Five Things Churches Need to Know About Music Performance License

June 23, 2011


1.       You do not need to obtain a performance license to play, sing, perform or present music in your congregational worship service in your church. This is allowed by the religious exemption clause in the USA copyright law. It is important to understand that this exemption covers only your congregational worship service in your church. It does not cover copying, broadcasting, telecasting, webcasting, recording, or any other use of the music. These uses may be covered by obtaining permissions from the copyright holder or obtaining one of numerous other types of licenses.
2.       The following activities commonly engaged in by churches are not covered by the religious exemption clause or by CCLI or other music licenses. For any of these activities, the church must obtain permission from the copyright holder of the music to be used or performed (live or recorded) or obtain a performance license:
·         Summer camps (including talent shows, campfires, group singing, worship)
·         Picnics & BBQs
·         Vacation Bible School
·         Carnivals and festivals
·         Church  dinners and banquets
·         Special programs outside of your worship services
·         Youth events and meetings
·         Conferences, festivals, convocations
·         Retreats
·         Concerts
·         Daycare programs
·         Coffee houses
·         Karaoke
·         Meetings
·         Parties
3.       Normally, performance licenses for music in the above settings can be obtained from ASCAP, SESAC and BMI for the music that each one of those organizations covers. If the music you want to use is handled by more than one of these organizations, then you will need a performance license from each company involved.
4.       Private companies are beginning to emerge that will handle these copyright and licensing tasks for churches for a fee, much as CCLI, LicenSing and provide similar services for the copying and projection of hymn and song lyrics for use by churches in bulletins and worship. One such company is Christian Copyright Solutions, www.copyrightsolver.comPERFORMmusic License. And there are other companies, as well. through its
5.       Copyright and licensing have become complex and challenging for churches. It requires dedicated time, research and follow-up to remain legal in ministry today. And we must be aware that copyright laws exist, not for the benefit of churches, but solely for the financial benefit of the copyright owner.
For more information:
·         Performance Licenses for churches
·         Top 5 Myths of Performance Rights White Paper
·         Resources for Copyright and Licensing on the GBOD Website