Library Research Guide
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.