Internet Radio Station Licencing, and where to find music
Navigating the world of radio broadcasting can be tricky, particularly when it comes to understanding what you need to broadcast music over the internet legally, and where to find music for broadcasting. Never fear, as here at PlayIt Software, we have gathered some useful tips and resources to give you a helping hand.
Disclaimer: The following information should not be taken as legal advice. We recommend consulting with licencing bodies, relevant authorities or a legal professional before taking any action with regards to rights or licencing.
Who needs an internet radio licence?
The answer depends on what and where you plan to broadcast online. If you are only planning to broadcast talk radio, sports radio, or use only royalty-free sounds and music, then you don’t need a licence.
For anything else that uses music with rights owned by someone else, then you absolutely need to make sure that you own a licence in order to play that music publicly. If you currently own a collection of music CDs, vinyls, MP3s or the like, then you cannot just play them on your radio station legally until you own the correct licence to do so.
In terms of where you plan to broadcast, each country has its own licencing body or Performance Rights Organisation (PRO) that collects royalties on behalf of the artists. Below, we’ve detailed UK and US Licencing for basic guidance, but you should consult your local licencing body or authorities for a complete picture of where you are based.
In the UK, there are two main bodies that you will need to get licences from for broadcasting music online:
· PRS (Performing Rights Society) manages the rights of songwriters, composers and publishers. They provide the Limited Online Music Licence (LOML).
· PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) manages the rights of record producers and performers. They provide the Linear Webcast Licence.
Therefore, in order to get complete coverage in the UK, you need to get both a PRS licence and a PPL Licence. Each licencing body provides several licencing options that depend on the amount of gross revenue your radio station generates per annum, and the total number of streams per annum (a stream is defined as one track streamed by one listener), and each licence is charged as a one-off annual fee.
In the US, you need to apply for statutory licences, and there are 4 main PROs that you need to be aware of:
· ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)
· BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.)
· SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers)
ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are PROs that are responsible for collecting and distributing royalties for all public performances, including terrestrial radio, internet radio, TV and public spaces. Each PRO manages its own portfolio of songwriters, composers and publishers, each covering millions of songs, so unfortunately you will need to put some work in to find out which PROs you need licences from, based on the music you want to play.
SoundExchange is slightly different to the other PROs, in that they collect royalties exclusively for digital public performances, which covers internet radio.
If I’m in the UK, do I need a US Licence to play music from American music artists?
If you own licences from PRS and PPL, then you’re covered – Licencing bodies around the world represent rights holders globally, so as long as you own a licence that covers the country you’re broadcasting to, you’re safe.
Can I broadcast outside the country I live in?
Check the terms of the licence of your local licencing body to see if it covers the areas you want to broadcast to. If not, then you will have to consult the licencing bodies of those countries, or you won’t be able to broadcast there.
Can I stream music off places like Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music?
Unfortunately, the simple answer is no, you cannot use online music streaming services like these for your online radio broadcast, as they typically state in the terms of service that you are only permitted to use them for personal, non-commercial use, not for public or business usage.
So where can I find music?
If you’re after royalty-free music, then a good starting point is to look for Creative Commons licenced music. While it is free to broadcast this content, you may need to pay to obtain some of the actual assets, either in digital or other formats.
The Creative Commons website also lists a number of CC-licenced music sites to look at Legal Music For Videos which give you access to content without commercial licences, however before using it, make sure that you understand the limitations of the licence for each piece of music, and whether it needs attribution and whether it can be modified.
If you want to find music created by artists, songwriters and publishers that are entitled to royalties, including all the top hits, classics and everything in between, there are many ways for you to do this, but you need to ensure that you are covered by the appropriate broadcast licence for your country as described above before you play them on your radio station, so that the rights owner receives the royalties due. Suggested sources include:
· Your own collection of physical or digital music
· Music purchased from any physical or online store
· Music release sites such as Promo Only, BPM Supreme and My MP3 Pool, which offer subscriptions to collections of music specifically for use by DJs or radio stations in all available versions and formats in exchange for a monthly fee.
· Second-hand stores
· Events and concerts
· Anywhere else you can obtain copies of music!
Once you’ve covered yourself with the correct broadcast licences, and found your sources of music, load up PlayIt Live to manage your radio station, schedule tracks and automate playout like a professional.
In more fantastic news, PlayIt Software has teamed up with Live365 to bring members exclusive special rates - read more about it here: Live365 Teams Up with PlayIt Live to Offer Discounted Package Rates. Live365 offers streaming packages that include music licensing for the U.K., U.S., and Canada. For existing users, reach out to us directly to find out more about discounted package rates.