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Music Licensing: Home

This is a guide for faculty and students who need to license musical works for performances.

About Music Copyright

Musical works are creative and highly-protected under U.S. Copyright Law

U.S. Copyright law provides copyright protection for “musical works, including any accompanying words,” that are fixed in some tangible medium of expression. Along with the exclusive rights of the copyright owner, the copyright in a musical work includes the right to make and distribute, or to authorize, the first sound recording of a performance of the musical composition. Once a musical composition is recorded and published in the United States, others are permitted to make sound recordings, subject to a licensing provision.

Two Copyrights

Musical works have two copyrights, one for compositions--music, with lyrics if applicable--and another for sound recordings. 

Music Licensing for Faculty

For face-to-face only performances using recordings of music, your use is likely covered under one of our existing licenses with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or GMR. Please ensure the music you wish to use is covered by one of them by searching their web sites (below, under Resources). Please note the Music Licensing Scenarios, below.

All contracts need to be sent to the Office of General Counsel for approval. 

For College of the Arts faculty who wish to stream, record, or archive live performances, see Kent State Arts Broadcasting Network.

Music Licensing for Students

Students are responsible for obtaining the necessary licenses for public performances. Use the Scenarios table below to determine what type of license you need.

Music Licensing Scenarios

What do you want to do? License Type Where to Get a License
Play music, including background music, at an event or at a business Public Performance ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or GMR. If event is on campus, ensure the desired music appears in one of their catalogs. No performance license is needed for the sound recordings.
Use a song and recording in an audiovisual work Synchronization "Sync" License Direct license with publisher(s) AND record label
Play a cover of a copyrighted song in a live performance Public Performance If this is a theatre, bar, or other public venue, the license is typically covered by the venue's ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or GMR license. Ensure the desired music appears in one of their catalogs.
Sample a copyrighted song in a new work Reproduction License or Fair Use Publisher AND Record Label. For sampling infringement cases ruled as Fair Use, they have typically provided commentary on the original or are satirical in nature.
Upload a cover of a copyrighted song to YouTube or other online venue Synchronization "Sync" License Publisher(s) AND record labor OR Licensing Exchange such as
Write an arrangement of a hit song for distribution Arrangement or Adaptation License Hal Leonard, Tresóna
Put on a production of a Broadway Musical Grand Rights License Musical Theatre International (MTI), The Musical Company, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc., on behalf of the publishers
Write and record an arrangement of a public domain song None The musical work is in the public domain. You own the rights to the arrangement.


Music Licensing Agencies