MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories

How do you license music to stream on a website?

Acquire an ASCAP and/or BMI web license.

CategoryArt CategoryCopyright CategoryLaw

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)

Briefly, the ASCAP license for online presentation of music is broken into roughly three categories.

Rate Schedule A
Rate schedule A is primarily designed for sites that are either music intensive or don't track the usage of music on their site.

Rate Schedule B
Rate schedule B is primarily designed for sites that aren't music intensive, yet track the usage of music on their site. The license is adjusted to reflect the relative weight of music to the revenue/cost of the site.

Rate Schedule C
Rate schedule C is primarily designed for sites that not only tracks the usage of music on their sites, but tracks specifically the usage of ASCAP music. The license is adjusted to reflect the relative weight of music to the revenue/cost of the site and the relative weight of ASCAP music to the revenue/cost of the site.

To determine which schedule meets your appropriate need and which license to post on your site, ASCAP provides something they call RateCalc. It is a simple eight question questionnaire. The minimum fee is $250USD/year.

An example license would be for a website with no revenue or advertising or affiliates programs, with roughly 10000 hits per day, 1000 of which are music downloads of the 100 or so songs in the collection. At this time (00Apr24), the license fee was $264/year.

For your information, the money acquired by the license fees are redistributed amongst the ASCAP membership.

Note: this license is only for presentation of music. Distribution of or copying music requires a separate license.

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)

BMI's model involves quarterly reports and payments. The licensee (that would be you) can choose to either pay 1.75% of gross revenue or 2.5% of either the music area review or 0.25% of the gross web site revenue (see the license for the definition of "gross revenue", "music area revenue" and "web site"). The minimum fee is $500USD/year (adjusted by the number of months remaining in the year).

Also, you have to track the music you play in detail and report this to BMI each quarter.

There's much more in the license agreement, naturally.

This information was written on April 24, 2000 by SunirShah. I am not a lawyer, but I hope this was a useful summary. Please see the sites linked above for more information. I'd like to thank MagdalenaDonea for pointing me in the right direction.

An unconventional approach: Some unconventional idea for licensing music, I would like to test for myself. Other peer composers are welcome to join, improve or propose different schemes :


The free download is for checking the music without any need to buy them. (Only one free try is granted as legal.) If they want to have them in their collection for ongoing use, they have to pay some (small) price.

The composition is in a Zip-Archive, containing additionally a Credit Html-Page template, stating, that the owner of this page has downloaded this composition and is going to send a (n online) cheque to the online Internet bank (or whatever payment form they like).

This Credit Html-Page template

The publisher simply reads out his banking account and updates his public db by it.

The publisher offers his compositions directly to homepage owners and e-commerce business partners that offer the music to the wider public.

I have used a similar pattern in the German Btx to sell some of my software.

Can somebody recommend an appropriate Internet bank? A very effective solution would be a bank, that allowed users to open dedicated accounts for public read-only.

Should the bank account get 'too much' money, making me uncomfortable, then there are at least two simple strategies, to make feel the composer better:

By the way, if there is some truthworthy person with an online US bank account. Sunir, Cliff, Ward, Phil, too many to list here,...(please insert your name), we can simplify the procedure even more.

-- FridemarPache

have a look at Wiki:GoldBackedElectronicMoney e-gold allows publicly viewable ballances if required. --AndrewMcMeikan

Or you could sell your music through http://www.mp3.com/ and similar sites. You could give a few samples away for free and sell CDs through the site. (MP3.com will give the artist 50% of the CD price. They also support international artists--you do not need a US bank account.) For the "Artist's FAQ", see http://studio.mp3.com/cgi-bin/artist-admin/support.cgi?step=FAQ

You can also stream audio from sites like http://www.live365.com. There is no need to license your broadcast, so long as you follow a few rules -- such as "non-interactive" (don't perform a request within one hour of receiving it), don't play the same track twice within 3 hours, ... and more of that sort of thing. They even take care of the streaming for you, and give you free disk space. Unfortunately, they only allow bitrates up to 56 kbps.

As far as selling your own music goes, amazon.com will distribute anyone's CD. The CD gets its own webpage no different than any other CD. Amazon splits the money with the artist about 50-50. They do the same for books, videos, etc.

Thank you for the friendly hints. Together with other composers und music lovers in the Wiki community I would like to contribute to a MusicWiki that allows the composers to make a living from their work. -- fp

The day will soon come when musicians compose and record for the love of it and distribute the fruits of their efforts as mp3 files. Many who strive to make money from their compositions will object, but the day is coming nevertheless. Just as people write textual content for web sites with no expectation of financial reward, and just as people who enjoy photography and the arts have come to share their work over the Internet purely out of desire to have others experience it, so too will musicians come to distribute their recordings. For a competent bunch of amateur musicians, the cost to go into the studio and make a professional recording of a song is low; studio time here runs aroud $85 an hour, and it's not unrealistic to put together an album-length recording in under a day if the material is adequately rehearsed. $500 mol.

This sort of thing, today, is restricted by the entrapments of agents and record labels; both songs and artists are licensed, and composers and musicians generally have agreements giving their agency control over the distribution of their creative output. There is also powerful pressure from musicians' unions to discourage any sort of free distribution. That means that only a true amateur, who is completely outside the industry, can pull this off today, and they have to do it either with their own material or compositions old enough for copyright to have expired.

There are exceptions. As early as the 1970s, perhaps earlier, there were audiovisual support firms who would distribute royalty-free music intended for use as background or opening/closing music in av presentations. How they pulled it off I do not know, but they must have found some nonunion (student?) composers and musicians.

[Bedroom coder business model], [Digital art auction], [QuidMusic] etc propose an interesting "alternative". Possibly StreetPerformerProtocol.


MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories
Edit text of this page | View other revisions