Jan 30, 2017

Facing the Music

Have you ever been somewhere—a festival, convention, or even an off-site team building event—and heard your song? Maybe you detect it in the background during the meet and greet, or during the entrance for the keynote speaker, or even the last-call tune before they turn out the lights. Whatever the circumstances, you find yourself closing your eyes and soaking up every last note. And you get to enjoy the moment without ever opening up your wallet. It’s completely free.

But here’s the rub: it’s not free! Someone paid for it so you don’t have to. And we’re not talking about them purchasing an iTunes copy and subsequently playing it on surround sound. That only works for backyard barbeques. We’re talking about them purchasing a licensing agreement—you know, those things that keep copyright infringement lawsuits at bay.

If you intend to host a live event or present a corporate video, music licensing can get very intimidating. Especially since doing it wrong will cost you. Know this: you must purchase licensing if you plan to present anyone’s copyrighted material to the public. As an event owner, you’re responsible. As a content owner, you’re responsible. As a person with integrity, you’re responsible. Producers and venues have their own obligations, but in the end it comes down to you.

So, who do you write the check to? And who will notice if you skip it just this once?

First of all, you’d obtain licensing agreements through a clearinghouse like BMI or ASCAP, and their offerings come in different shapes and sizes depending on your needs. These clearinghouses recognize a stadium is not the same thing as a hotel lobby, much like a corporate video differs from a commercial spot during the Super Bowl. Rate schedules change accordingly.

Through these organizations, you have the ability to license a single song or get a blanket license that gives you access to their entire playlist. Each clearinghouse has their own repertory of artists, and artists may only belong to one clearinghouse at a time. So in addition to licensing types and rate schedules, you also need to consider the content you have access to.

BMI, for instance, represents one out of every two songs played on the radio. ASCAP has the world’s largest musical repertory. SESAC represents European artists. All of these organizations operate as nonprofits, with the sole purpose of collecting the royalties that are due to the artists.

If you consider toying with infringing on someone’s musical property, think again. It’s stealing, and the chances of getting caught have increased significantly. In the age of Periscope and YouTube—and social media in general—no good can come from trying to skirt the system. Here at Pixl, we hold respect as one of our core values. So producing a video or event without proper licensing agreements in place falls under “No-Can-Do.” This protects ourselves and our valued clients from civil lawsuits, injunctions, and having to pay large monetary compensations. This way, everyone can enjoy their song with zero fines and a clear conscience.