Do I need an ASCAP license?
ASCAP licenses the public performances of its members' musical works. A public performance is one that occurs either in a public place where people gather (other than a small circle of a family or social acquaintances). A public performance is also one that is transmitted to the public, for example, radio or TV broadcasts, and via the Internet.
ASCAP's customer licensees include: Airlines, Amusement Parks, Bars, Restaurants & Nightclubs, Colleges & Universities, Concert Presenters, Music Venues & Clubs, Convention & Trade Shows, Fitness Clubs, Hotels, Local Government Entities, Radio & Television Stations and Networks, Mobile Entertainment, Websites, Retail Stores and music users in a wide variety of other industries. See the complete list of ASCAP license types on this website. There are over 100 different ASCAP rate schedules covering almost all businesses that perform music.
ASCAP does not license "dramatic" or "grand" rights, or dramatic performances. ASCAP members who write musical plays, operas, or ballet scores deal directly with those who want to perform our members' works "dramatically." While ASCAP does not license "dramatic" or "grand" rights, or dramatic performances of its members' music, an ASCAP license does authorize nondramatic performances of songs from dramatic productions. For more information on "dramatic" or "grand" rights and the distinction between dramatic and nondramatic performances, click here.
ASCAP does not license the right to record music on a CD, tape, or as part of an audio-visual work such as a motion picture, video or TV program. Those rights, known as mechanical and synchronization ("synch") rights, are licensed by writers or publishers.
ASCAP does not license the right to print copies of musical works nor does it license rights to make adaptations or arrangements.
ASCAP does not license rights for recording artists, musicians, singers or record labels. However, artists/musicians who are songwriters can become ASCAP members. ASCAP licenses the performance rights for the music of its members.
Why should I pay for playing music in public?
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
What is a public performance?
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.
Do I need an ASCAP music license if I'm streaming my performances through a third-party, such as YouTube, Facebook or Instagram?
Fortunately, most popular live-streaming platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram Live, Soundcloud and Twitch are licensed by ASCAP. If individual performers, ensembles and venues only use a licensed platform to stream their content, no other ASCAP licensing is necessary for that streaming activity.
If performers, ensembles or venues wish to stream their content through their own digital platform, ASCAP offers a simple, click-thru license that suits most needs: https://licensing.ascap.com/?type=digital.
What does the ASCAP license do?
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 millions of works in the ASCAP 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.
I bought the record or sheet music. Why do I need permission to perform the music?
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.
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).
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
Where does the money go?
Quite simply, to our members. All the fees we collect are distributed as royalties, after deducting operating expenses (currently 11.3%).
What songs are in the ASCAP repertory and who are your members?
Check out ACE (ASCAP Clearance Express)
, ASCAP's searchable database of performed works, along with writer, publisher and recording artist information.
I'm interested in playing music in my restaurant or other business. I know that I need permission for live performances. Do I need permission if I am using only CD's, records, tapes, radio or TV?
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.
How much will it cost to obtain an ASCAP license to perform music?
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.
I want to use music-on-hold in my business. Do I need permission?
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.
Do I need permission to perform music as part of a presentation in class or at a training seminar?
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.
Aren't musicians, entertainers and DJ's responsible for obtaining permission for music they perform?
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.
How do I obtain a license for a Jukebox?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
2 Music Square W
Nashville, TN 37203
How do I know what songs are represented by ASCAP?
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
What are the exemptions for the reception of radio and television performances in eating and drinking establishments and retail establishments?
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.
Is permission required to use music at a political campaign event?
There are a number of issues surrounding the use of music as part of political campaigns. ASCAP has put together this list of Q&As
to help you navigate your way to campaign success through the proper use of music.
Why does an Internet or digital wireless site or service need an ASCAP license?
The U.S. copyright law requires those that publicly perform copyrighted music -- including websites and other digital services that transmit music to the public -- to first obtain a license from the copyright owners of the songs performed. Just as you need permission to use other forms of property, you must also receive permission to use the musical property owned by the more than 550,000 songwriter, composer and publisher members of ASCAP. While you may receive permission directly from each copyright owner, ASCAP’s members have authorized ASCAP to license their musical works on their behalf. A single ASCAP license thereby gives you the legal right to perform through your site or digital service the entire ASCAP repertory.
What benefits does an ASCAP license provide?
