Music in hallways - performed by school band.

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  • I posted the inquiry below about the music over the school loudspeaker in the mornings.

    Would the same legal issues apply if our school band recorded music on a CD to play for 2 minutes every morning in the hallways?

    Thank you.
  • Yes, it's pretty much the same issue. You changed the performer, but the band would still have to have permission to perform the music and record it unless it was in the public domain.
    The U.S. Copyright office has a nice circular at that explains school music rights and how to get permission.
  • The good news is that the rate for compulsory mechanical licenses to make your own recording of a previously recorded and distributed musical work is fixed by statute and fairly reasonable if you only plan to make a limited number of copies of the recording.

    The current mechanical royalty rate is 9.1 cents per song per unit for recordings of musical works up to 5 min. in length. So if your school band was recorded performing 20 different previously recorded and distributed songs, and the school wanted to make just 10 copies of the disc containing those 20 songs, the total cost would be $18.20 for the license to make the recording (.091 x 20 [number of songs] x 10 [number of units]). The Harry Fox Agency, which is cited on the circular that LWilliamson mentioned, serves as a clearinghouse for obtaining such mechanical licenses:

    That would cover the license to record the musical work, but you'd still have to clear the public performance rights, as LWilliamson stated. The blanket license with BMI that is held by the university where I work allows public performances by live or recorded means for most uses of music on campus, including the music that plays in the Student Union building, student band concerts, even the on-hold music that plays when you phone the University. The annual license fee we pay to BMI is considerably more than most mechancial licenses would be, but this fee is based on the number of students enrolled at our campus, which is more than 17,000 (full- and part-time). I imagine the fee for your school would be considerably lower (BMI's per student fee in 2004-2005 was $0.266, with a minimum annual license fee of $217).

    Perhaps the band or Student Council could hold some sort of annual fundraising event, like a carwash, to cover the recording and public performance licensing fees? It seems like a worthy project that should generate some enthusiasm from the students, especially if they got to choose which songs to record and the band members got their own copy of the CD. Of course, a faculty or school staff member would probably have to monitor the project, to make sure the band only recorded songs in BMI's repertory (or whatever performing rights society you chose to take out a blanket license with) and to exclude types of works not covered by your blanket license, such as dramatic musical works.

    I've never managed such a project, so all of the above is based on my limited understanding of music licensing. I'd encourage you to run this by any legal authority available at your school district if you proceed, and I encourage anyone on the forum who has anything to add to (or correct) anything I've said to please do so.

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