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Music licensing: the basics that tech startups need to know


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If a music-tech startup’s product or service involves making the actual music available, that company will need licences for the music. Understanding how licensing works is one of the first and most important things that these startups need to understand.

At its simplest level, that also means understanding whether you need to be talking to record labels, music publishers, collecting societies or all three. Thankfully, the collecting societies are a good first port of call for information on this.

This video picks the brains of executives from the two main collecting societies in the UK: Jez Bell, chief licensing officer at PPL, the society which looks after recorded music; and Nick Edwards, head of online at PRS for Music, which represents songwriters, composers and music publishers.

“One of the things that is very, very important, I think, for startups to think about in terms of their preparations for dealing with either the PPL or a recorded rightsholder directly, is to try to have the conversation as early as possible, so that you can understand what your licensing liability might be and what the various rules are around that,” says Bell.

“We’ve got a range of off-the shelf options and the simplest one is our limited online music license where license fees start at around £130 for a year – for a fixed amount of music,” adds Edwards. “But it’s usually enough to get small platforms up and running for a really modest fee – there’s limited approval, a very straightforward license and simple administration around that licence.”

You can watch the full Licensing video above. It’s part of a series of The Music & Tech Springboard videos created by the BPI and Music Ally, with other episodes listed below.

Note: this project has been a few months in the making, and the interviews were conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic. Some references (for example to meeting people / going to conferences) may jar, but we’re looking forward to a time when they’re relevant again!

In the meantime, if there are any areas that, as a startup, you may feel have not been addressed, please email springboard@bpi.co.uk with your suggestions. We will collate and publish a FAQ document to accompany the series later in the year.

bpi music ally springboard

Introduction
BPI CEO Geoff Taylor and Music Ally CEO Paul Brindley introduce the Springboard series and offer some tips for startups.

Labels
Universal Music’s Glenn Cooper, Sony Music’s Victoria Cruz, PIAS’ Adrian Pope, and Warner Music’s Scott Cohen offer startups advice from their label perspectives.

Legal
Law firm Reed Smith partners Gregor Pryor and Sophie Goossens talk through some of the legal issues that music startups can face – and how to tackle them.

Advisors
Eleven Advisory managing director Cliff Fluet and independent consultant Becky Brook offer lessons learned from their work connecting startups and music rightsholders.

Accelerators and Incubators
Abbey Road managing director Isabel Garvey and Marathon Artists chairman Paul-René Albertini explain how music/tech accelerators and incubators work, and what they look for in startups.

Media
Music Ally’s editor Stuart Dredge talks about how he finds and writes about music-tech startups, and offers thoughts on how they can best deal with journalists.

Startups
Startups explain what they’ve learned from working with the music industry, including Jaak’s Vaughn McKenzie-Landell, MelodyVR’s Jo McNally, Landmrk’s Tom Nield, and ClicknClear’s Chantal Epp.

Also, if you’re a music-related tech startup that’s less than five years old or with fewer than 20 employees, we want to help you with practical steps. As such we are offering you the following:

– A free BPI membership for 2020 – giving startups access to all of BPI’s resources – from market intelligence, to free training courses and free access to networking events. Click here to find out more.

– A six-month free subscription to Music Ally’s business information service, including a daily news bulletin and regular research reports. Request your free subscription here!

Want to know more about the Music & Tech Springboard Programme? Contact the BPI here.

Music Ally

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