When you purchase published sheet music the provider will give you various allowances. Making a recording is often included in their usage policy but as with all copyright elements you should check on a case-by-case basis.
Whether your motivation is to promote your brass band, for fans to listen to your music or if it is just for personal listening or practice, online streaming is an ideal method that may circumvent copyright problems.
In the UK, copyright lasts for a period of 70 years from when the composer dies. This differs in other countries, so you would have to check the nationality of the composer to know for sure. Generally speaking, the music you will record will be in copyright still.
Not so long ago, you would have needed to seek permission from the copyright holders but there are certain online platforms that have taken care of copyright issues by paying a blanket license to the copyright societies. This then gets divided up between the artists/composers whose music is being used.
The platforms doing this will inevitably grow over time, but as of writing this, I am aware of the following platforms that have this in place.
This means that you can upload the recordings to these platforms without running into problems. They are classed as cover versions and the composer or artist will benefit from a share of the ad revenue paid by the platform. While this is fair for them, it makes it incredibly easy for us to showcase and promote our band’s recordings.
You can easily showcase the music on your own website by embedding the video or audio from the platform and you are still covered in doing this.
If you only want to provide the music exclusively to a certain group of people, perhaps your supporters or for practising purposes you can make the video private on YouTube, or a private Playlist on SoundCloud and provide a private link.
Creating a physical item such as a DVD, CD, SD card, memory stick etc. requires you to seek permission and get a license which will have costs associated with it.
PRS for Music has an option called Limited Manufacture. It is ideal for brass bands as you can license small batches of CDs. For example, as of writing, the current rates are £142.85 for 251-500 CDs or £285.68 for 501-1000 (ex-VAT).
PRS display MCPS-only rates and MCPS-PPL joint rates. The price example above is taken from the MCPS-only rates (linked below). As you are making your own recording to sell as a CD (not playing it in public) I don’t think you will need the PPL element of the license.
In any case, you have to apply via their website so I am sure they will guide you appropriately.
MCPS, PPL & PRS ?
These are the 3 music copyright societies in the UK. Some years ago MCPS and PRS merged to create PRS for Music. If you are not in the UK your country will have its own organisation.
PPL is Phonographic Performance Limited. You need to pay a license to them to play or broadcast other people’s recordings in public.
MCPS stands for Mechanical Copyright Protection Society and charges licenses to people making copies of copyrighted music.
PRS stands for Performing Right Society and charges licenses for the performance of copyrighted music.
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Sources of Information / Disclaimer
I am not a lawyer so this does not constitute legal advice. However, I have over 20 years of experience in music licensing to draw my knowledge from and have cross-checked with a few reliable sources online for the latest guidance. Here are the most relevant sources.
- PRS for Music prsformusic.com
- See Limited Manufacture https://www.prsformusic.com/licences/releasing-music-products/limited-manufacture
- Brass Bands England bbe.org.uk
- See Licenses & Permissions https://www.bbe.org.uk/licences-and-permissions
- PPL ppluk.com