Beginner Info

    Do DJs Need Permission to Play Songs?

    Do DJs Need Permission to Play Songs?

    The topic of DJing lawfully is currently being discussed more than ever because to the growing popularity of DJing, live performances, and online mix releases.

    All DJs must legally purchase or download the music they intend to mix, and some nations even need them to acquire a separate digital license that allows them to play songs with copyrights in clubs.

    When it comes to music and live performance, there is a lot of gray area, and we will explain it all today.

    I'm not a lawyer, so if you have any questions, always seek the advice of a qualified practitioner.

    Let's get started.

    Are Song Playing Permissions Required for DJs?

    DJs may or may not require a particular permission, depending on the locality, in order to play tunes protected by copyright in front of huge crowds. While the UK and the majority of other nations require DJs to have a digital DJ license for commercial events, the US charges venues for permits.

    Due to the fact that weddings are not viewed as public performances and do not need for a license from ProDub in the UK or any of the three major Performance Rights Organizations in the USA, wedding DJs are not required to pay royalties (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC).

    DJs in the UK are required to pay royalties by obtaining the ProDub Licence, a digital DJ license. With that license, DJs can use songs in their professional work capacity thanks to permission from the copyright holders of both musical works (through MCPS) and sound recordings.

    In the USA, you are free to use any music that you have legally purchased or otherwise got as a DJ. The license and public performance royalties for the music must be paid by the places where you perform.

    The venues are now authorized to play it for the audience after they have paid their royalties to the respective proprietors of the tunes. A DJ who works there is automatically permitted to play these songs without charging a charge.

    Electronic DJ License

    A DJ can play music with copyrights thanks to a digital music license. He can use it to transfer songs from original CDs, vinyl records, and other types of storage to their computer's hard drive. That permits them to save a copy of the tunes. Typically, when working as a DJ, the HD backup should be used with vinyl emulation software.

    • You don't need a license for weddings and birthday parties.
    • You only need a license if you are the promoter or venue owner for public events.

    Digital music is another factor to take into account. This license also applies to tracks that have been downloaded in MP3 format and purchased online. A DJ only avoids licensing when the music tracks explicitly permit public performance.

    • License for digital DJs also includes:
    • All formats of commercial music are represented.
    • The DJ need not ask for permission for each individual tune.
    • The tracks the DJ utilized don't have to be disclosed. They merely need to purchase the appropriate package based on how many songs they intend to use.
    • The DJ is not allowed to distribute copies of the songs for marketing purposes.
    • Remixes created without permission are not permitted to be used.
    • It is forbidden to use the music in a derogatory manner.
    • There are no websites, FTP servers, or even shared networks that the DJ is allowed to upload music to.

    Royalty payments in the UK

    In the UK, permissions must be secured from the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) (MCPS). Before, grants had a caveat list and had to be purchased from these organizations separately. When the PPL and MCPS joined together to create the ProDub Licence in 2008, everything changed.

    Overview of the ProDub License

    Transferring music from one format to another is covered by the ProDub license.

    In order to incorporate the mechanical copyright fee for each song you have ripped from a CD that you have purchased and converted to an MP3 file for playback on a laptop, ProDub must officially give its consent. Even though public format shift has been permitted for a while now, that is still the case.

    Technically, you should be required to show documentation of your ProDub license at events.

    Only when you perform at paid events are royalties due. Wedding receptions, baptismal celebrations, and private birthday parties are examples of events that PRS for Music does not charge for when:

    • Visitors are only invited personally for the gathering (excluding workers, DJs, etc.)
    • The party is hosted in a location that has been reserved privately and is not at that time public.
    • No admission fee of any kind is required.
    • The party's organizer has nothing to gain financially (e.g., the person booking the venue)

    Commercial venues are required to pay royalties because they are the ones that profit from patrons who pay to enter the space.

    A company that collects royalties in the UK is where my pal works. The venue must pay a predetermined charge when a DJ publicly performs someone else's song. The song's producer will then be paid. Please be aware that the song's producer receives payment, not the DJ.

    The venue then pays the DJ who performed. Since their labor was performed, the producer of the song that is being played is also compensated from the fees received.

    Instead of being compensated for the music, the DJ is. For instance, if they also produced the song, they would receive payment from the venue in addition to the sum we withheld for the producers from the venue.

