The question of playing music at events came up in a social media discussion recently. The question was if event hosts realize that they had to pay a licensing fee to play music at their workshops and seminars.
Music is incredibly important in setting the tone for your event. It creates a mood and you can influence the emotions that will help your attendees learn. Music should be a vital part of your workshops and seminars. However, it is important that you do this legally and ethically.
I think most event hosts are completely clueless they are required to pay a licensing fee.
However, if you have a professional event planner, they should either carry a license or use vendors that do. Either way, you should investigate.
It is always your responsibility to have the proper paperwork and permissions in place. Ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law.
Chances are that no one will ever know if you do not have a license. However, you do not want other seminar leaders start teaching your material and making money of your hard work. Musicians and song writers also worked hard for their songs and deserve to get paid for their work.
Your AV Company
Your audiovisual company should definitely hold a license, because they spend a lot of time renting out equipment and playing music. If your audiovisual company just drops off the equipment and you are not hiring them to do your audio, then you should not depend on them for the license.
ASCAP and BMI
The easy way is to become an ASCAP and/or BMI licensee. It is a yearly fee and it is not expensive. It is based on how many attendees you have, with a minimum yearly fee. They have a ton of different licenses and there is a special license for Training and Development Sessions, Educational or Informational Seminars (ASCAP) and Meetings, Conventions, Trade Shows, and Expositions (BMI).
Each company probably has a catalog of about 4 million songs each. So if you only want to pay one license, I am sure you can find enough songs in that catalog. Just make sure that if you have an ASCAP license, that you don’t play BMI songs!
Royalty Free Music
If you do not want to get a license, another option is to use royalty free music. You can purchase CDs that you can use without paying a royalty for using the songs. Sometimes these are just short clips and obviously they are never the popular hit songs.
Probably not the music you want to use to get people fired up!
What is your favorite music to play at your seminars and how are you staying compliant?