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What Are Performing Rights?

Performing Rights and Performing Rights Organisations.

Performing Rights are the right to perform music in public. Performing Rights are defined in various copyright laws around the world. Performing Rights Organisations are responsible for administration of these rights, granting licences allowing public performance of music, on behalf of music composers and publishers.

Money collected by these Performance Rights Organisations (PRO's) is passed on to the musicís composers and publishers, according to which music has been performed publicly. Most professional composers will belong to a PRO since it iss the only way they can receive royalties when their music is used on TV, radio and movies. Most of the Composers on this site belong to a PRO.

How Do Performance Rights Organisations Work?

When a business or organisation plays music in public, it legally needs the permission of the Performing Rights owner to broadcast that music. This will usually be the composer and their publisher. To enable this, each country has a Performing Rights Organisation (PRO), a society to which the composers and publishers belong, allowing the PRO to issue licenses to use their music. The money collected by the PRO's is eventually forwarded to the composers and publishers, less a commission.

Performance Rights Licensing

The license issued by PRO's is usually an annual one, refrred to as a 'blanket' license. This allows the customer to use all of the music represented by the PRO. Since all the PRO's worldwide are affiliated with each other and share information freely, this effectively means nearly all music released worldwide. The license fees are usually geared according to the audience size. They may range from just a few dollars for a small business, to millions for a national TV network.

Cue Sheets

With TV & Radio broadcasters, the PRO's will require them to keep account of all the music they play. Cue Sheet is simple a written record of this, for every broadcast. Today, most TV and Radio netowrks will use computer-based record keping, rather than the tradional paper cue sheet. The Performance Rights Organistaion will then use this information to distribute the annual license fee income amongst it's composer members, as a large number of much smaller payments. The music's Composers may get a few pence for their music being used on a small radio station commercial, to many thousands for regular use of their music on a national TV series.

Do I Pay Performance Rights for Royalty Free Music?

For the royalty free music on this website and most others, the answer depends on how you intend to use the music. As a general rule if you are a media producer, you pay no Performance Rights Fee.
If you are responsible for broadcasting your new production to the public, then you may have to pay a PRO fee, depending on the kind of project you have used the music in, and in which country. TV networks, radio stations, all will be paying annual PRO fees already as part of their license to broadcast. A few local PRO's consider music in retail establishments, music on hold, even music on a website to be a public performance, and will want the 'broadcaster' to pay a small annual fee (for example the owner of a retail pemises). Most PRO's generally consider only TV and Radio for licensing, not these other smaller uses. If you are unsure, you should ask your local PRO for advice, we have contact details for most of them here.

Who Are Performance Rights Organisations?

In the USA the Performing Rights Organisations that issue licenses for music broadcast are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. In the UK it is the PRS. Almost every country has their own society (we have a list here), and they are each linked to each other and share the sme computer databases, so they are all aware of each other's musical works, and can represent them in their own country. Almost every professional composer will be a member of a PRO, since it is the only way for them to be paid when their music is broadcast on Television, radio, or movies, and can form a major part of their income.

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