Licensing Performance Rights

February 25, 2018


Churches across the country perform well known and (more importantly) copyrighted music as part of their church services on a regular basis. As a member of my church’s worship team as both a vocalist and a sound engineer, I have noted that our church has displayed its license while performing this copyright protected music. Not all churches seem to display a similar license. I am interested to know if this is a requirement and what other stipulations must be adhered to when using such a license. My other concern is, what if my church does not have a license to perform or play recorded music? I would want to advocate for appropriate licensing for the artists and for the church. In addition I wanted information on how to apply for licensing for a venue that is not a church, as an example a restaurant. 


According the the CCS website, “There is a religious service exemption in U.S. copyright law that allows churches to perform copyrighted music during religious services without paying royalties. The exemption does not cover any music played or performed outside of worship services. If your church is playing or performing copyrighted music outside of your religious services, you need a church performance license.” When ministries within a church perform at outreach events or if the music being performed is featured on YouTube or Vimeo this would be outside of the religious service exemption. One way to to ensure protection for the church and for the artists who recorded the music is by obtaining a bundled license through CCS or by purchasing individuals licenses through BMI, ASCAP or SESAC. This is even more important for venues outside of churches. The CCS website makes it very easy to obtain licenses for these types of uses for churches. There is also extensive information on licensing from BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC websites for venues other than churches.


Licensing for music performing rights again protects both the venue and the artist avoiding costly litigation and provides revenue to the copyright owner. Application for licensing is completed online at the licensing website. I found extensive information on the application process for both church and secular venues at BMI and ASCAP. I also found similar information on the SESAC web site. Each organization provides extensive information and an easy online application for licensing. 




Music Licensing for Churches and Ministries. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2018, from


Music Licensing for Churches and Ministries. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2018, from


We Help You Do Music Right Simple Licensing Solutions for Over 20 Million Songs. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2018, from

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