A single ASCAP license provides your Internet site or digital wireless service public performance rights to the entire ASCAP repertory of songs from its more than 550,000 members, eliminating the need to obtain separate performance licenses from each individual copyright owner. An ASCAP license also gives you the right to perform on your site or service the repertories of nearly 100 affiliated foreign performing rights organizations from around the world.
Who else is licensed by ASCAP?
ASCAP licenses public performances of its musical works repertory made by dozens of different types of businesses including radio stations, television stations and networks, concert promoters, restaurants and dance clubs, hotels, retail stores and background music services.
What kind of music does ASCAP license?
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 ACE, ASCAP’s extensive, online database of ASCAP works, at www.ascap.com/ACE
What does an ASCAP New Media license cover?
An ASCAP license authorizes the public performance of the entire ASCAP repertory and the repertories of over 90 foreign societies from around the world by means of Internet and wireless digital transmissions.
Is an ASCAP license all I need to use music lawfully on my website, podcast or digital service?
An ASCAP New Media license does not authorize the public performance of the repertories of other U.S. performing rights societies (such as SESAC or BMI or GMR). Nor does it authorize the reproduction and/or distribution of musical works; and/or the performance, reproduction and/or distribution of sound recordings. Each of these uses requires separate authorizations from the respective copyright owners or licensing representative. For example, to obtain a mechanical or synchronization license for the reproduction and/or distribution of musical compositions, please contact the appropriate music publishers and/or the Harry Fox Agency. To obtain authorization to perform or reproduce sound recordings, please contact SoundExchange or the record company associated with each particular recording.
What is the "digital performance of a sound recording?" Does ASCAP license that as well?
Sound recordings and their underlying songs are each protected by separate copyrights. In 1995, U.S. law provided copyright owners of sound recordings, for the first time, with their own separate public performance right, limited to performances made in the course of digital transmissions such as streaming by Internet sites and services and transmissions by digital radio services. ASCAP does not license digital public performances of sound recordings; ASCAP only licenses the public performances of the underlying song or composition. For more information regarding licensing of sound recordings please consult an attorney and/or the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
What if I intend to make only one song available? Does ASCAP offer song-by-song licensing?
ASCAP does not grant licenses to perform individual songs in its repertory. Rather, ASCAP offers blanket licenses that authorize the public performance of the entire ASCAP repertory. If you seek authorization to perform publicly a specific song or group of songs, please contact each of the music publisher(s) for each song. Please utilize the ACE database tool for ASCAP song information assistance.
Does ASCAP license digital sites or services that are located outside the U.S?
ASCAP licenses the public performance of ASCAP works occurring within the United States, its territories, dependencies, possessions and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (“ASCAP Territory”). If your service is located and performing music elsewhere, please contact the performing rights organization in the relevant territory(ies) to obtain the necessary licensing. If your service is located outside of the ASCAP Territory but you believe you are performing within the ASCAP Territory, for example, by streaming through servers or having headquarters located in ASCAP Territory, please contact ASCAP by sending an email to email@example.com
Do I need an ASCAP license if I stream content containing ASCAP music via a third-party media player, such as a YouTube or Soundcloud?
Public performances of ASCAP music via most third-party players are licensed through arrangements between the third parties and ASCAP and, therefore, sites or services utilizing such players do not require additional licensing by ASCAP. If you are unsure whether the player you use is already licensed by ASCAP and/or if your site or service is performing ASCAP music through other means, please contact ASCAP by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Do I need an ASCAP license if I stream through Streamlicensing?
If you are a Streamlicensing customer, your internet only radio station requires an ASCAP license.
Do I need an ASCAP license if my site or service includes a link to another site or service that uses ASCAP music?
Generally, no. ASCAP will license the site or service to which your site or service links. If, however, you are unsure whether you need a license, please contact ASCAP by sending an email to email@example.com
I operate a low-power FM radio station and would like to stream the station online as well. Do I need a separate license for the stream?
How do I obtain an ASCAP license?
Please click here
to obtain an ASCAP license.
Do I need an ASCAP license before I launch my service? What happens if I launch my service before obtaining an ASCAP license?
Performing copyrighted music without the proper licensing in place may amount to copyright infringement. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that you obtain all necessary licenses prior to the launch of a site or digital service utilizing copyrighted music.
What information do I require in order to obtain an ASCAP license?
