When your group decides to perform a piece of music, there will be copyright laws, permissions and licences to be aware of. Part 6 of our guidance looks at how this applies to live or ‘as live’ online performances. For more information on what copyright is, see Part one: What is Copyright?
- Live or ‘as live’ content
- Licences and rights
- Selling tickets or asking for mandatory donations
- Not selling tickets or asking for optional donations only
- Live content licence tool
Live or ‘as live’ content
If you are putting musical content online, then you might need a licence. This section covers live or ‘as live’ content. This is really about online concerts / performances:
- An event being broadcast live online – viewers are watching the performance in real time
- An event that has been recorded ‘as live’ and is made available to viewers at a certain time and (online) place - e.g. a YouTube Premiere
It does not cover the following:
- A recording of a live performance that is put online for anyone to access whenever they want – e.g. added to YouTube, but not as a Premiere
- Non-live content (e.g. an edited virtual performance video), even if it is made available as a Premiere
- For licencing this type of content see Part 5: Recording and distributing music
Hybrid events: If you are livestreaming an in-person event then you will need to licence each part separately:
- Pay PRS fees for the live performances part in the usual way (based on live audience). See Part 4: Events – live performance of music and holding an event
- License the online event in the appropriate way, based on the online audience – see more below.
- A closed online rehearsal (i.e. it is private and accessible only to your usual group members) – does not require a licence at all.
- An open online rehearsal (i.e. accessible to anyone / the public) would be classed as live content, and so you might need a licence - see below for more details.
Music out of copyright: You only need a licence if the music being performed is in copyright:
- If all the music being performed is out of copyright, then you don’t need a licence.
- If any of the music being performed is in copyright, you do need one.
Licences and Rights
There are three licence areas to be aware of for live or 'as live' content:
Communication to the public - this is about the right to broadcast the music.
Mechanical rights – this is about the right to reproduce the music in a new format – it can include things like CDs, but in this instance it is an online digital format.
- Synchronization (synch) rights – this is about the right to synchronise the music to images (video or still).
- It is any kind of image – it could be live images of the performers playing/singing, or some unrelated video footage or stills
- It is not about the rights to use the images, it is about the right to set music to those images
Generally speaking, for live or ‘as live’ content, one licence will usually cover all three aspects. But the licence you need and how much it costs (if anything), depends on a few factors:
- If you are charging for tickets or not (and how much income you expect to generate if you are charging)
- The online platform you use to make the content available
- If the music is classical music or not
- If you have hired the sheet music from a publisher, as this will often include synch rights
Use the tool at the bottom of this page to find out which licence you need.
More details about the different types of licence you might need can be found below.
Permission to use images of performers / audience: This resource is about the rights related to using music in live or as live content. If the content will include images (still or video) of the performers and audiences then you should make sure they understand how their image is being used. You can find out more in our GDPR tool kit.
If you are selling tickets or asking for mandatory donations
Online Live Concert Licence (OLC)
If you are charging a fee to view live or as live content then you will need an OLC. ‘Fee’ includes a mandatory donation (i.e. you choose what to pay but you have to pay something). If it is an optional donation (you can access it for free) you won’t need an OLC (see third party and LOML below).
An OLC will:
- cover all three rights (communication to the public, mechanical rights and synch)
- cover the content for 72 hours from when it is first broadcast – so if the live stream or premiere starts at 7pm on Monday, the OLC covers the content being available until 7pm on Thursday. If you make the content available online after this, you need a new licence, and it would now come under licencing for non-live content
The cost depends on how much money you expect to take through ticket sales/mandatory donations, and if the music is classical or not.
OLC for revenues £1,500 or less
If you expect to take £1,500 or less, you would come under the snappily titled ‘Online Live Concerts Licence for revenues £1,500 or less’.
This is a fixed fee and there are three options depending on your expected income:
|Income||Licence cost excl. VAT|
|Up to £500||£25|
|£1,001 - £1,500||£125|
You can buy a licence online. VAT is added on top of the licence cost.
The licence can be purchased in advance of, or after, the event. It is probably easier to buy one shortly after the event:
- The licence fee is based on income. If you buy the licence after the event, you will have the relevant information. If you buy it before the event there is some guess work involved:
- The licence terms and conditions do not say what to do if you pick the 'up to £500' or 'up to £1,000' brackets and end up going over, so we suggest you do nothing
- The terms and conditions do say that if income goes over £1,500, the licence is terminated and you should contact PRS. If this does happen, we think you could exercise some judgment based on how far over £1,500 it goes
- You have to provide a set list when buying the licence. You will probably know this before the event but there could be late changes. If you buy it after the event the information will be final.
If you expect your income to be under £1,500, you don’t have to use the above fixed fee option - you can choose to contact PRS and get a bespoke licence. In this case, the fee will be based on either:
Find out more on the PRS website.
OLC with revenues more than £1,500 and tailored for classical events
First of all: what is meant by classical? PRS does not have a fixed definition for this beyond what is generally accepted as classical. This definition works in almost all cases, as you probably know if the music you are performing would broadly be described as classical. If you are unsure, you can talk to PRS and they will help you decide whether it falls under the classical category or not.