    Price of ProDub

    The ProDub license has a range of prices because there are different levels you can get it at. The following table lists those levels:

    Tracks copied per year --> Cost

    1-1,000 --> £85.11

    1,000-5,000 --> £212.77

    5,001-10,000 --> £255.32

    10,001-15,000 --> £297.87

    15,001-20,000 --> £340.42

    DJs can only pay for what they actually use thanks to these tiers. For a DJ who is just starting out, the £85.11 package would be excellent because they could later add more music to it.

    American DJ license

    If music written or composed by a specific artist is played in a public setting, Performance Rights Organization (PRO), parties that represent artists, make sure that the artist receives sufficient royalties.

    Any venue where the general public can congregate can be considered a public space, including a bar, club, restaurant, or outdoor concert.

    A wedding reception is an example of a private event for which a PRO registration is not necessary.

    PROs charge members a subscription fee in exchange for granting them permission to legally play songs from their database.

    In the United States, there are three main performance rights organizations:

    • Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) (SESAC)
    • As opposed to the first two, ASCAP and BMI, the SESAC keeps a portion of revenue as profit.
    • You may fairly presume that between these three, practically all of the music from American artists is licensed.

    Since the club or event they are playing at is responsible for covering such costs, DJs in the US are not required to hold PRO licenses in order to perform.

    In the US, a DJ who wishes to play music at an unlicensed event would be responsible for any royalties and other fees that would have been paid by the venue. In that situation, they even run the possibility of being sued by PRO.

    How Exactly Does PRO Operate?

    Ideally, all PRO groups' licenses should be on file at the venue.

    In general, most venues have an ASCAP or BMI license that pays copyright holders compensation for music's public performance in the United States.

    Let's say you want to blend in Beyonce's newest single. That song may have 20 distinct artists contributing to it, including lyricists, composers, and backup singers. They could all be represented by a single PRO or, as is more typical, they will be distributed across the three PROs.

    If the new Beyonce song is played, all three PROs are eligible to get royalties from the venue. You can only imagine how disorganized the web of copyright holders would look for a single 30-minute playlist given the variety of music you'll ultimately include in your mix.

    It is wise to check if your club has all three permits for this reason.

    As you do more jobs over time, you'll learn which locations are legal and which aren't.

    To determine what popular music can be played in settings like restaurants, pubs, and retail stores, both businesses employ an unpublished algorithm.

    There is currently no precise tracking system that can inform these groups about the music being played. Therefore, if the venues are typically licensed, the DJ does not need to have an ASCAP or BMI license.

    Licensed DJ in Canada

    Licenses to reproduce recorded music are made available in Canada by CONNECT Music Licensing (formerly known as the Audio-Video Licensing Agency).

    The AVLA changed its name to CONNECT in 2014 to mark the agency's 30th birthday.

    This organization grants DJs the authority to legally perform commercially in Canada copies of recorded music.

    The CONNECT Music Licensing ensures that the creators of the music—such as the composer, performer, musician, etc.—are compensated for the works they created.

    A DJ who engages in commercial performance without an AVLA license may be deemed to be violating the law and may face fines and legal action.

    Do all Canadian DJs require a CONNECT license? Simply put, no. The DJs don't need a license if:

    • They are either playing the original LP, cassette, or CD that they purchased from a store or they are playing a promo CD that was rented or borrowed from the original copyright owner of the music.
    • Therefore, every DJ who downloads music, transfers it to a desktop or HDD, and burns the disc needs have a CONNECT license.

    DJ registration in Germany

    When a DJ makes copies of his music in Germany with the intention of using those copies to perform in a club, he needs a license. He doesn't need a GEMA license if he plays originals because the club already pays for it.

    Over two million rights holders (musicians) from all over the world have their copyrights represented in Germany by GEMA. In other words, she ensures that the musicians receive payment for their music when it is played in public. Another name for this is a collecting society.

    As of April 1, 2014, if you copy a title and use it to hang up, you as a DJ must pay a license fee to GEMA. To copy something is to, for instance, transfer purchased CDs to your laptop's hard drive before hanging up.

    GEMA operates as the German arm of most other such societies worldwide, including USA’s ASCAP and BMI and UK’s PRS, effectively supervising all copyrighted music within the country.

    Every public event with music, from street fairs to open mics, must either pay GEMA the appropriate usage fee or submit a playlist demonstrating that only music without copyright protection was played. The hosts are required to pay the whole amount if even one song is from the GEMA repertoire. Club owners, small venue owners, and DJs have all expressed unhappiness as a result of the organization's intransigence on this issue.

