Music licensing is a complex issue and therefore it’s no surprise when things become very confusing, so in order to help you navigate through and understand more about how music licensing works then carry on reading…
Why is Music Licensing so complicated and confusing?
The first thing to understand is that there are two components to a song, the ‘Sound Recording’ and the ‘Composition’. The interests of the performing artists (Sound Recording) are usually looked after by their record company and the interests of the songwriter (Composition) are usually looked after by their publisher(s). For example, take the song ‘Manic Monday’ originally performed by The Bangles in the mid-80s: although performed by The Bangles, it was actually written by Prince. Once you understand that one song has separate and unrelated entities – all with a commercial interest – it may start to become clear as to why things can get complicated.
Do I need a PPL or PRS Licence for my Fitness Class?
Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and Performing Rights Society (PRS), are two entities who look after the commercial interests of their members; PPL on behalf of the record companies (Sound Recordings) and PRS on behalf of the publishers (Composition/Songwriters).
Where original artist music is used to enhance or benefit a business, then both licences are required, be that in the gym, supermarket, hairdressers, hold music or anywhere else. These licences are required in order for the artists and songwriters to be paid for the use of their music. So if you are playing music that contains original artist music in your fitness classes, then yes, you need a PPL and a PRS licence.
What is PPL Free Music?
In order for a company to benefit from the public performance of their material they have to be a member of PPL and register their recordings with them. A company who creates cover versions and isn’t a member of PPL is able to offer these recordings as PPL Free. PPL has no interest in these recordings as their creator is not one of their members, so therefore a PPL licence is not required when these recordings are played. However, remember that a PPL-Free cover version of ‘Manic Monday’ was still written by Prince, so this is why a PRS licence is still required, hence it’s not completely licence free.
Do I need a Music Licence for my online fitness videos?
In music licensing, it’s the combining of copyrighted music with a video – synchronisation – which creates you the biggest problem and puts you at the most risk of receiving a copyright infringement claim from the rights owners of the music you use. Permission to synchronise (sync) music to video for online use cannot be offered by PPL or PRS; in short, there is no blanket licence or workaround so your only option is to enter into an agreement directly with the record and publishing companies who control those rights.
If you choose to set off on this journey the complications are likely to be both costly and time consuming. Remember the No.1 hit ‘Uptown Funk’? Well, this track has eleven different contributors (composers) who between them are represented by five different publishers, that’s five separate agreements to negotiate before heading off to the record company to pay for the right to use the sound recording… that’s just for one track. When this is done and if you have any money left you can start clearing your second track. These complications make it commercially unviable to proceed and the only remaining safe way is to use licence free music when producing your videos or streaming live online.
The safest and simplest way to play music in your online fitness videos is by using the Pure Energy GO range of completely licence free music. You don’t have to pay any licence fees, and you won’t get muted or taken down, whether you’re live streaming or uploading pre-recorded videos.
Licence Free Music – What does this mean?
Licence free music is music where both the sound recording and the composition is owned and controlled in its entirety by the company producing it. These recordings have not been registered with PPL or PRS and therefore no licence is required from either party when these recordings are used online or played in a gym or studio.
YouTube & Facebook
Both YouTube and Facebook have an agreement with rights owners – both record companies for the sound recordings and the publishers for the compositions – however, this agreement has limitations. Facebook – Live streaming is included in the core Facebook licence, however, there are usage restrictions in place with regards to live streams, so whilst your live feed may not be identified or muted, the agreement Facebook has with the music rights holders does not cover the commercial exploitation of their material, therefore you run the real risk of being caught up in a copyright infringement argument should a rights owner see fit. Facebook is not licensed as a music streaming service so where Facebook identifies people or companies exploiting it to purposely stream music then this is likely to trigger takedown notifications or blocking. Live streaming aside, videos containing copyrighted music posted on Facebook will automatically have their music muted once they are identified.
YouTube – Live streaming is covered by the core YouTube licence, however, like Facebook, this licence was not designed for and does not include the commercial exploitation of rights owners’ material so you run the risk as with Facebook of being caught up in a copyright infringement argument with rights owners.
Live streaming aside, if you post videos on your YouTube channel then the rights owners have the ability to monetise your video by placing ads on them, they also have the ability to take the video down should they wish. Get 3 takedowns and you lose your channel. So at best you can’t make money from your channel and at worst you lose it altogether. The best course of action for all social media and online use is to use licence fee music.
The same rules apply to Skype, Zoom and all online transmission platforms, there are no exceptions.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the current crisis, the situation is fluid and licensing bodies are seeking to help, if the situation changes we will keep you updated.