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Performing Music at a University


This page will guide you through the necessary steps to take when having a public performance of musical and/or dramatic works, such as musicals, plays, and operas. This page is organized in the following order:

  • Performing Music at a University (can apply to music performed at universities in the U.S.)
  • Performing Music at K-State (specific to K-State)
  • Performing Music outside the University
  • Performing Theatrical/Dramatic Works at K-State (although this page is specific to K-State, much of the content can be applied to universities across the U.S.)


Eckhardt Gramatte Hall of Rozsa Centre at Calgary University, a Persian Concert

Eckhardt Gramatte Hall of Rozsa Centre at
Calgary University, a Persian Concert

Image courtesy of PersianDutchNetwork,
CC BY-SA 3.0

Blanket Music License Agreements

Most university campuses have what are called "blanket music license agreements" that allow you to perform musical pieces on campus. Three performance rights organizations are primarily responsible for licensing the public performances of music at universities.

These license agreements allow musicians to perform nondramatic performances of music at the university without the need to ask permission. A nondramatic performance means that there is no staging, choreography, dialog or other dramatic elements that are normally performed in plays, operas, and musicals.

Musical Performance Rights Organizations (PROs)

Universities usually have license agreements with one or all three of these agencies and provide licenses for public performance of nearly all published American music. This means you are free to:

  • Have a public performance of musical works (e.g., concerts, recitals)
  • Play music on an overhead speaker system at events (e.g., symposiums, conferences, public speaking events)

Performing Music at K-State

K-State Libraries' Gala, 2016

K-State Libraries' Gala, 2016

Image courtesy of K-State Libraries,

K-State has standing music blanket license agreements with all three music performance rights organizations, and you can search their individual repertories (i.e., directories) to determine whether a song you want to perform is listed.

If you find your song is listed with one of the three PROs, then your performance of the musical work is covered by one of the license agreements, so long as it is not considered a dramatic performance.

If you find a piece of music in another PRO's repertory not listed here, then you will need to contact that PRO and negotiate a license agreement in order to perform it publicly at K-State.

Musical Performance Rights Organizations' (PROs) Repertories

Dramatic versus Nondramatic Performances

In addition, you should take into consideration whether your particular performance is dramatic or nondramatic. Only nondramatic performances are permitted under the terms of the blanket license agreements.

A dramatic performance (which is not permitted by the licenses) can be defined as a:

  • performance of a dramatic work in its entirety (such as a play, musical, or opera);
  • performance of a music work that is accompanied by dialog, pantomime, dance, stage action, or visual representation of the work from which the music is taken;
  • performance of a musical work as part of a story/plot, regardless of accompanying dramatic elements.

If a performance can be defined as a dramatic performance, then the music blanket license agreements will not cover this use and public performance rights should be sought (see the final box below, "Performing theatrical or dramatic works at K-State").

In addition, the blanket music license agreements only cover performances at K-State, meaning that the events are sponsored, hosted, or held by the university. See the next box, "Performing music outside the university" for more information.

Check the PROs' repertories before publicly performing or playing music at the K-State campus or at K-State sponsored events.

Performing Music outside the University

Split Lip Rayfield performing at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas

Split Lip Rayfield performing at the
Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas

Image courtesy of Shinton,
CC BY-SA 4.0

If you perform the music outside the university, you may need to seek a public performance license.

If you are performing at a venue, such as a restaurant or bar, then it is the venue's responsibility to obtain blanket music license agreements at their establishment. Some exceptions do apply, such as the size of the space and the number of speakers; however, this is the establishment owner's responsibility.

If you composed the music, then you do not need to seek a public performance license, because you are the copyright owner of the musical composition and have the exclusive right to perform the music.

If you have questions about whether or not your use falls under the scope of the university's blanket music license agreements, please contact the Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship (CADS) at

Performing Theatrical/Dramatic Works at K-State

Crazy for You musical 2013 at Stratford High School

Crazy for You musical 2013 at
Stratford High School, Houston, TX

Image courtesy of Ed Schipul,
CC BY 2.0

You must obtain permission or licensing rights to perform a dramatic work in public. This applies if you perform the entire work or a portion, such as an excerpt, act, scene, monologue, etc. K-State does not have a blanket license for dramatic works as it does for music, so you must obtain licensing rights for each work performed.

Sometimes, when you purchase the sheet music and/or scripts, public performance rights will be attached to them. Agencies listed below provide performance rights for a wide variety of plays and musicals when you purchase the scripts and/or sheet music.

The right to perform only a piece of music from a musical is probably covered through the K-State music blanket license agreements with ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. Such a performance must consist only of the music and not include any form of staging or choreography, even if the use of any of these elements is not intended to represent any part of the original musical.

Theatrical Performance Rights Organizations (PROs)



Plays & Musicals

Plays & Musicals for Youth & Community Productions