Copyright, licensing and permissions - Part 5: Recording and distributing music

When your group decides to perform a piece of music there will be copyright laws, permissions and licenses to be aware of. Part 5 of our guidance looks at how that applies to making and using a recording of the music you perform. 

There are three different copyrights to be aware of for a piece of music.

  1. Musical: the copyright of the actual music (notes in a certain order). In the UK a piece of music stays in copyright for 70 years after the death of the creator.
  2. Literary: the copyright of the lyrics or libretto. The same 70 year rule applies to the lyricist.
  3. Typographical: the copyright of the published sheet music edition. Typographical copyright lasts for 25 years after the first publication of an edition.

If you are not sure who owns the copyright you can contact the Music Publishers Association

For more information see Part one: What is Copyright?

Contents:

  • Making a recording - permissions
  • Distributing a recording
    • Licensing for CDs and other physically distributed recordings
    • Licensing for online content and digitally distributed recordings
  • Making Music recording guidance and discounts

Making a Recording - getting permission 

If you are going to make a recording of a performance there are few different permissions you need to consider:

Copyright holders

You do not need permission from the copyright holder to actually make a recording. You do need permission to distribute the recording (e.g. to make a CD or post online), You get this permission by buying a distribution licence from PRS for Music (see distribution below). 

However, some music publishers may ask if you will be making a recording when your hire music, and add a small fee to the hire price.  This fee is separate to the distribution licence – which you will still need to buy before you distribute the recording.

Performers

If you are going to be recording people performing you should make sure they know about it, and are happy to be recorded. 

Whether the performers are you members or professional musicians there are some basic rules to follow: 

  • Be transparent about your plans to make a recording 
  • Be clear about the purpose and nature of the recording
  • Have documented permission before making a recording
  • If someone does not want to be recorded then you respect that. There is a practical consideration here and the key thing is use rather than the actual recording.  It would be ok to record them as part of the whole recording but then edit them out of a final/distributed version. 
Professional musicians

If you’re working with professional musicians there may be additional fees or requirements in terms of how, where and when the recording is used. We have not heard of this being a problem but it is a good idea to clear about your plans as early as possible and including any agreement as part of the contract.

 

The audience

In general you do not need to ask permission from audience members if you are making a video recording of a performance. However, it is considerate to inform your audience that you will be recording during the performance and you should respect any requests not to be filmed (again the distribution/use is the key thing rather than the actual recording).

You can find out more about taking and using video of performers and audience in our GDPR tool kit.

Distributing your recordings

If any of the music you record is in copyright then you will need a licence to distribute it . 

The relevant copyrights here are musical and literary, not typographical. If the piece of music you want to record and distribute is in the public domain because the creator died more than seventy years ago, you do not need to pay royalties on your recording, even if you are using a sheet music edition that was published five years ago.

The licence you need will depend on how you are distributing it but you will normally need to buy one from PRS for Music. This can be done quickly and easily online. They are blanket licences in that they cover any music in copyright, and you don’t need to tell them what music. We think there are two licensing areas members need to be aware of (you will find more information on both below)  

  1. Licensing for CDs and other physically distributed recordings 

  2. Licensing for online content and digitally distributed recordings

Even with the correct license in place a copyright holder can restrict how their music is used. This most common example of this is music being used to promote something (e.g. a product or campaign) the copyright holder does not want to be associated with (think Neil Young and Donald Trump).

We do not anticipate this will be a problem for our members. If you use a recording to promote your group we don’t think there is anything to worry about – having the correct licence should be fine. If your recording is promoting, or associated with, something contentious it might be a good idea to get permission from the copyright holder – if you are unsure you can contact us


  1. Licensing for CDs and other physically distributed recordings - Limited Manufacture (LM) Licence

If you make a CD (or other physical product e.g. DVD) you will need a Limited Manufacture (LM) Licence. The cost of a LM licence depends on how many copies of your CD you will make, how many minutes of music are included, and whether your CD includes any other sound recordings which you didn’t record yourself (for example backing tracks).

  • If your CD contains only music which you recorded yourself, then you can purchase a Limited Manufacture licence at ‘MCPS-only rates’.
  • If your CD contains any recordings which you didn’t record yourself, you will need to purchase a Limited Manufacture licence at ‘MCPS-PPL joint rates’.

Details of LM licence rates can be found on the PRS for Music website. They have detailed FAQS, but we have pulled out some of the key things to be aware of: 

An LM Licence is not transferable

A LM licences applies to an album and cannot be transferred. So if you buy a LM licence for 250 copies for your Summer album and only make 150, you cannot use the spare 100 for your Christmas album, you would need a new licence.

If any music on you CD is in copyright - you need an LM Licence

You need a LM licence if any of the music on your disc is in copyright. So if you make a CD of 10 tracks, 9 are out of copyright and 1 is in, then you need a licence. However, when calculating the licence fee only count the minutes for the music in copyright.

LM licences are limited to 1000 copies

LM licences are only available for a maximum of 1000 CDs. They can also be used only if you will be distributing your disc directly. If you require more than 1000 units or you plan to sell your disc through a third party, you will need an AP1 or AP2 licence. We don’t anticipate many of our groups needing one of these licences.

