Streaming Live Music: What You Need to Know

Streaming is a public performance, like a broadcast. Therefore, the entity that is transmitting the stream is responsible for obtaining a public performance license.

  • For an audio-only, non-interactive stream of a non-dramatic performance, these licenses are available from performing right societies such as ASCAP and BMI. There is helpful information on each of their web sites. Please be aware that sites like YouTube are licensed by ASCAP and BMI, so it would not be necessary for a performing ensemble to obtain their own license to post on such sites.  However, if the ensemble wishes to post streams on their own website, they should contact the performing right societies to obtain any necessary licenses.


  •  For an audio-only, interactive stream (sometimes referred to as an  “on-demand stream”) of a non-dramatic performance, a mechanical license in addition to a performing rights license is necessary. For this type of stream, contact the publisher to obtain the mechanical license.


  • If the musical materials used at a performance to be streamed were rented, you should contact the publisher (including self-published composers) to determine if the original rental agreement covered streaming or whether you need to extend the agreement to do so.


  • If you want to produce an audio-visual recording of a performance to be streamed, that requires a synchronization license in addition to a public performance license. A synchronization license, commonly known as a “synch license,” gives the producer of the A-V recording the right to record the musical work in timed relation to the visual images. The performing right societies cannot issue synch licenses. Synch licenses are only available from the publisher or other copyright owner. However, once a synch license is obtained, the performing right license situation is the same as for an audio-only recording of a non-dramatic work, that is, usually this will be covered by a license from a performing right society.

  • For a dramatic musical work, the performing rights are not licensed by a performing right society. These rights must be obtained from the publisher. Audio-visual recordings of dramatic musical works also require a “synch” license. Publishers may issue a combination license to cover both synch and dramatic performance rights. If the materials were rented, this must also be discussed with the publisher to determine if the rental agreement needs to be extended to cover streaming use.


  • By law, each publisher must determine their own fees and conditions. Please remember that publishers and the composers they represent are also heavily affected by the current situation, so publishers generally are trying to find solutions that are fair for all concerned.