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What You Need to Know • Music Licensing

(From Donny Smith on February 17, 2022)

Yesterday I participated in an outstanding meeting that was hosted by the PRLA to address music licensing. The primary speaker on the subject was Dan Spears, the vice president of BMI. It was extremely helpful, and I left the meeting feeling much more comfortable discussing what music licensing is, who the payers are, and why you’re being billed by so many different music licensing organizations.

I’ll start off by stating that there are four main players in the field of music licensing.

(1) Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI)

(2) The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)
(3) Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC)
(4) Global Music Rights (GMR)

These organizations exist to ensure that the music WRITERS, not the performers, get paid for their services. A good explanation of this can be found at about the 5-minute mark.

Each organization represents different song writers, which is why you are required to pay all four. For example, Bruce Springsteen is represented by GMR, Elvis is with BMI, U2 is with SESAC, etc.

BMI and ASCAP are nonprofit organizations and their prices are governed by law and are therefore non-negotiable, however SESAC and GMR are FOR profit organizations, and you CAN and SHOULD negotiate with these organizations.

The cost of each license is based on the occupancy limits of your place of business.

The yearly rough estimate fee for all four organizations combined for venues in our area (200 max occupancy) is approximately $1,000 per year.

Members of the PRLA can receive up to a 20% discount with BMI

You can join the PRLA for as little as $1/day. Click here to Join PRLA

You can learn more about the discount program in the attached flier, as well as at the 25:45 minute mark

Click HERE to watch the entire meeting on YouTube. It’s about 45 minutes long, however I assure you that if you have any questions at all about music licensing, there’s a strong chance that your questions were addressed in this meeting. I had quite a few questions, and I didn’t hesitate to ask them.

Right at the 32-minute mark is where I started asking the questions that you may also have.


Finally, BMI has started a new program called Gigmor. Gigmor was created so that venues can easily find and book live music for their venue. BMI is currently offering a $200 discount for new Gigmor users.

To learn more about Gigmor, click HERE, see the attached flier, and you can hear more about it right at the 26:45 minute mark

Any questions that you may have, please don’t hesitate to ask. I hope that it helps.

Rock on!

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