A blanket license was developed by performing rights organizations (PROs) to grant general access to the organization’s music catalog.
A blanket license allows you, as the purchaser, access to the copyright holder’s entire musical catalog. The person holding the copyright could be an individual artist, a music publisher or record producer, or the estate of the music’s composer.
With a blanket license, you could take any of the songs from this catalog and use them in your business.
In general, businesses that want to play background music in their establishments will contact a PRO and purchase a blanket license. This license will give the business access to part or all of the PRO’s musical catalog, which the business can then pick from for hours of tunes that customers will recognize since they are popular.
PRO Blanket Licenses: What You Need to Know
Playing music in your business can improve the mood of your customers and your employees. Unfortunately, you cannot simply bring in your laptop and play music through speakers from a standard music streaming service. Since you are playing music to others, in a way that could financially benefit you, you need a specific type of license.
A PRO exists to collect royalties associated with the copyrights for the intellectual property of musicians, composers, and music publishers and then to distribute this income appropriately. Millions of songs are protected by PROs like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or SONA.
Most PROs were formed by musicians or composers in the industry who wanted to protect their intellectual property rights (and those of their collaborators and colleagues).
Each PRO has similar licenses, although there may be subtle differences. They could grant access in the following ways:
- Individually: Many offer specific licensing rights for individual songs, which can be used in films or commercials.
- Commercially: PROs provide licenses to radio stations to play particular songs and allow other artists to perform an arrangement of a piece at a concert.
- Universally: Almost every PRO offers a blanket license, which is often the simplest way for businesses to access thousands of songs from thousands of artists without worrying about the context of how the song will be heard.
A blanket license as an agreement between a PRO and a business, allowing that business to play any item within that PRO's library. Rather than submitting playlists and getting permission to play each song on that playlist, a business can work on one agreement to play absolutely anything.
In some cases, it is the most efficient way to work with a PRO. With one contract, you are protected.
Holding a blanket license with one PRO does not give you permission to play music that exists within another PRO. If you played a song with an ASCAP streaming license and another song licensed with BMI, you'd have to pay both ASCAP licensing fees and BMI licensing fees.
That means you must stay in close contact with the PRO you've partnered with. If everyone involved with a song moves from one PRO to another and you play that song, you could be in violation of copyright law.
Even so, having a blanket license with just one large PRO (such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC) can leave gaps in what you can play. Some PROs overlap which artists they cover, but that means you might have an artist with one album covered by one PRO and another album covered by a different PRO. You also need to consider smaller PROs that may have the rights to some of the music for business you would like to play.
Alternatives to Blanket License for Business
You must contact each PRO individually to discuss a blanket music license. Remember that working with just one can leave you unprotected, as it's almost impossible to ensure that a song you play resides exclusively within one PRO.
It's time-consuming to contact each PRO and negotiate a contract. It's also ineffective, as a song could be covered by two PROs at once. There are alternatives available, such as:
- Radio: If your business is smaller than 2,000 square feet and you're using a music source with six speakers or fewer, you can play a commercial radio station. Remember, you can't play a CD or another piece of recorded music, but you can play the radio.
- Public domain songs: If you have time and talent, you could scour the web for songs within the public domain.
- Original Music: If you write your own music and play it yourself, you may not need a copyright. But few business owners are also musicians and songwriters.
- Streaming services: Commercial music streaming services like Cloud Cover Music give you the same simple access you expect from Spotify but with appropriate business-centric licenses.
Cloud Cover Music has a low monthly fee that gives you access to a huge catalog of songs and curated playlists to help you get started. Then, you won’t have to worry about whether you can legally play these songs in your business.
Start Your Free Trial with CCM
Cloud Cover Music contracts with major PROs, so you can play the music you want without contacting multiple agencies for permission.
An affordable monthly subscription fee grants you access to a huge music library to stream in your business. Control the music from any connected device and tap into reports to measure your progress. Contact us and start your free trial.
What Is the Public Domain? (July 2022). Copyrightlaws.com
What is a Performing Rights Organization (PRO)? SongTrust Help Center.
Common Licensing Terms Defined. ASCAP.