...but if you use it at your event, you must have permission.
I started playing music for a living as a teenager. We recorded, performed and occasionally wrote music that we would play in clubs all over the eastern United States. After the band, I joined our booking agency, representing acts for colleges, one-nighters and night clubs. I produced my first concert nearly 40 years ago, at Roger Williams College. It featured Lou Reed, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes and others. Over time, I transitioned to corporate entertainment, representing clients instead of acts, and for the last 18 years our company, EventGenuity has offered event and meeting management to our portfolio. My experience in the music business led to an understanding of the creative process, and how artists are paid for their work.
Whether used during general sessions to support the overarching message or meeting theme, in breakouts as entry music, in PowerPoint and video presentations, at networking events or simply as background, music is everywhere at events. However, the need to have proper permission to use copyrighted music is rarely understood.
At trade shows, music can be heard on many stands, as background music or part of video presentations. Meeting planners may not think twice about playing a CD, connecting their iPhone or streaming from sources such as Spotify or Pandora at such events. What they may not be aware of is that playing copyrighted music in this setting may subject them to liability under copyright law.
Not every musical performance requires a license fee. Playing a CD, a digital download or streaming music you purchased in your car, listening to it in the privacy of your home, or with a small circle of friends and family obviously does not require a copyright fee to be paid. Yet, using that same music at a meeting or event will be likely to require a license fee.
Licences must be obtained through performing rights organisations (PRO) such as the American Society of Composers, Artists & Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) in the US, PRS for music in the UK or GEMA in Germany. Most countries have their own PRO and this page [SJ1] lists the PRO for 150 countries: www.prsformusic.com/affiliated-societies
In most cases a ’blanket‘ license can be purchased, which allows you to use any song in the PRO’s catalogue at a relatively affordable price. The chance of getting caught if you don’t license is slim, however the penalty can be huge – up to $750 per song, plus attorney and court fees.
All the music you hear was written by someone, arranged by someone and performed by someone. These artists make their money by selling copies of the music and by licensing others to perform or play the music. Music is like all personal property; when you want to borrow it from someone, you must ask permission. All public performances, even most non‐profit ones, must be licensed.
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I am interested in learning how and if this issue impacts the meetings and events industry in other parts of the word. If you have interest in or knowledge of this topic, I welcome your input and collaboration.
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