    What you should know about GEMA:

    • The host will cover you if you are a DJ playing at a club or another location and you are not hosting your own event. Depending on a few factors like how frequently the venue is open each week, the size of the room, and the cost of admittance, clubs pay a flat amount here.
    • Gema deliberately ignores playlists and is unconcerned with the music you choose to listen to. Gema simply asks one important question: "How many tunes do you have?"
    • No Gema official has the authority to search your repository or demand any documentation. It's technically against the law to provide someone access to your laptop or USB drives, so you don't have to.

    Various instances of DJ licensing in other European nations

    The majority of EU nations want a digital DJ license.

    In Finland both Teosto and Gramex, the Finnish organizations that protect producers' and DJs' intellectual property, require a license to operate.

    • The Finnish license structure forbids the use of any type of backup copies.
    • Two copies of a single track are treated as two different tracks and are therefore not included in the license's maximum number of copies.
    • Any format can be used to copy the music.

    Teosto requires Finland artists who utilize the license to report the tracks used "upon request." For tracks that total fewer than 3,000, Gramex does not require such comments.

    The cost varies according to how many digital copies DJs require. The total cost of both licenses, including VAT, ranges from €280 for up to 300 tracks to €600 for up to 3,000 songs.

    In Croatia here is the infamous ZAMP. Every DJ, as well as every club, business, and other entity that plays music, needs a license.

    Up to 4000 songs costs roughly 180 euros per year for DJs. Recognize that the majority of DJs here don't make more than $80 per event, despite the fact that you might not believe it's expensive.

    Almost no one relies solely on it for their income. They verified the licenses of the DJ and the venue during my friend's inspection of his events. If there are three DJs performing but only one of them has a license, they usually let it go; they give them a playlist, and the inspectors go.

    However, there are times when inspectors examine everything, including internet shopping invoices and the laptop's copy of Windows. That all relies on the inspector's attitude and how well he gets along with the club he's in.

    How to DJ Online Legally

    Thousands of musicians will upload their sets to sharing websites, but there is no guarantee that they will remain there or that their mixes won't be flagged as violating copyright.

    It frequently occurs that DJs and producers will have a contract in place with websites like YouTube. They will keep a small portion of any advertising revenue generated by YouTube users listening to your music.

    A mix that is posted to YouTube will have commercials overlaid on it, and occasionally there will even be a link that can be clicked in the video description to buy the original song in a particular DJ pool.

    When DJs do promo mixes or live shows and subsequently release them online, copyright laws may be their biggest concern.

    In plain English, a DJ performance recorded right now is not thought of as a "fixed method of expression," but it doesn't mean a live set recording can't violate someone's copyright.

    But let's take a quick look at reality. Although uploading other DJs' music online may violate their copyright, the mix will likely remain online if no one complains.

    My own experience demonstrates that record labels, especially those in the electronic music industry, enjoy hearing their songs included in DJ mixes since it gives the label publicity.

    In the worst circumstances, DJ sets are pulled down from internet audio-sharing platforms, but no one has ever been charged or prosecuted for doing so. It's simply too large of a reality to really try and pursue.

    There are websites that cater to DJs where copyright issues won't arise. Soundcloud was once one of them. However, they just joined forces with the same business that helps Facebook delete content that violates copyrights. After that, several DJs found that their mixes were being erased.

    Don't post your composition on this platform unless it is 100 percent original.

    The platforms that cater to DJs are:

    • Official FM Mixcloud
    • Beatport Mixes
    • YouTube (doesn't monetise videos unless they feature original music, though).
    • Mixcrate

    How to Legally Create a Remix

    Remixes have a legal issue because they are considered derivative works, which means that they primarily draw inspiration from the tracks of other music producers.

    This is not a problem, in theory. However, practically all music made available for consumer consumption are copyright protected, limiting unauthorized remixing of particular songs.

    • Buy a copy of the song (s). Despite how simple it is to obtain, pirated music is still prohibited.
    • Obtain the owner of the copyright's consent. At least two copyrights—one for the track and one for the master recording—are attached to every recorded track. To lawfully remix a song protected by copyright, both owners must provide their permission.
    • Make a declaration of agreement. To create a remix of someone else's song, you need some recorded information that the copyright holder has allowed you permission to use, even if it's just an email.

    If amateurs don't have permission to mix music at home for personal use, they shouldn't have any issues until there's money involved.

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