If you’ve been planning and producing events for any length of time, you have probably run into issues regarding music licensing. Hopefully, you or your producers were prepared; there are plenty of horror stories about people and companies that were not.
This is one of many areas I play close attention to, whether the exposure is limited as with small, private local meetings, or great as with webcasts that reach hundreds and thousands of people publicly across the globe.
If you were in this business in the late 80’s or early 90’s, you may be familiar with the industry shake-up regarding music and the performing rights organizations (PRO’s) BMI and ASCAP. They waged a large scale, sweeping assault on companies and associations who were, until then, using music as they pleased without paying royalties to these PRO’s, who in turn compensate the artists, producers, songwriters and so on.
Using music for audience walk-in, parties, or video scores without paying for it was technically illegal but had gone largely unenforced. To many event planners it was free music that shouldn’t have been free, but the chances of anyone finding out were minimal; moreover, many people didn’t even realize it was wrong.
Before the internet took over, satellite broadcasts were commonplace, and simply an extension of the private meeting. So, the use of music could still go under the radar. Such was not the case with television and film, which were viewed in great public numbers and paid for prior to their use, of course.
Enter the webcast.
PRO’s and other entities such as publishing and record companies, who own the rights to songs, have much greater awareness of and access to the public use of their material on webcasts.
The problem? There are a number of horror stories about production companies and clients who have lost thousands of dollars as a result of not using and paying for licensed music, particularly with wide scale use such as webcasts. Many production companies don’t understand how to properly secure rights for webcasts or how to avoid such issues entirely.
The solution? Corporations and associations, like hotels, bars, and other public use venues, have royalty/use agreements in place for general use. But I always insist on using high quality licensed music for webcasts and securing video sync rights separately. We have a myriad of sources for such safe and high quality music. It’s another reason to leave the worry to us.