Free CDs

It doesn’t matter if you give the CDs away for free – you still need a license. 

Dramatico-musical works

A dramatio-musical work is a theatrical show which has music specially written for it. This includes opera, musicals, ballet and some pantomimes and revues.

An LM licence does not cover dramatico-musical works. PRS for Music does not represent dramatico-musical rights holders so permission to record those pieces will need to be sought directly from the copyright owner. 

Using a professional service to make your CD 

If you decide to have your CD professionally made, your chosen production company may agree to acquire a licence as part of their service.

Making Music Mix

Making Music and MixPixie have collaborated to create the Making Music Mix service – a tool that offers Making Music members the chance to create and sell professionally-produced CDs of their recordings, easily and for free. MixPixie takes care of all the hard work including getting the appropriate licences. 

 

  1. Licensing for online content and digitally distributed recordings

If you make a digital recording and you want to use it online, you have a few options:

Posting content on YouTube, SoundCloud or Facebook

YouTube, SoundCloud and Facebook have blanket licensing agreements with all major international record labels and music publishing companies, meaning that users of these websites can safely assume that recordings they upload to one of these sites are covered. This includes posting a video to YouTube (for example) and then embedding it you’re your own website. 

There are benefits to sharing your recordings this way rather than hosting directly on your own website and we highly recommend our groups use this method.

  • It is the easiest and cheapest way to use music online - the platform (e.g. Facebook) takes care of the licencing and you don’t have to buy your own
  • You can embedded videos and recordings from the third party site on your own site (and are still covered by the blanket licences)
  • Your recordings are easily and publically accessible
  • If you want a recording to be private most platforms have the option of uploading it privately
  • Your recordings can be easily shared via social media or email 
  • You can create playlists of your recordings.
Uploading recordings onto other third party sites

There are many sites other than YouTube, SoundCloud or Facebook where you could consider posting your music: be aware that they may not have licensing agreements in place. You should therefore always check the terms of the hosting site with regard to copyright clearance or infringement before uploading.

Making recordings available on your own website

Making music available from your own site (e.g. streaming or as a download) means you will need to apply for your own license.  This does not include embedding a video form a third party site like YouTube, which does not require a licence (see above).

There are a few different types of license for using music online depending on: 

  • How the music will be used 
  • The amount of usage you expect

But we expect that the vast majority of our members will find their needs covered by a Limited Online Music license (LOML).


The Limited Online Music Licence (LOML)

If you plan to make music available from your website (e.g. streaming or downloads) you will need a LOML. This is a blanket licence to use copyrighted music for small UK services which offer music streaming and downloads and earn less than £12,500 per annum from this.

The licence is valid for a year. Its cost is based on how many times you estimate your tracks will be streamed or downloaded and starts from £138 + VAT.

You can learn all about the LOML on PRS for Music’s website but below are some FAQs and things to be aware of below: 

Do we need a LOML if we embed videos/sound files from YouTube, SoundCloud or Facebook?

No -  YouTube, SoundCloud and Facebook have blanket licensing agreements so anything you post will covered by their that. The licence also covers posting a video to YouTube (for example) and then embedding it you’re your own website.

Do we need a licence if we only make a short excerpt available? 

Yes – there is no rule rating to time – even a second of music will require a licence.

Do we need a LOML if we send sound files to members for rehearsal purposes (e.g. by email or Dropbox)? 

This is a bit of a grey area – if they are being sent directly to individuals (i.e. not publically available) then you should be ok. 

Do we need a LOML if we make downloads available for rehearsal purposes via a member only area of our site? 

The technical answer here is probably, but if it isn't for public distribution the risk is small.  

Dramatico-musical works

A dramatico-musical work is a theatrical show which has music specially written for it. This includes opera, musicals, ballet and some pantomimes and revues.

Posting excerpts of a dramatico-musical work available online is permitted under the terms of a LOML only if:

  • The total duration of the excerpts does not exceed 20 minutes (or 5 minutes if the work is a ballet)
  • The material in use is not a “potted version” of the original work
  • The excerpt(s) do not cover a complete act of the work

If you do not meet the conditions above you should contact the publisher of the work to find out about using the music online. 

There are certain other restrictions that apply to the music that can be covered by a LOML. We don't think these are likly to effect our groups but they are described in detail in the Terms and conditions - if you have any questions you can contact us.

Marketing, incentives and background music

We don't anticipate this will be a problem for our groups, but if you plan to use music to advertise third party goods or services (whether on your own website or an external site such as Facebook) you’ll need to get in touch with PRS for Music’s Online licensing team. This includes: 

  • Use music for online advertising
  • Play background music on a webpage
  • Offer music as an incentive to purchase goods or services 

If you are using your own recordings to advertise your events or group then we don’t think there is anything to worry about.

You can contact PRS for Music’s Online licensing team on 020 3741 3888 or applications@prsformusic.com

There are certain other restrictions that apply to the music that can be covered by a LOML. We dont think these are likly to affect our groups but they are described in detail in the Terms and conditions - if you have any questions you can contact us.

Making Music recording guidance and discounts

Our quick guide to making a recording touches on everything from requesting performers’ permission to engaging an engineer.

Making Music members can claim 15% off any recordings made on location with 360 Music, plus a special rate to record a Christmas concert.


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.