Licensing for Internet Radio Stations

**Nonstop Rap Radio is a licensing, and Royalty Paying Station.

If you have (or are thinking of starting) an online radio station, you’d probably like to know how to keep things legal. Many online radio streaming providers do not offer stream licensing as a part of their service. So how do you ensure that everyone who needs to get paid is paid? We thought that it’s about time that we have a look at various licensing bodies for different countries.

First thing’s first – do you need a license?

Before you drift off into a licensing frenzy, it’s probably a good idea to know if you need one. Not all online radio stations require licensing; it all depends on what you plan on broadcasting and where you plan on broadcasting it. If you only play music, jingles, and voice-overs that are royalty-free, you won’t need to pay for using these tunes. If you plan on creating a talk-based internet radio station, with only royalty-free music, stream licensing might not be a requirement. But if you want a bumping station that plays all the latest, commercial tracks, you need to put stream licensing on your to-do list. Licensing requirements, terms, and conditions differ from country to country. It’s always smart to get into contact with your country’s respective licensing bodies to double-check the licensing requirements.

Licensing in the USA

If you’re looking for a license to cover your online radio broadcasts in the USA, you’ll need to apply for a statutory license. There are four main licensing bodies that offer statutory licenses in the USA. These are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc), SESAC (Society from European Stage Authors and Composers), and SoundExchange.

ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are Performance Rights Organizations (PRO’s) that collect and distribute royalties for ‘public performances’. Public performances include broadcasts to public spaces, like restaurants or businesses, as well as broadcasts over the internet, TV, or radio. So if you’re planning on broadcasting commercial music in public spaces, you’ll need one (or more) of these licenses (ASCAPBMISESAC).

SoundExchange is a service provider that will have you covered if you broadcast your radio shows on the internet. Licensing from SoundExchange covers you for digital public performance royalties. That is, they’ll cover you for broadcasts over digital platforms only.

You’ll find that most popular musicians are registered under either ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. So, if you’re planning on keeping track of your royalty payments yourself, you’ll have some work to do. You’ll need to figure out which of the tracks on your list fall under which organisation, and then get licensed by those respective organisations. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to keep track of the number of performances heard by your listeners.

There are service providers covering USA stream licensing that can do all of this for you. By paying them a fee, you sidestep all the work and the tallying up of the royalty fees you owe. They then collect the royalties from you and redistribute them to the respective Performance Rights Organisations. These services make stream licensing a whole lot easier at the end of the day.