Matt talks about what it takes for a wedding DJ to be legal when it comes to music.
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Hi everybody. I’m Matthew Campbell and welcome to the 14th episode of the Wedding Songs Podcast. Today is April 13th, 2020 and I’m going to be talking about something a little bit different today, and that is Music Rights and music royalties. Something that DJs have to consider for every public performance and that typically wedding couples don’t really think about.
When a DJ does perform a public performance and they play music and are being paid to play that music, they have to consider the royalties that have to be paid to the performers and the songwriters. And this is done through companies like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. SESAC is short for SoundExchange, ASCAP is American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, and BMI stands for Broadcast Music Incorporated. What these companies do is they help pay the publishers and the songwriters as performance royalties for musical works, and included in this is DJs performing at weddings and public events.
Now let me just say that I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be a lawyer if you have any questions about any of this, be sure to talk to your lawyer because this is a debate inside of the DJ community. And so, it’s definitely a discussion you should have with your DJ if they are performing legitimately and as a professional DJ.
Another consideration in this is the power that the record labels have. There are three major labels in the music industry. The big three labels are Universal Music Group, which accounts for about 30%, Sony Music Entertainment about 30% as well, and then Warner Music Group accounts for about 20%, EMI Group, which accounts for about 10%, and then all of the independent labels account for about 12%.
Now when I consider record labels, I like comparing that to the big guys in the beer industry. You have Miller/Coors and you also have Anheuser-Busch. Now what these companies have done, is they have started smaller craft beers themselves, but they have also bought out other smaller craft beers as well, companies like Four Peaks and Goose Island. But they also have their own brands as well like Miller/Coors and Anheuser-Busch have Blue Moon, Michelob, and other brands as well. The same thing goes for the record labels.
There are smaller record labels that rely on the distribution of the larger labels, but there are also small labels that have no connection to the major labels, and those are true independent record labels. I just want to go ahead and point that out because a lot of people don’t understand the record labels and the power that they have.
Next, let’s go ahead and talk about the rights to the music. So when wedding couples go on to Spotify or they go on to YouTube, they may listen to songs, but that doesn’t mean that the DJs have the right to play those songs at your wedding. Many DJs will go to sites like iTunes and Amazon, so that way they can purchase the music that you want for your wedding. This is very inexpensive compared to back in the days when we had 45s or we had records, which we still have today and CDs and cassettes where we had to go and buy these complete albums. Where now DJs can go buy individual songs through music services like Amazon and iTunes, so that way they can physically own that music.
So when you’re selecting your music on sites like Spotify or YouTube, you have to know whether the DJ can get legal rights to play that song at your wedding. Just because it’s on YouTube doesn’t mean that the DJ can legally play that music. No, they cannot play music directly from YouTube onto their system for your event, that would be considered something that’s illegal.
But DJs do have access to many record pools. Now the record pools do have contracts with record labels, so that way they can offer DJs non-promotional music at their events. What record labels do is they offer this music to DJs in digital format, or back in the day they had CDs as well, but DJs can purchase this music to provide for any event. So couples need to definitely keep in mind that just because a song is on Spotify or it is on YouTube, doesn’t mean that they can legally play that music, and please don’t ask your DJs to play this music if they don’t have access to it.
You may love a cover song that is being sung on YouTube, but the DJ doesn’t have legal rights to play that song or doesn’t have legal access to that song to play at your wedding. As I stated earlier because it’s a public performance where they’re getting paid to play music, they have to have contracts with companies like The SoundExchange, ASCAP, and BMI, so that way they can legally play this music.
And even some venues will also have this contract as well with these companies because who is legally responsible to play this music or legally bound so that way the songwriters and the publishers do get paid for these public performances. So my advice for wedding couples is just have a conversation with your DJ and keep that in mind, that when you’re selecting your music, we want to make sure that the songwriters and the publishers do get paid for their music. Just because it is on Spotify and it is on YouTube, doesn’t mean that it is legal to play at your wedding.
If you’re looking for any song ideas, please check out our website, MyWeddingSongs.com. Thanks for listening and have a great day.
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Listen to Podcast Episode 15 – What song should I play for my wedding’s last dance?