Performing Rights (PRS) for dramatico-musical works

Grand Rights apply to the performance of dramatico-musical works - any musical work, either with text (dialogue or lyrics) or without, intended to be accompanied in performance by dramatic action whether acted, danced or mimed. 

Examples are operas, operettas, musicals, revues, pantomimes, music-theatre works and ballets.  Some such works are conceived and written specifically to be accompanied by dramatic action.  An opera or operetta, for example, is always defined as a dramatico-musical work, even if it is performed non-dramatically (non-staged) without the use of costume or scenery or other visual effects.

In other cases a non-dramatic work becomes a dramatico-musical work through the addition of dramatic action in performance e.g. a symphony choreographed to form a ballet, or a 'compilation show' when individual songs and/or numbers are linked to form a musical or revue.

A 'Grand Rights' work is the terminology applied to a work accompanied by dramatic action – a dramatico-musical work.


1. Permissions required

If the work - or any part of it - is in copyright then permission for the performance of the work must be sought. Separate copyrights exist in

  • music, and orchestration of the music
  • text and in any adaptation or translation of the text
  • other original elements such as the book, the scenario or choreography

As dramatico-musical works are invariably the result of the collaboration of two or more writers (eg music by A, book and lyrics by B) it is important to remember that copyright subsists in a work until the end of the seventieth year after the death of the last-surviving writer of that work.

2. Who is the copyright owner?

For unpublished works, the copyright owner will be the writer(s) or their representative(s).

For published works, the copyright owner is normally the publisher or their agent specified in the score.  It is assumed in this Information Sheet for simplicity's sake that works are published and that the copyright owner is therefore the publisher.

3. Applying for permissions

You must be clear from whom you are applying for the permission to perform a Grand Right work. 

  1. For the performance of a complete work either dramatic (staged) or non-dramatic (non-staged), you must apply to the copyright owner (see below)
  2. For the performance of excerpts, you must apply either directly to the copyright owner or PRS for Music on 0845 300 6033. Permission should be sought at least 30 days before the performance, to give PRS for Music time to seek permission on your behalf from the copyright holder

Does a PRS blanket licence cover dramatico-musical works?

Many performing organisations, halls and other premises, education or local authorities pay a 'blanket licence' fee to PRS for Music for the performance of musical works. This blanket licence does not cover dramatico-musical works, other than excerpts of music only (with no dramatic performance) such as one song sung from a musical or all ballet music (with action or not); however in these cases permission would still need to be sought via PRS for Music before the performance can take place.

Excerpts of Grand Right works

If the right of performance is controlled by PRS for Music, you must ensure that the place of performance has a PRS licence to perform live music.

In the case of un-licensed premises, all Making Music member groups may pay the appropriate fees via the Making Music office at the same time as renewing membership towards the end of the year (see our Performing Rights royalties tariff 2017-18).

Applying to a publisher

Application to perform a complete work – or excerpts not controlled by PRS for Music – should be made in writing to the publisher not less than eight weeks before either:

  1. the date when performing material is required, or
  2. the date of the first performance

The application should state the number and dates of performances to be given, the place of performance, approximate seating capacity of the venue, seat prices and other works (if any) to be performed in the same programme.  If performing material is required on and/or for hire, details of requirements should also be given.

The publisher will then quote a performing fee - either an outright sum or a royalty on box office receipts - and, if applicable, a hire fee.  Once these are agreed, a performing licence or written agreement will be issued by the publisher.  Such licence or agreement must always be obtained before the first performance.  If you fail to do so, you are breaking the laws of copyright.

Copyright owners reserve the right to withhold permission at their own discretion.  For example, the right of first performance may have been granted to another performing organisation.  Equally it is not uncommon for permission to be withheld where the work in question is being performed in London's West End.

Does the acquisition of performing material automatically give me the right to perform a dramatico-musical work?
No, the acquisition of such material, whether by sale, hire or loan, does not confer the right to perform a work, unless a performing licence or written agreement has also been obtained. Performing material may not be reproduced photographically by any means or used for any purposes other than those stated in the licence or agreement.

4. Special conditions

Permission to perform a dramatico-musical work is limited to the terms stated in the performing licence or written agreement.  Special permission is invariably required for the right to:

  1. arrange or adapt copyright music or text of a work
  2. prepare a translation of a foreign text which is copyright
  3. broadcast a work - or any part of it - on radio or television
  4. reproduce or record the work by any mechanical or electrical means including sound recording on a tape or cassette, video recording, cinematograph film, gramophone record, etc

Non-paying audiences and 'charitable' performances

Unless specifically agreed otherwise in advance in the Performing Licence or written agreement, performing fees are payable whether or not the audience is charged admission and also when the performing organisation is of a charitable nature or is giving a performance or performances for charitable purposes.  However, the publisher may well make a lower quotation in the case of charitable performances.

Performances in schools

Provided the audience is limited to persons who are teachers or pupils attending the school, performances given by students and/or teachers in a classroom situation are not subject to fees.  End of term productions attended by parents would however attract a fee for grand rights.

Performances in churches

If a performance takes place in a church it still requires permission from the publisher or the PRS for a licence to perform.  The only exception made by PRS is if the performance forms part of a service of divine worship.


The publisher reserves the right to charge a cancellation fee, particularly if performing material has been supplied on hire.

5. How can I contact the publisher?

The Music Publishers' Association (MPA) lists its members online which includes a large number of publishers of classical music, many of whom have dramatico-musical works in their catalogues.

Making Music is grateful to the Music Publishers' Association and to PRS for Music (formerly the Performing Right Society) for their assistance in the preparation of this Information Sheet.


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.