Did you know that playing music under copyright at an event can get you, your company or a venue into big trouble?!
And this is more common than you think… all Top-40 songs, and anything that you hear on the radio are under copyright. For example, the rights to “Happy Birthday” were owned by Warner/Chappell Music. These rights were purchased for $25 million in 1988, and Warner/Chappell Music collected millions of dollars in royalties until a lawsuit ended that earlier this year.
A Performance-Right Organization (PRO) helps songwriters, composers, publishers and artists get paid for the use of their music in the form of performance royalties. Any time that a song with a copyright is played, an individual (including corporations) must pay a performance royalty to the copyright owner. This includes but is not limited to when songs are played at MEETINGS/EVENTS, corporate lobbies, hotel lobbies, restaurants, shopping malls, on the radio, in movies, TV shows, commercials… even telephone “hold” music. Also, covering music at a public gathering outside of your home requires payment of performance royalties.
The three most commonly known performance right organizations in the United States are:
Please note there are over 20 PRO collection societies in Europe and each acts independently. There is not a single blanket PRO for the continent of Europe.
Many large corporations pay performance royalties for the songs played at their events or in their venue. However, there are many organizations that “fly under the radar”. If you think that you are too small or large for a PRO to come after you, you are wrong. Music streaming giants such as Pandora and Spotify have been sued. Pandora recently settled a lawsuit paying $90 million in royalties. In early 2015, two small Chicago area bars (FatPour in Wicker Park and Kirkwood Bar in Lakewood) were hit with $150,000.00 fines according to an article by “Retail Radio”. IMS recommends that any organization using musical works in a public setting pay the appropriate performance royalties to the necessary PROs.
Article written by Julie Renninger, Director of Sales for IMS Technology Services.