If you’re researching how to start an online radio station, you’ve probably come across the subject of if and when you need a music license. Internet radio licensing can be confusing, especially because various legal regulations depend on what (and where) you’re broadcasting.
In this short and simple guide, we’re tackling the basics of music licenses for internet radio, addressing key questions such as:
- Do you need a music license for an internet radio station?
- How do I know if I need a music license for my online radio station?
- What are the different options for licensing for online radio?
Of course, the best way to understand the legalities of your situation is to do your research. We recommend you use this guide to get started; then consult the proper licensing authorities and legal professionals to ensure you have all the information you need.
Do I Need a Music License for Internet Radio?
Ultimately, the answer to this question is that it depends.
Licensing requirements are primarily based on two factors:
- What type of content will you be broadcasting
- Where will you be broadcasting to
You will need a license if you’re planning on broadcasting commercial music (like the latest hits). A license is necessary to protect yourself legally and to ensure that you do not infringe on any artists’ copyrights. Usually, a song’s copyright is held by the record label or recording artist, who are paid royalties anytime the music is broadcast publicly – this includes internet radio stations.
If you only broadcast royalty-free music, you do not need a standard license. However, you will need to get a royalty-free license – more on that later.
Everything You Need to Know About Licensing for Internet Radio
As you can see, there are many “if this, then that” situations involved in internet radio music licensing. But figuring out exactly what rules apply to your station is a must.
Here are a few critical details about the licensing process and regulations.
It’s important to determine the proper licensing body for your station.
Some various entities and organizations are in charge of music licensing, varying from country to country. The main governing bodies for music licenses in the United States include ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange. You will need to identify which licensing bodies are suited to your station. Otherwise, a blanket license is your best bet.
You can cover all your bases with a blanket license for internet radio.
A blanket license also called an umbrella license, is the easiest way to make sure you have all your bases covered. This type of license allows internet radio stations to play any copyrighted music.
You will typically pay a yearly fee for blanket licenses, with the total cost depending on where you are broadcasting from and where you will be broadcasting to. It can cost more to broadcast to certain counties, where geo-protection features come in handy.
Geo-protection features can give you a helpful level of control.
Using geo-protection for internet radio broadcasting, you can easily allow or block listeners from specific countries. This can be extremely handy when it comes to adhering to your music license and choosing licensing parameters that fit your goals and budget.
For example, if it is too expensive to broadcast to certain countries, you can block access to your station in those locations. So you won’t have to worry about paying for licensing for those countries.
Statutory licensing might apply to your situation.
Statutory licensing is purchased through individual licensing entities in certain countries (including the U.S.). If you don’t purchase a blanket license, you will need to go through the process of buying a statutory license.
Royalty-free music can save you money, but it’s not a 100% no-cost option.
Broadcasting royalty-free music does not mean that you can play all applicable tracks for free. Instead, you’ll pay a one-time fee for a royalty-free license to get permission to broadcast the music for as long as (and as many times as) you want.
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