Understanding Public Performance Licenses: What You Need to Know


Public performance licenses are an essential aspect of the music industry. Whether you’re a musician, a venue owner, or an event organizer, it’s crucial to understand the ins and outs of these licenses. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of public performance licenses and explore everything you need to know.

What is a Public Performance License?

A public performance license grants the right to publicly perform copyrighted music. This includes playing music in venues, on the radio, in restaurants, at events, and even on websites and streaming platforms.

It’s important to note that a public performance license is different from a mechanical license, which covers the reproduction and distribution of music. A public performance license specifically deals with the act of performing music in public.

Why Do You Need a Public Performance License?

Obtaining a public performance license is crucial for both musicians and venue owners.

For Musicians:

If you’re a musician, a public performance license ensures that you receive royalties when your music is played in public. These royalties are collected by performing rights organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. PROs monitor the usage of music and distribute the collected royalties to their affiliated artists.

For Venue Owners:

For venue owners, having a public performance license allows you to legally play copyrighted music in your establishment. Without a license, you run the risk of facing legal consequences for copyright infringement. Additionally, having a license gives you access to a vast catalog of music, ensuring that you can provide a diverse and enjoyable experience for your patrons.

How to Obtain a Public Performance License

There are several ways to obtain a public performance license:

1. Performing Rights Organizations (PROs)

PROs are the primary entities responsible for granting public performance licenses. ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are the three major PROs in the United States. To obtain a license, you can contact these organizations directly or visit their websites for more information.

2. Music Licensing Companies

There are also music licensing companies that offer public performance licenses. These companies simplify the licensing process and often provide additional services such as royalty collection and reporting.

3. Licensing Agreements with Artists

In some cases, you may be able to obtain a public performance license directly from the artist or their representative. This option is more common for independent artists who handle their own licensing.

The Benefits of Having a Public Performance License

Holding a public performance license offers several benefits:

1. Legal Protection

Having a license ensures that you are legally protected and reduces the risk of facing copyright infringement lawsuits.

2. Royalty Collection

A public performance license allows you to collect royalties when your music is played in public. This can be a significant source of income for musicians.

3. Access to a Vast Music Catalog

With a license, you gain access to a vast catalog of music from various artists and genres, allowing you to create diverse playlists and enhance the overall experience for your audience.


Public performance licenses are essential for anyone involved in the music industry. Whether you’re a musician or a venue owner, understanding the importance of these licenses and how to obtain them is vital. By obtaining a public performance license, you ensure legal protection, royalty collection, and access to a wide range of music, ultimately enhancing your music experience.