Do You Need A License To Play Music In Your Community?

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 Many LeadingAge members have been contacted by one or more of the three entities that hold copyrights for music: BMI, SESAC, or ASCAP. These contacts, by letter or telephone call, assert the member is violating U.S. copyright laws by playing music in a "public space." They are requesting the member apply and pay for a license to play music in their communities.

Under the Copyright Act of 1976, the holder of the copyright or its assignees (BMI, SESAC or ASCAP) has the exclusive right to reproduce the work and, in the case of a sound recording, to perform the copyrighted work publicly. Perform has a broad definition and includes singing, playing music, broadcasting, playing a CD or DVD, or turning on a radio or TV. Publicly means to perform any place where a substantial number of persons outside a normal circle of family and social acquaintances hear the music or it is open to the public.

Examples of situations where playing music may be a public performance include live performances, DJ's, Karaoke, music in common areas, Large screen or multiple TV's, background music, resident social gathering/holiday events, aerobic/dance/fitness classes.

A determination of whether you need a license from BMI, SESAC and or ASCAP will depend on the specific circumstances in your community. LeadingAge recommends organizations consult an attorney before deciding to apply for a license. More information is available at each of the licensing entities’ web sites:;;

If you have questions, please contact Steve Maag at 202-508-9498, or Cory Kallheim at 202-558-5691.


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