Customer Service: 800-925-8451
Licensing Assistance: 888-689-5264
10 Music Square East
Nashville, TN 37203
Music Licensing General FAQs
Q: What is BMI?
BMI is what is known as a music performing right organization. A performing right organization represents songwriters, composers and music publishers. Often called PROs, these companies collect license fees from businesses that use music, including television and radio stations; broadcast and cable networks; new media, including the Internet and mobile technologies; satellite audio services like XM and Sirius; nightclubs, hotels, bars, restaurants and other venues; digital jukeboxes; and live concerts. These license fees are then distributed as royalties to the songwriters, composers & music publishers the PROs represent. BMI has been in operation for more than 70 years, is recognized in U.S. copyright law as a licensor of music, and currently represents more than 600,000 copyright owners and their more than 7.5 million musical works.
BMI offers the ability to license most businesses and organizations online. Simply choose your business type and click "Apply for a License", then enter your Username & Password, which are provided for you on your correspondence from BMI or by calling a BMI representative. Once licensed, you can also pay your fee and manage your account online. If your business type does not yet have BMI online licensing capability, you can download a license from the site and return it to BMI at 10 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203 or call a BMI representative at (888) 689-5264 to license.
A BMI License provides you with the legal authorization you need to use a very powerful product – music. This product is the music creator's property, so a licensing agreement protects your business or organization from the penalties involved in copyright infringement. Your payment of music licensing fees ensures the continued creation of music -- for you and your organization.
BMI operates on a non-profit-making basis and does not make any profit on licensing fees. All fees, less BMI's operating expenses, are paid to our affiliated songwriters, composers, and music publishers in the form of royalties. Currently, more than eighty-seven cents of every dollar of your licensing fee goes to our affiliated copyright owners.
Approximately one out of every two songs played on radio is BMI-licensed music. In addition to the music of our U.S. copyright owners, the BMI repertoire also includes the music of songwriters and composers in more than 80 other countries. BMI writers have won numerous GRAMMYs, Country Music Association, and American Music Awards. They also represent the largest percentage of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, account for roughly one-half of all of the winners of the coveted Pulitzer Prize in the field of classical music, and have received the most Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards and Downbeat Jazz Poll Awards.
For a list of BMI's award-winning song titles and songwriters please visit our online repertoire search or call the BMI repertoire information line at 1-800-800-9313 where you can request information on specific titles.
They are, however, those agreements do not authorize the performance of such TV, cable, and radio to the public by businesses and other organizations.
Public performances of radio and TV are specifically addressed in Title 17, Section 110(5)(B) of the U.S. copyright law which states that any food service or drinking establishment that is 3750 square feet or larger, or any other establishment, other than a food service or drinking establishment, that is 2000 square feet or larger, must secure public performance rights for TVs or radios if any of the following conditions apply:
• For TV, if the business is using:
- more than four TVs; or
- more than one TV in any one room; or
- if any of the TVs used has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches; or
- if any audio portion of the audiovisual performance is communicated by means of more than six loudspeakers, or four loudspeakers in any one room or adjoining outdoor space; or
- if there is any cover charge.
• For radio, if the business is using
- more than six loudspeakers; or
- more than four loudspeakers in any one room or adjoining outdoor space; or
- if there is any cover charge; or
- music on hold.
Since it's the business or organization that's benefiting from the performance of music, management is responsible for ensuring that the organization is properly licensed. This responsibility cannot be passed on to anyone else even if the musicians hired are independent contractors.
The term "original music" generally means musical works written by the performing musicians. That doesn't mean, however, that the musicians are not affiliated with BMI. This is because licensing organizations like BMI are the vehicles through which songwriters and composers are compensated for the public performances of their music. In addition, one of the purposes of BMI is to help foster the development of up-and-coming songwriters, many of whom perform in public areas and establishments. Many times, these performers are asked to play a song known by the general public that was written by someone else to add to the entertainment. This performance also requires permission.
Q: If a business has a license with another performing right organization, do they still need to license with BMI?
A music license with another performing right organization allows you to perform only copyrighted music represented by that organization. It does not cover public performances of the award-winning music licensed by BMI. This is because each songwriter or composer may belong to only one performing right organization at any given time, so each PRO licenses a unique repertoire of music.
A "public performance" of music is defined in the U.S. copyright law to include any music played outside a normal circle of friends and family. Songwriters, composers, and music publishers have the exclusive right to play their music publicly and to authorize others to do so under the copyright law. This is known as the "Performing Right". This right was designed to enable and encourage music creators to continue to create music.
When you see the words "All Rights Reserved" on a movie that you've rented or purchased, you know that playing that movie before a public audience is prohibited. The same restrictions apply to music that is purchased, broadcast, or live musicians that are hired to play in a public setting. Every business or organization must receive permission from the copyright owners of the music they are playing before playing it publicly.
Q: Our business bought our own iPod, CDs, & gaming software. Isn’t this our property to play anywhere?
Although most people buy digital audio files, CDs, or games like Guitar Hero thinking they are now their property, there is a distinction in the law between owning a copy of the music and owning the actual songs that are played. When you buy an audio file, software, or CD, even those specifically marketed for business purposes, the purchase price covers only your private listening use, regardless of how they are labeled. Once you decide to play any copyrighted music publicly, you need permission from the copyright owners.
Our Music Licenses offer copyright clearance to use all of the works in the BMI repertoire in a variety of ways. This service saves music users the immense time and expense of contacting each songwriter or composer for permission to play their music publicly.