How do we legally use music from a DJ at our event?
February 12, 2012 8:00 PM   Subscribe

How do we legally use music from a DJ at our event?

We're going to be running what's basically an industry event, which will include a DJ playing music. The entire event will also be viewable live over the Internet. I've been trying to figure out how we can legally play music, and have become a quite confused in the process. It looks like the process is rather complicated, involving multiple agencies you have to simultaneously pay fees to because none of them actually cover all the available music the DJ could play. We aren't going to know all the songs the DJ will be playing in advance, so if we have to license everything song by song that will be a big headache.

Has anyone actually done this? What's the most straightforward way to get this done? Is there a definitive list of who you have to pay and what licenses we need? Is there an agency or company who can handle all this for us, even if it costs a little more?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total)
Completely unanswerable without knowing where you are holding this event.
posted by pompomtom at 8:14 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are in the US and you are hiring a professional DJ he will have already paid these fees. He'd be a member of ASCAP or some such that would allow him the right to use the music.

As to the internet...I am guessing you'd be covered there, since this is incidental music. Meaning it's going on at the event in question.

Just my opinions. I also wouldn't worry about it. Plenty of people are putting music on an iPod and plugging that into the sound system to avoid bad DJs. I'm not seeing a rise in weddings being crashed by the RIAA.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:15 PM on February 12, 2012

In my experience, most professional DJs are not ASCAP members, and will expect venues to pay ASCAP fees.
posted by Jairus at 8:24 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is the SOCAN website, the licensing agency in Canada.

I would try calling someone within the corresponding agency in whatever country you are in.
posted by sarae at 5:56 AM on February 13, 2012

IANAL. This is a very U.S.-centric answer.

Since this event is being live simul-cast over the web, you are, I think, right to take this more seriously than a couple plugging an iPod into a couple of speakers for their wedding music.

You don't need to contact all possible potential artists and publishers and copyright holders; this would be an almost impossibly daunting task for anyone, which is why "performing rights organizations" were created. In the U.S. they are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. My understanding is that you only need to concern yourself with the PROs of the country you are in; artists from outside the country will have contracts with your country's performing rights organizations.

Jairus is correct - it is almost always the venues that pay the licensing fees, not the DJ. This page from the ASCAP website suggests that ISPs, web streaming, or web hosting services may be covering the necessary licenses for internet transmission.

So your first step is to contact the venue and the ISP and/or streaming service to see if they are paying for the appropriate licenses. If they're not, you should contact the performing rights organizations and investigate your options. The PROs have a variety of licenses & fees (ASCAP claims over a hundred), so I would think you should be able to arrange for some kind of temporary "special event" license for a lot less money than, say, a 24/7/365 commercial radio station.

Note that this ONLY covers the actual event & live web-cast. If you have any plans to make any kind of recording of the event & distribute it, that's a different kettle of fish.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:01 AM on February 13, 2012

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