Due to the unexpected death of our Music Director, we have had to cancel our spring musical and are, instead, going to honor her legacy with a musical review, featuring songs from the 17+ shows she directed during her tenure. My question to the hive mind: do we need to secure individual performance rights for each piece? And, how do we go about getting those rights? I know that some pieces have been adapted for choral performances (like "Seasons of Love" from Rent), and we can purchase the sheet music, but for other songs, I'm not sure how to go about securing rights. I appreciate any advice.
Beaumont English Department
Beaumont Drama Director
My big concern is that we'll likely want to stream or post to YouTube so that alumnae can see this. Will this mean separate streaming rights? Ugh... While I certainly understand and appreciate that artists deserve to be paid for their intellectual property, I wish this were easier.
Hi there! This can get quite tricky (especially if streaming is involved!) so I wanted to share some tricks and tips.
REVUES/CABARETSPutting together a revue or cabaret made up of songs or pieces from many works is very tricky and often quite expensive even when streaming isn't involved, as it involves getting different kinds of rights based on how each song is presented. Licensing houses represent 'grand rights,' or the right to present a dramatic performance while performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC focus on 'small rights,' or non-dramatic performances.
To determine if it's a "dramatic" performance, look at it this way: no dialogue may be used, and no sets, costumes, or choreography from the original show, plot, or characters may be used.
Revues, cabarets, and showcases that include songs only (without any kind of dramatic performances) are generally 'small rights' circumstances. To present this kind of performance, you'll need to obtain the appropriate 'small rights' license. Generally, the venue must obtain a blanket license to use the songs from ASCAP/BMI/SESAC. For more information about blanket licenses, see the respective websites of ASCAP (www.ascap.com), BMI (www.bmi.com), or SESAC (www.sesac.com).
For streaming requests, you'll need to use ASCAP/BMI/SESAC search tools to contact each individual music publisher (again, usually different than the licensing house) for each individual song to determine if they can approve sync (video) rights. If your school has a blanket license, this does NOT cover video.
Most licensing house materials can only be used for dramatic/grand rights performances, and are generally not available without licensing the full production. You must locate your own sheet music or other needed materials from another source. CONCERTSThe "concerts" sections on licensing websites is really more about concerts with orchestras and live music, not necessarily a cabaret or streamed revue. Many have some specific "concert editions" for some titles that have more reduced scripts.
If you're looking to do a "concert version" of a full-length show, just note that it's really licensed the same as a full-length production. The only difference is that you aren't putting in more sophisticated production elements like multiple costumes, advanced choreography, etc. The licensing is the same for these.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO THIS ANYWAY WITHOUT PERMISSION?If this happens without permission, the author isn't being properly compensated for their art, and they didn't get to say how their work is used. At minimum, sites like YouTube and Facebook have copyright procedures and systems in place that your stream is likely to be shut down in the middle of your performance. It's also possible that you'll be charged more expensive performance and/or rental fees afterward, which you and your school would be liable for. It's just not a fun situation, and violates Federal copyright law.
RECOMMENDATIONSThis is all a lot, and there are easier solutions. No one needs extra stress during tech week!We recommend trying to find something that is already published- there are many revues/song cycles available and ready for licensing. When you request licensing through a publisher, we do the work for you to make sure that all content is available for streaming or whatever situation you need it for. We want to make sure you and your students have exactly what you need before you get started!
If you'd like some suggestions for some of our favorite revues or song cycles, please let me know.
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