Feb 8, 2011, 12:08

A direct performance license is when the publisher of a song and a business that wishes to use that song decide to work directly together instead of going through a performing rights society like ASCAP or BMI. There are several scenarios where this makes the most sense for everyone:

1) The end user is unable to pay the PRO’s full rate and the publisher is fine with what the user IS willing to pay.

2) The PRO’s billing cycle is too long or simply not set up to process one-on-one transactions.

3) The end user is purchasing multiple licenses (mechanical, synchronization, etc) and the publisher wishes to provide a higher level of service than just, “You are publicly performing our songs. Pay this bill.”

For most production music libraries, all three of these scenarios come into play on a daily basis.

The simple fact is that most PRO’s are only set up to protect and serve big-name artists who are household names. It’s difficult enough for PROs to police every bar in their territory to ensure that Usher’s latest single is not being publicly performed without a license. You can imagine the diminished resources that are left over to protect an unknown composer with an instrumental techno track being used for a YouTube video.

So why did BMI object to DMX using this loophole to establish direct performance licenses with enough major music publishers to put quality popular music in hundreds of retail businesses around the the US?

It’s that great line from the Tom Cruise film Vanilla Sky: “What the answer to 99 out of 100 questions – money.” More next time on direct performance licenses, this landmark case, and what it means to the royalty-free stock music community.


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of http://www.musicrevolution.com, a production music marketplace where media producers and business owners can license high-quality, affordable music from a online community of musicians.

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