You should be aware of your site or service’s annual revenue (if any) and usage. Usage metrics include (1) unique engagement sessions; (2) total content streaming time and (3) total song streams. Basic website statistics may be available to you at no cost via third-party measurement tools, such as Google Analytics.
There has been a change of ownership with my service. Who do I notify?
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
and an ASCAP New Media Licensing representative will contact you with further information.
Who do I contact if my question(s) are not answered here?
If you have additional questions concerning ASCAP New Media licensing, or your responsibilities under the U.S. copyright law for the use of music by way of an Internet or digital wireless service, please contact ASCAP by utilizing the chat feature at www.ascap.com, emailing email@example.com
or calling (800) 505-4052.
I know I need an ASCAP license, however, my site or service is new and I do not know how much revenue and/or sessions my site or service will generate. How do I complete the license application?
If actual data is not available in response to requested information, please provide a good faith estimate. All fields on an ASCAP license application and license fee report must be completed.
What income qualifies as "Service Revenue?"
All revenue connected with your entire site or service, such as the amounts and value of consideration received from advertising, sponsorships, affiliation and similar programs; placement and similar fees; e-commerce and other sales revenue; and access or membership charges or subscription fees.
What income qualifies as Music Revenue, and how does that differ from Service Revenue?
Music Revenue includes all revenues connected to only that portion of your site or service that provides performances of music. Include all amounts and value of consideration received from advertising, sponsorships, affiliation and similar programs; placement and similar fees; e-commerce and other sales revenue; and access or membership charges or subscription fees.
Can I take deductions in calculating my Revenue?
Yes, you may deduct actual and verifiable third party advertising agency commissions for the sale of advertising or sponsorships in amount no more than 10% of the advertising and sponsorship revenue. You may also deduct payable taxes.
What if my service has no advertising, subscription fees or income of any kind?
If your service does not generate any income, enter "$0.00" in the applicable revenue space on the license application and on the applicable revenue lines of any license fee reports.
What is a Session? Is it the same as a "hit?"
A Session is a single, continuous period of access to the site or service by a user, regardless of the length of such period. You may report your Sessions using third-party metrics such as that available through Google Analytics.
How do I calculate Total Streaming Hours?
Add the total minutes of music performance minutes and divide that result by 60, and round to the nearest whole number.
I operate more than one unique site or service that streams ASCAP music. May I license all of my sites and services through a single ASCAP license?
Generally you must obtain a separate ASCAP license for each individual site or service. If you wish to explore obtaining a single license that covers multiple sites or services, please contact ASCAP at firstname.lastname@example.org
When are license fee payments due?
License fees for the initial term (first 12 months) of an ASCAP license agreement are due upon completion and submission of the license application. License fee payments for subsequent annual terms are due upon the each annual anniversary of the agreement and can be remitted through your My ASCAP License account, accessible at www.ascap.com/mylicense
. Your My ASCAP License account also provides you with the ability to view and print invoices, make changes to your address or contact information and set email preferences.
Are License Fees prorated for the current calendar year?
No. ASCAP license agreements operate on an annual contract year, calculated at 12 months from the date you enter into the ASCAP license (sometimes known as the “effective date”).
What forms of payment do you accept when entering into an ASCAP License through ASCAP.com?
You may only use a credit card to pay the initial term license fees when entering an ASCAP license. However, subsequent payments may be remitted by credit card, debit paper or electronic check, money order or wire transfer.
How do I access a My ASCAP License Account?
Once you have entered into an ASCAP license, you will receive by email instructions on how to register for a unique My ASCAP License account.
Can I access my account online?
Can I submit a license application without paying the initial license fees and have ASCAP bill me later?
No. ASCAP will not accept your license application without receiving your credit card payment at the time you submit your application.
Once I submit to ASCAP my license application and initial payment at ASCAP.com, am I fully licensed?
Within 5-7 business days of your submission of your application and initial fee, ASCAP will send you an email confirming that your license application and fee have been accepted. Please keep that email and the PDF copy of the license agreement that will be attached to the email as record confirmation that your site or service has been successfully licensed by ASCAP.
Where can I access a copy of my license?
If your license application was accepted successfully, a PDF copy of your license agreement will have been automatically provided to you via email within 5-7 business days after your submission of the license application.
What is an Annual Fee Report?
An Annual Fee Report is the means by which you calculate and inform ASCAP of your annual license fees due to ASCAP. You may access your Annual Fee Report at www.ascap.com/mylicense
How do I submit the Annual Fee Report?
