A mix of non-traditional holiday songs might be the key to lighten the mood and create a more memorable event. How about the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick," written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, or "Ho Ho Ho Who'd Be a Turkey At Christmas," written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, or "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)," written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono?
If jazz is your groove, check out "Blue X-Mas" written and performed by Miles Davis. R&B fans might like "Gee Whiz It's Christmas," performed by Carla Thomas and written by Steve Cropper, Carla Thomas and Vincent Trauth; or "This Time Of The Year," written by Brook Benton and Otis Blackwell. Country fans should enjoy Dolly Parton's "I'll Be Home With Bells On," and Ray Stevens' "Santa Claus Is Watching You." For truly alternative music, how about "Head Crushing Yuletide Sing Along" by Mojo Nixon?
These are a few of the 4.5 million songs licensed for public performance by BMI, a music performing rights organization representing 250,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers from around the world. More than half the music performed publicly in the United States is licensed by BMI, a non-profit making organization that has reciprocal agreements with similar groups in 60 countries.
"We can give a company permission to perform all of our 4.5 million songs all year long with a single agreement," said Tom Annastas, BMI Vice President, General Licensing. Annastas encourages businesses that have questions about music licensing to call BMI toll-free at 1-800-925-8451. Getting permission from composers to perform their songs can be easier and cheaper than buying door prizes for your party.
BMI's repertoire also has plenty of songs for other holiday occasions, such as Hanukah and Kwanzaa. There are nearly 3,000 songs licensed by BMI that begin with the word "Hanukah" (under various spellings), so if you want to listen to a little jazz by candlelight, "Chanukah Song" co-written and performed by Kenny G might work. BMI has about a dozen songs that begin with the word "Kwanzaa," and many more with the name of the African-American celebration elsewhere in the title.
No Christmas party would be worth its eggnog without festive music, but oversight by persons planning music for business festivities could diminish the season for some hard-pressed songwriters. Failing to obtain copyright clearance for the music used at a company party may not evoke comparisons to Ebenezer Scrooge, but, if left uncorrected, the mistake could cause embarrassment and unnecessary expense for your organization.
"Bah! Humbug!" you say? Read on.
The Better Business Bureau, in its brochure, "Music for the Marketplace," says that before you perform music in public, whether by live recordings, recordings, or broadcasts, you must get permission from copyright owners. "Public" performances are very broadly construed under the law and are defined as performing "at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered." The BBB says, "This has been interpreted to mean that most performances at so-called private clubs and fraternal organizations are 'public' under copyright law."
Annastas said some people think all BMI songwriters are rich and famous, and don't really need music performance royalties -- but "those are the exception," he explained. "Most songwriters work hard behind the scenes to provide great music for others to record and sing. The average BMI songwriter earns less than $5,000 per year from public performances of their music, and even less from the sale of records and sheet music," Annastas said.