Music Copyright for Kids Entertainers Part 1

Questions on music copyright usually come up in any discussion among kids and family entertainers. To help shed more light on this matter many of us feel we need to learn more about, David Bilan has kindly shared this pack-load of information. See it below.

Download Training Tip 77 - Can I Use This Music?: Copyright for Kids Entertainers Part 1

I work for the US Army producing videos. Our facility utilizes production music libraries with an annual cost of $300 to $3000.

There are a number of licenses involved when you are using popular tunes, especially if they have been part of a TV series or a movie. In the US, you have Master Use licenses and Synchronization Licenses among others.

Here’s also a couple of things to consider when you’re thinking of using a song or piece made by other people.

Who owns the music? Could be any or all of the following: the lyricist, the song writer, the publisher(s), or the multimedia or movie company (Sony, MGM, etc.). And if it’s a band’s, what if some members of the band are good about your request, but other members don’t want to loan the use of the music?

Which version of the recording are you using? Is it a live performance, a studio recording, or a special soundtrack?

Do you have a headache yet?

At this point, you might say “$%%#%&” and decide to use the music anyway. You might get away with it, or you might not. What does it cost if you get caught in the US?


Penalties for Using Copyright-Protected Music without Permission

The Purdue University website says, “The legal penalties for copyright infringement are: infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. Infringer pays for all attorneys’ fees and court costs.”

And that’s for each violation. Do your show a hundred times in a year and get caught using one pop song without permission, even the minimum fine adds up to $20,000. Ouch.


What Are the Odds of Getting Caught?

It’s a small world. Maybe the dad of one of your customers has a brother who’s a member of the band “Men at Work.” Or maybe someone in the audience is a relation of the audio engineer who helped produce the album where the song you used is from. Or maybe one of the parents records your great show and posts it on YouTube. You never know.


How Can You Legally Use the Music You Need?

Do your show a hundred times in a year and get caught using one pop song without permission, even the minimum fine adds up to $20,000.
In the US, the big watchdogs are the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc (BMI). They can help you get licensing to use the music you want for a fee. The cost of the fee depends on your audience (small kids shows or a TV special), the amount you charge (your profit), the popularity of the music (is it a former number 1 hit?), and whether the music is licensed under ASCAP or BMI.

DJ’s should be paying but often don’t. On the other hand, they don’t play a specific song as a critical part of the entertainment of an illusion.

At some facilities, the venue may have a license (bars & restaurants, local government entities (LGEs), fitness clubs, residential communities, TV, radio, website, mobile). That license may or may not allow you to use music under their license. There are stories of magicians going on TV and being told their music wasn’t licensed and can’t be used, so the studio will provide some generic music. Ugh.

Going back to production music, the fees I mentioned was for a government production facility to have access to the entire library to use as much music as many times as needed. You may be able to find background tracks to lease for the length of your show for as low as $30 a song.


The Major Takeaway

Music is a critical element in providing great entertainment. Reach out to production music companies and talk with them. Keep in mind that music used only for live performances will be cheaper than music used on TV or something streamed or as part of a DVD. You can pay for what you really use and go back if you have a one-time use in another market.

Download Training Tip 77 - Can I Use This Music?: Copyright for Kids Entertainers Part 1

That’s a good dose of useful, practical information. David will be back with Part 2 where he goes into detail about when (or in what performances) do you need public performance licensing and other options available to kids and family entertainers who need audio materials in their website and shows. Keep an eye out for that one.