as well: dramatic performances of the songs.

    -- a stage presentation that features the songs of a single songwriter or songwriting team: likely a dramatic performance (at least one court has characterized such performances as an example of the exercise of a kind of grand right, called the "cavalcade right," requiring the permission of the owners of the copyrights in the songs being performed).

    -- a dance company presents a ballet set to songs by Billy Joel: dramatic performance.

    -- an orchestra performs Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" ballet music in concert: non-dramatic performance.

    * * *

    Whenever there is doubt as to whether specific performances of musical works might be considered to be dramatic or nondramatic, ASCAP encourages the music user to contact the rightsholders directly to get their view. If the rightsholders are of the view that the performances are dramatic, they will decide whether or not to license the performances directly (or at all). In some instances, ASCAP's members may wish to license the performances directly even if they are not clearly dramatic performances. The rights ASCAP obtains from its members are nonexclusive, so that members retain the right to license directly performances of their works whether or not they are dramatic in nature. Information as to the rightsholders of works in the ASCAP repertory can be obtained from the ASCAP website, (click on the "ACE / Repertory" button) or by telephone, (800) 952-7227.

  • A mechanical right is the right to record and distribute (without visual images) a song on a phonorecord for private use. Mechanical rights or a mechanical license must be obtained in order to lawfully make and distribute records, CD's and tapes. Recording rights for most music publishers can be obtained from

    The Harry Fox Agency
    205 East 42nd Street
    New York, New York 10017

  • A "per program" license is similar to the blanket license in that it authorizes a radio or television broadcaster to use all the works in the ASCAP repertory. However, the license is designed to cover use of ASCAP music in a specific radio or television programs, requiring that the user keep track of all music used. Also, the user must be certain to obtain rights for all the music used in programs not covered by the license.

  • A public performance is one that occurs "in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered." A public performance also occurs when the performance is transmitted by means of any device or process (for example, via broadcast, telephone wire, or other means) to the public. In order to perform a copyrighted work publicly, the user must obtain performance rights from the copyright owner or his representative.

  • A record label (or record company) makes, distributes and markets sound recordings (CD's, tapes, etc.) Record labels obtain from music publishers the right to record and distribute songs and in turn pay license fees for the recordings.

  • A transmission of a performance is one that is sent by any device or process (for example, radio, TV, cable, satellite, telephone) and received in a different place. A retransmission is a further transmission of that performance to yet another place.

  • A sound recording refers to the copyright in a recording as distinguished from the copyright in a song. The copyright in the song encompasses the words and music and is owned by the songwriter or music publisher. The sound recording is the result of recording music, words or other sounds onto a tape, record, CD, etc. The copyright encompasses what you hear: the artist singing, the musicians playing, the entire production). The sound recording copyright is owned by the record label. The copyright in the musical work itself is owned by the music publisher, which grants the record label a "mechanical" license to record and distribute the song as part of the record.

  • A synchronization or "synch" right involves the use of a recording of musical work in audio-visual form: for example as part of a motion picture, television program, commercial announcement, music video or other videotape. Often, the music is "synchronized" or recorded in timed relation with the visual images. Synchronization rights are licensed by the music publisher to the producer of the movie or program.