Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOBuzz: Music Licensing Break-Down

I will dance to a different drum...
unless that drum beat is owned by BMI.
It's that time of year again... music licensing!  If you're like my dance studio, you may have recently gotten an invoice from ASCAP and are contemplating hiring a band of musicians just so you don't have to pay the necessary evil that is music license fees every year.

(Dear ASCAP, BMI & SESAC... just kidding - I will still be paying you this year!)

I get many requests for what I actually pay for my studio's music license, so I thought why not do a post now?

Before you scroll down further, if you're a new dance studio owner, fitness instructor or dance teacher and want more information about WHY we you may need to pay music license fees, check out my previous posts on music licensing:
  • License-Free Alternatives - really don't want to pay BMI, SESAC or ASCAP?  Use only live musicians or license-free music.  Check out the pro's and cons here.
Ok.  All studied up?  Alright, let's move on to the money.

If you are a dance studio owner, most of the music licensing companies will charge you according to how many students you have or the square footage or number of locations you run.

According to BMI:  Your annual fee is based on the average number of different students per week, the square footage of your studio and whether the music was instructional only, both instructional and background, or background only.  Click here to open BMI's dance studio music agreement for the full set of fees.

BMI seems to be the most expensive of the three major licensing companies for mid-size studios (100-300 students).  The cheapest rate is $87/year and that is for studios with less than 60 students for background music only (such as in the waiting room or locker room).  If you are using music for instructional use (in class), the rate jumps to $167/year.  Add more students and more rooms and it quickly increases to over $1000 for studios with more than 300 students and multiple levels.

According to SESAC:  Your annual fee is based on the number of locations you have and the state you live in (for U.S. licenses).  You can download SESAC's music license agreement directly from their website to see the fees.  For example, in New York state the 2012 fee is $104.00 per location. 

According to ASCAP: ASCAP's fee schedule is not available online.  You can read the FAQ's here.  Based on my invoice, the fee is based similar to BMI's fee schedule - it is dependent on the number of students you have.

The best I can tell you is that for 2011, if I divided my rates by the number of students I had, I paid the following per student:
ASCAP - $0.60 / student
BMI - $0.48 / student
SESAC - $0.30 / student

Do with this information what you will - leave your comments below!


  1. so... how do they know how many students, rooms, locations etc... are they auditing you?

  2. While I don't think they would send anyone out to actually check out your studio (anyone know the answer here?), the internet makes it very easy to Google a business and see pictures, locations and possibly take a guess at how many students depending on what's on your website.

  3. yes, they do actually just drop in at venues to see what music is being played. they do not give you the option to stop playing copyrighted music. they give you a choice of paying what they decide you owe or they will take you to court. these folks get a percentage of what you have to pay so they have a vested interest in getting money out of you. they often read the local newspapers, see flyers about events around town, etc, and then go in and record whatever music you're playing. if there's even 1 song on their list, then you owe them the money.


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