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  • 1.  Music Licensing for Museum Use

    Posted 02-10-2020 05:47 PM
    I've been working on reviewing our institutional policy for music usage and our legal protections through licensing with performance rights organizations. Our institution worked for years under the assumption that they were safe by saying that it was the artists' responsibility to secure and maintain licensing (which I understand not to be true).

    I'm looking to see what other institutions do to protect themselves with regards to licensing and live music performances. We've considered a streaming only option for music, but we do have a handful of live performances each year and I don't want to leave the institution at risk.

    My original research and discussions with fellow institutions led me to believe that ASCAP and BMI licensing would both provide protection, but now i'm questioning whether the most comprehensive approach would be to maintain licensing from ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and Global Music Rights. Before I approach this, i'd appreciate getting a sense of how other institutions handle music licensing and live performances. 


    Jennifer Restauri Dickinson
    Curator of Education
    Stark Museum of Art
    Orange TX
    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 2.  RE: Music Licensing for Museum Use

    Posted 02-12-2020 10:02 AM
    Edited by Gary Galván 02-12-2020 10:03 AM
    Dear Jennifer,

    Institutions sponsoring musical events are responsible for ASCAP/BMI licensing. Use of streaming/on demand services in-house (e.g. juke boxes, Sirius radio) generally comes with contracts that include this protection, as number of plays and specific titles are enumerated and reported to the rights organizations. As a sponsoring facility of performances, you would acquire programs from performers and essentially submit these annually. Performing artists are responsible for securing rights to use specific works (e.g. rent scores/sets). Copyright law can be daunting, and be careful with use of visual elements (e.g. film) with performances as that enters the realm of synchronization rights and becomes even more complicated.
    Fees from the performance rights organization are proportional to your intended use, and the representatives are very helpful in guiding one through the process.

    Gary Galván, Curator
    Special Collections Music
    Free Library of Philadelphia

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 3.  RE: Music Licensing for Museum Use

    Posted 02-12-2020 12:31 PM
    Hello Jennifer,

    Copy write law is something difficult to navigate through. I too have had to research a fair amount as we are facing the same issues. As far as live performances go, yes the artist does need to provide their own licences; if they are not preforming original works. However streaming music is very different. Streaming music needs be done with a service that caters to businesses, as a personal account will not have any protections; and is a violation of the terms and conditions. Services like; Music for Business, Jukeboxy and others do have protections for some businesses. This is where it can get murky. If your business/museum dose not charge admission; you do not need any more licences to stream music other than the ones provided by the streaming service. However if you do charge admissions you will need additional licences from whatever distributor (ASCAP, BMI, Ect.) your service contracts with. Each service typically touts the number of and who the distributors they work with are, so it is not too hard to find out what additional licences you will need. Music streaming services DO NOT protect you, if you charge to enter the area music is played in.

    I hope this was helpful,

    Juan Hernandez
    Tech Services Technician II
    Museum of Flight
    Seattle WA

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 4.  RE: Music Licensing for Museum Use

    Posted 02-13-2020 08:48 AM
    Hi everyone,

    I'd like some clarification.  I hire musicians throughout the season to play music in the background for the entertainment of guests.  Are you all saying I need to pay copyright fees?  Do I need a play list for each musician and get rights?  I was never worried about that and the though never crossed my mind, but now I'm a little concerned.  Thank you!

    Paula Phipps
    Nemours Estate
    Wilmington DE

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 5.  RE: Music Licensing for Museum Use

    Posted 02-13-2020 09:39 AM

    We work specifically with orchestras around the world and deal primarily with print copyright issues; nevertheless, we have a bit more than a nodding acquaintance with performance rights, broadcast rights, and synchronization rights. The following link is a good way to get an overview of norms and expectations:



    In short, if you are providing music for public consumption, you must contribute to the performing rights organizations; this is how rights holders get paid and make a living. The representatives at ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are very helpful and happy to help facilitate compliance.




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    Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music
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    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more

  • 6.  RE: Music Licensing for Museum Use

    Posted 02-14-2020 02:23 PM
    Adding to what Gary and other have shared: It's a very imperfect system for all involved, perhaps most imperfect for the composers! 

    Most people at AAM will likely want what's called a "blanket license" which are usually not that expensive on an annual basis. If your institution is under the umbrella of a University, it's extremely likely that the entire University already has one and that your space is covered already. The price scales with how often you have live music, how dispersed the background audio playback is, and other variables. They will work with you to sort our what you need.

    Where things get trickier is if you actually want to be an artist advocate and ensure payment to rights holders you are working with. To do that you'll need to send concert programs to ASCAP and BMI and if those program happen to overlap with days that ASCAP and BMI are counting (they have a random selection of the year, they don't pay 1:1 last I was aware), the composer performed will get paid. As many composers don't have publishers renting their scores anymore to ensembles and provide them directly, it is often the case that the composer is not compensated in any way within the current system except if the piece was commissioned and at the time of commissioning. So! Support your local composers and if you are presenting their work, try and find a way to pay them something directly or even better: commission something new :)

    Micah Silver
    Polytope Agency
    (347) 446-0047

    AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo, Baltimore, May 16-19, 2024, click to learn more