The pricing for this is where it gets complicated. The licence fee is based on a percentage of the expected income. But there are two rates: standard and variable, and within each rate there are three possible percentages charged - depending on whether the sheet music used is hired from a publisher or not, and whether or not the event is live or as-live.
What are standard and variable rates? They are to do with how much of the music you are performing is in copyright.
- The standard rate charges a % fee based on the total expected income for your event regardless of how much of the music performed is in copyright.
- The variable rate takes into account the total amount of music performed that is in copyright, but the fee is still calculated based on the % of total expected income.
If all or most of the music is in copyright then the standard rate is probably best. If you are performing a lot of music not in copyright, then you may prefer the variable rate.
Why does it matter if I have hired music from the publisher? The OLC includes three rights - communication to the public, mechanical rights and synch rights. If you have hired music from a publisher, you may well have already paid them for synch rights. PRS offer a discount on the OLC so that you are not paying for synch rights twice. The discount essentially removes the synch rights element from the OLC. If you hired music from a publisher but did not pay synch rights, you can get the non-discounted OLC and synch rights will be covered by the OLC.
Note: the synch discount is not available on the 'under £1,500' pricing option.
|Type||Live or As live||Percent of income|
|Non-hired sheet music||Both||10%|
|Hired sheet music||As live||7.5%|
|Hired sheet music||Live||8.75%|
|Type||Live or As live||Percent of income|
|Non-hired sheet music||Both||15%|
|Hired sheet music||As live||11.25%|
|Hired sheet music||Live||13.125%|
To get a licence at either rate you have to contact PRS directly. If you want the variable rate this must be 21 days before your event date and you must supply set lists with durations for each piece at the time of application.
VAT is charged on top of the % amount.
Find out more on PRS website.
OLC with revenues more than £1,500 (non-classical)
First of all: what is meant by classical and non-classical? PRS does not have a fixed definition for classical beyond what is generally accepted as classical. This works in almost all cases, as you probably know if the music you are performing would broadly be described as classical or not. If it can’t be, then it's non-classical. If you are not sure, you can talk to PRS and they will help decide.
- The pricing for this is simple – it is based on 10% of the revenue + VAT
- There is only one rate for live and as-live performances, and no discounts
- You need to contact PRS directly to obtain a licence for your group
Find out more on the PRS website.
If you are not selling tickets or asking for optional donations only
Third-party platform licences
Some third-party platforms have blanket licence agreements in place that cover content added to their site. The following platforms all have licenses in place:
Vimeo and Zoom do not have licences in place (see Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) below)
If your third-party platform does have a licence and you are making the live or as live content available for free, you will be covered by their licence and so won’t need your own.
If you are charging a ticket fee to access the content you will need an OLC (see above).
If you keep the content on the platform after the live stream / premiere it is covered by their licence.
A note on synch rights and third-party platforms: generally the third party platform licences will include synch rights, but there may be some instances where they don’t. If you hired the sheet music you will have probably paid for synch rights as part of the hire anyway. If you did not hire the sheet music, you could contact the copyright holder (publisher) and ask. However, if you are making it available for free, it is fair to assume it will be covered by the third party licence. If you are charging, it would be covered by the OLC anyway.
Limited Online Music Licence (LOML)
If you are making live or as live content available for free (including asking for voluntary donations) on your own website or an unlicensed third-party site (this includes Zoom and Vimeo), then you need a LOML.
If you are charging a ticket fee or mandatory donation to access the content you will need an OLC (see above).
If you are making content available on your website:
- LOMLs cover lots of different types of content for a specified time period, rather than being just for live or ‘as live’ content and being per event, like the OLC.
- A LOML would cover all music content (audio only and video) on your website that is: a live stream, a premiere, can be accessed online or downloaded anytime (this is not an exhaustive list but the things we think are most relevant - see Part 5: Recording and distributing music for more on LOMLs and non-live content).
If you are looking to obtain a LOML to cover live or as live content:
- If you have a LOML for your website already and decide to do a free live or ‘as live’ event on your website or an unlicensed third party site, it would be covered by your existing LOML.
- If you don’t already have a LOML and you only need one for a one-off live or as live event on your website or an unlicensed third-party site, you could get the pro-rated option, which would cost £73 for a one-off event (or as many events as you like within a six-month period). You could also get it pro-rated for more than a six-month period but it would cost more than £73.
- If you have a LOML already and are doing a ticketed live or as live event, this will not be covered by your LOML and you will need an OLC (see above)
LOMLs are annual and the price works on bands, based on how many streams you expect to have in the next year.
- For most groups band A will be the relevant one. This allows for 180,000 streams of live events per year and costs £146+VAT. See information on other bands and prices
- For a live event on a third-party platform where streams might not be tracked (e.g. Zoom), each attendee would count as one stream.
- Pro-rated options are available – so if you won’t need a licence for a full year, you can get a pro-rated fee, starting from a minimum fee of £73
LOMLs and synch rights: Unlike the OLC, LOMLs only cover communication to the public and mechanical rights – they do not cover synch rights. So if you are setting the music to any kind of image (video or still), you might need to get synch rights separately:
- If you hire the sheet music from the publisher, synch rights may well be included (ask them to clarify)
- If you are not hiring the sheet music, you might want to contact the copyright holder (publisher) and ask about synch rights. They can licence the synch rights directly with you.
Find out more on the PRS website.