The short and legal answer is yes. Broadcasting licenses are required by law (different countries, different laws) however if you plan on playing commercial music on your online radio is best to safeguard your station with the knowledge you need surrounding these licenses and the companies who provide them to you, at cost of course…
Disclaimer: *The following post is not meant to be taken as legal advice. We highly recommend that you consult the relevant authorities and licensing bodies in your country. This post is simply a starting point to make things easier for you. **The Heights Hosting does not provide licensing, and royalty payments are not included in your subscription.**
Before you drift off into a licensing frenzy, it’s probably a good idea to know if you need one. Not all online radio stations require licensing; it all depends on what you plan on broadcasting and where you plan on broadcasting it. If you only play music, jingles, and voice-overs that are royalty-free, you won’t need to pay for using these tunes. If you plan on creating a talk-based internet radio station, with only royalty-free music, stream licensing might not be a requirement. But if you want a bumping station that plays all the latest, commercial tracks, you need to put stream licensing on your to-do list. Licensing requirements, terms, and conditions differ from country to country. It’s always smart to get into contact with your country’s respective licensing bodies to double-check the licensing requirements.
If you’re looking for a license to cover your online radio broadcasts in the USA, you’ll need to apply for a statutory license. There are four main licensing bodies that offer statutory licenses in the USA. These are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc), SESAC (Society from European Stage Authors and Composers), and SoundExchange.
ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are Performance Rights Organizations (PRO’s) that collect and distribute royalties for ‘public performances’. Public performances include broadcasts to public spaces, like restaurants or businesses, as well as broadcasts over the internet, TV, or radio. So if you’re planning on broadcasting commercial music in public spaces, you’ll need one (or more) of these licenses (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC).
SoundExchange is a service provider that will have you covered if you broadcast your radio shows on the internet. Licensing from SoundExchange covers you for digital public performance royalties. That is, they’ll cover you for broadcasts over digital platforms only.
You’ll find that most popular musicians are registered under either ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. So, if you’re planning on keeping track of your royalty payments yourself, you’ll have some work to do. You’ll need to figure out which of the tracks on your list fall under which organization, and then get licensed by those respective organizations. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to keep track of the number of performances heard by your listeners.
There are service providers covering USA stream licensing that can do all of this for you. By paying them a fee, you sidestep all the work and the tallying up of the royalty fees you owe. They then collect the royalties from you and redistribute them to the respective Performance Rights Organisations. These services make stream licensing a whole lot easier at the end of the day like Live365.
A PRS license will cover you for public broadcast services like webcasting, podcasting, on-demand streaming, and general entertainment to a UK-based audience. It covers royalties for the authors and songwriters. A PPL license will cover you for playing recorded music on your online radio station. It covers royalties for to record companies and the performing artists.
If you intend to run an online radio station that broadcasts commercial music in the UK, you’ll need both a PPL license and a PRS license for it to be legal. There are a number of PRS licensing options available that will depend on your income. You will need a LOML (Limited Online Music License) if you earn less than £12,500. If your income is above £12,500 but below £200,000, you will need a LOML+. If your income exceeds £200,000, you will require a Music Streaming License. These licenses do not require monthly fees or royalty calculations. Instead, you obtain these licenses by paying an annual fee, which then covers your online broadcasts for the year.
Every country’s broadcasting licensing body is different. What they cover and what you need to provide will probably be different from your neighboring country.
Note: Some organizations don’t clearly state their licensing options, so you may have to contact them directly for more details.