How do I determine the number of Sessions I had for the previous year when completing my Annual Fee Report?
You may obtain this information from your site or service’s Internet service provider (ISP) and/or from one of many website analytics tools, such as Google Analytics.
When are License Fee Reports due?
For license agreements requiring annual reporting, reports are due within 45 days after the annual renewal of the license agreement. Reports are available at and must submitted through your My ASCAP License account at www.ascap.com/mylicense
What are Music Use Reports?
Music Use Reports are reports you submit to ASCAP of your site or service’s music usage.
What goes into my Music Use Report?
You will include on your Music Use Report information associated with each of the musical compositions streamed by your site or service during the report period.
Do I need to submit a Music Use Report?
Many ASCAP licenses do not require submission of a Music Use Report. Please consult Schedule A of your license agreement to determine your reporting requirements. If you are required to submit a Music Use Report, ASCAP will notify and instruct you via email of your specific reporting instructions.
Where can I find Music Use Report templates?
ASCAP will email you the appropriate template with instructions on how to complete the report.
How do I submit Music Use Reports?
Please consult the Music Use Reporting instructions provided to you by ASCAP via email.
How do I know what my account balance is?
You can check your account balance by logging in anytime to your My ASCAP License user account at www.ascap.com/mylicense
How do I know what reports I have due?
You can check what reports are due by logging in anytime to your My ASCAP License user account at www.ascap.com/mylicense
I am not required to submit Annual Fee Reports, but my Service Revenue and/or Sessions have changed beyond the threshold under which I currently qualify. How do I notify ASCAP so that my license and fee can be adjusted accordingly?
If your site or service has changed requiring license adjustments, please contact ASCAP at email@example.com
My service has already launched prior to my contacting ASCAP for a license. Can I retroactively license my site or service and backdate my license to cover the earlier periods?
Your license cannot be backdated and will be effective only from the date you submit your license application and remit your license fee. If you wish to obtain license coverage for performances occurring prior to purchasing your license please email ASCAP at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want an ASCAP license, but do not have a URL for my service because it operates only as a mobile app or a smart TV channel/app or because I have not yet secured the URL for my website. How do I complete the URL section on the license application?
License agreements for mobile or smart TV applications do not require you to enter a URL. If you desire a license for a website but do not yet have a URL, please return to ASCAP.com for a license once you have obtained a URL to enter onto the application.
How do I terminate my agreement with ASCAP?
To terminate your ASCAP license agreement, please send an email to email@example.com
and an ASCAP representative will contact you.
I still have an older Interactive or Non-Interactive ASCAP new media license. How do I convert to a new license?
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
, include your account number, and request for ASCAP to convert your license. An ASCAP New Media Licensing representative will contact you with next steps.
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.
A "blanket license" is a license which allows the music user to perform any or all of the millions of works 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 inadvertently infringing on the copyrights of ASCAP's members and the many foreign writers whose music is licensed by ASCAP in the US. [see also Per Program License]
Dramatic (or "Grand") and Nondramatic Performances/Rights
ASCAP members grant to ASCAP only the right to license nondramatic performances of their 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 performance -- 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:
- Performance of an entire (or substantially complete) “dramatico-musical work” that includes songs written for that work. For example, a performance of the musical 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 dialogue from the musical would constitute 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:
- Nondramatic: In the course of a cabaret show, revue or concert with a band or orchestra, presented without costumes, sets, props, stage action, or dialogue, a singer sings songs from several Broadway musicals, a medley of songs from one particular play, or a medley of unrelated 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.
- Nondramatic: An orchestra performs Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet music in concert.
- Dramatic: A stage presentation — at a Las Vegas hotel, 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: A dance company presents a ballet set to songs by Billy Joel.
- Likely dramatic: A stage presentation that features the songs of a single songwriter or songwriting team (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).
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 ACE database: www.ascap.com/ace
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, CDs 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
Per Program License
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 program, 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.
Public Performance or Performance Rights
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 (CDs, MP3s, 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(s) or music publisher(s). The sound recording is the result of recording music, words or other sounds onto a CD, MP3, vinyl record, etc. The copyright encompasses what you hear: the artist singing, the musicians playing, the entire production). The sound recording copyright is owned by the owner of the master recording, typically a 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.
Synchronization (or "Synch") Rights
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, music video or commercial announcement. 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.