Music licences and events – what you need to know

There are many complexities involved with the music licensing process for events. TAM spoke to Phumla Mbuyisa, key account executive of government business at the South African Music Rights Organisation to get a breakdown on the licences needed to plan and host an event.

Event organisers are required to adhere to many regulations when planning and executing an event.

One of these applies to the musical entertainment featured at the event. According to the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (Samro), licences are required from all suppliers at an event - from the venue and its background music to the DJ or performer.

“If you are planning to host an event and have any form of music, whether it is in the background, a DJ or a live performance, you need to ensure that all parties are licensed to provide this service,” says Phumla Mbuyisa, key account executive of government business at Samro.

She pointed out three things a professional event organiser should do before booking a venue that features musical entertainment:  

  1. Check if the venue has a Samro licence
  2. Check if the licence covers live performances or if it is only valid for using background music
  3. If you are using a DJ or performer at your event, check if they have a Samro licence

“If you are unsure whether or not your service providers have licences with Samro, you can call or email Samro,” she explains.

If you are planning on hosting an event and providing live musical entertainment but your venue doesn’t have the correct licence, the event organiser does not need to change the venue, but rather the venue owner can apply for the licence before the event. Mbuyisa says, to be licensed, the venue can:

  1. Get an application from Samro
  2. Get the licence fee price
  3. Apply for the licence, which can be done seven working days before the event
  4. Check the invoice and ensure that the licence fee is paid into the Samro bank account.

If an event organiser is hosting an event at a licensed venue, they should make sure that the venue is licensed to provide live performances too. “Licensed venues may not always be licensed for live performances but rather to play background music. As the promoter or organiser, you will be liable for the live performance licence,” she explains.

If the event is shut down and no licence is provided, the professional event organiser will be held liable for the unlicensed event.  

Event performers are required to have a Samro licence, too, Mbuyisa adds. “Although an organiser is paying an artist to perform, the performer is still required to pay licence fees to Samro.” This is because Samro represents the composers of music, not the artist or performer.

Says Mbuyisa: “Performers are not necessarily the composers or the writers of such works and Samro still needs to collect on behalf of its members. That is why it is the responsibility of the event organiser to ensure that the DJ or performer is licensed. Any person who wishes to broadcast or perform any musical works in Samro’s repertoire in public must obtain a Samro licence prior to broadcasting or performing the musical work in public.”

Mbuyisa advises event organisers to read Section 27(3) of the Copyright Act, which states that if anyone is caught performing music without a permit, the venue, organiser and performer will be guilty of the infringement.

Samro, a regulatory body, protects the rights of composers and authors both in South Africa and Internationally. The organisation collects licence fees from music users, such as television broadcasters, radio stations, in-store radio stations, pubs, clubs, retailers and restaurants as well as businesses and event venues.

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