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FAQs music licensing

Licensing requirements for events can be a bit of a minefield. You might be clued up on lotteries and TENs, but what about music licensing? Keep on the right side of copyright law with guidance from PRS for Music and PPL...

Download our at-a-glance guide to event licensing

I've been told to check whether our venue has music licences - why do we need these?

If you play recorded music or music videos in public, including radio or TV, or at live events, this is considered a 'public performance'. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states that you need to get permission from the copyright holder to 'perform' music in public, and a PRS for Music (Performing Rights Society) licence grants you this permission. By purchasing the correct music licences, businesses and organisers of social activities can play recorded music to their benefit while confident that they are legally compliant. A PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd) licence ensures that performers and record companies are being fairly paid for the use of their music.

Would a PTA event held on school grounds be covered by the school's licence?

All schools should have a CEFM (Centre for Education and Finance Management) licence to cover them for their curricular activities. If the school is hosting events outside of the curriculum they would require a PRS for Music licence; check whether your school has this in place. This would cover the school for all music outside of the standard curriculum, for example school fetes, fundraisers, race nights, etc. Music festivals are licensed under a different tariff and therefore require a separate licence. A PTA does not need its own PPL licence if it is running an event on school premises as this will be covered by the school's own licence.

We're holding a music festival in a farmer's field, what licences do we need?

Festival organisers need to ensure they have the correct licences to stage their event. Licences are needed for all sites featuring music, for the duration of the festival. A licence should be applied for in advance. PRS for Music will contact you to obtain details of the music being performed at the festival and will use this information to calculate the charges due. Programme and set list forms can be submitted electronically (or posted) for all live performances of music under the relevant PRS for Music Public Performance tariff. The charges vary and are based on a number of factors. For an accurate quote for hosting a festival, or to obtain a PRS for Music licence, contact PRS for Music. PPL does not have a specific tariff for a festival and so the required licence depends on how recorded music is being used. DJ sets should be licensed via PPL's Specially Featured Entertainment tariff whereas general background music at the festival should be licensed via PPL's Single and Casual Events tariff.

Do we get these licences from our local council?

No, PRS for Music and PPL licences for a festival or event should be purchased directly from those two organisations.

How long are PRS for Music and PPL licences valid for?

A PRS for Music licence can be sought for a one-off event or a licence can be granted which is ongoing until terminated and which covers all events during its term. PPL licences can be issued to cover music use throughout the year or for an individual event, and so it depends on the type of event you are running.

How much will it cost and who should apply?

The cost of a PRS for Music licence will be calculated as either a percentage of the box office receipts or a charge calculated using either the capacity of the area or the attendance. For a quote, contact PRS for Music. The cost of a PPL licence depends on the type of event being held and how music is used. For example, a PPL licence for a three hour DJ set attended by 150 people currently costs £16.09. The event organiser should apply for the required licences.

Our school already has PRS for Music and PPL licences - are PTA events covered by these?

Yes, events on school premises by groups of students, teachers or individuals with direct affiliations to the life of the school (e.g. PTAs) are covered by the school's own licence. A separate PRS for Music licence would, however, be required if you're holding a music festival.

When wouldn't we need a licence?

A PPL licence is not necessary for the use of live music. PRS for Music licences cover the majority of music originating from the UK and all over the world. If you play music outside of PRS for Music's control, you may need an additional licence from the relevant copyright owner(s).

Are other licences needed for an event featuring music?

Possibly! No TEN licence is required for amplified live music and/or recorded music if your event is held on local authority or school premises between 8am-11pm and the audience is no more than 500 (the organiser must get consent for the performance on the relevant premises from: the local authority concerned or the school). If your audience exceeds 500, a Premises Licence is required. These can take up to two months to come through from the time you submit your application. The cost depends on the non-domestic rateable value (NDRR) of your venue (go to 2010.voa.gov.uk). The fees are on a sliding scale from £635 down to £100. There is also an annual fee (between £70-£350). A condition of obtaining a Premises Licence is that a newspaper advert must be placed (allow around £250 for this). Contact your local licensing officer as early as possible.

The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.

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