Media Producers of all kinds ask us about this issue a lot, because it’s a subject that can easily lead to confusion. Let’s try to explain what “Performance Rights” are all about, and what you as a Media Producer need to know about them and using royalty free music:
The “Performance Right” is the right of a composer to control how their music is performed in public. Whenever music is played (“Performed”) to the general public, the composer has to give their permission. To facilitate this every country has a national Performance Rights Organisation (PRO), such as the PRS in the UK or ASCAP in USA. These PROs collect license fees from whoever performs music in public, and redistribute the fees among composers. So for example, they will collect an annual license fee from a major TV network, then look at what music has been played (“performed”) on the TV network during the year, then divide the money into many thousands of smaller micro-payments to the relevant composers.
So who pays Performance Rights fees? Well, whoever actually plays the music to the public, pays the PRO license fees. So this would include TV stations, radio stations, theatres, even retail stores and websites in some countries. However, and here’s the confusing part, if you are just the media-maker or producer, you don’t pay any PRO fees. Why not? Because if you have produced let’s say a promotional video for a client, you haven’t actually performed the music in public – all you’ve done is make and produce the video. Whoever actually plays the video in public makes the performance, and they may have to pay a PRO fee.
This is where Royalty Free Music comes in, as it’s designed for media makers and producers, but there are two kinds of ‘royalty free’ and this can be confusing. You may have seen some royalty free music advertised as “PRO-free”, or with “no performance fees to pay ever”, while other royalty free music requires public performances to be notified to your local PRO. The difference here is easily explained. If a composer wants to receive any royalties when their work is on TV or in a movie, and get their fair share of the annual license fees that TV networks and movie theatres have already paid to their local PRO, the composer will belong to a PRO. If a composer never wants to see any of those royalties, or their music is never used on TV etc, he won’t belong to a PRO. It’s usual that professional composers and successful writers will belong to a PRO. If a composer who belongs to a PRO then writes some music for a royalty free music company, the PRO will be often be entitled to charge performance fees on all of that composer’s music no matter who the composer writes for. So although the music is ‘royalty free’ and easy to license for the media-make or programme producer to include in their production, when their work is played to the public such as on TV, then a PRO fee is due.
As a media producer, you probably have a great need for royalty free music, but don’t want to worry about Performance Rights and fees. So the solution is to ask yourself, are you the one who will actually be playing your work to the public? If you produce work for a client, the answer is probably ‘no’, so you have no worries – use any royalty free music you like!
What if your media production isn’t for a client, but for yourself? Again the answer is usually that it’s not a problem, let’s look at a couple of examples to see why…
Example 1 – you’ve made a video, and want to put it on youtube or a similar site. You don’t need to worry about public performance fees at all – Youtube is the one actually making your video public, and they have already paid a performance licence to their local PRO.
Example 2 – you’ve made a video you want to take to a trade fair. The trade fair venue will be responsible for having a PRO license which covers any music being used in their venue. So you don’t have to pay PRO fees, they already have.
So it’s easy to see that in most cases, if you are a media producer then it’s fine to use any of the royalty free music you see advertised online.
We have a list of many of the world’s PROs on our website at http://www.royalty-free.tv/rftv/performance_rights.htm, you can check out your local PRO to confirm what I’ve written here, or get further information.
www.royalty-free.tv: High quality royalty free music, loops, tracks and album downloads.