If you have (or are thinking of starting) an online radio station, you’d probably like to know how to keep things legal. Many online radio streaming providers do not offer licensing as a part of their service. So how do you ensure that everyone who needs to get paid is paid? We thought that it’s about time that we have a look at various licensing bodies for different countries.

Disclaimer: *The following post is not meant to be taken as legal advice. We highly recommend that you consult the relevant authorities and licensing bodies in your country. This post is simply a starting point to make things easier for you. **Spacial does not provide licensing and royalty payments are not included in your subscription. We can, however, provide the data our clients need in order to generate royalty reports for their stations.

First thing’s first – do you need a license?

Before you drift off into a licensing frenzy, it’s probably a good idea to know if you need one. Not all online radio stations require licensing; it all depends on what you plan on broadcasting and where you plan on broadcasting it. If you only play music, jingles, and voice-overs that are royalty-free, you won’t need to pay for using these tunes. If you plan on creating a talk-based internet radio station, with only royalty-free music, stream licensing might not be a requirement. But if you want a bumping station that plays all the latest, commercial tracks, you need to put stream licensing on your to-do list. Licensing requirements, terms, and conditions differ from country to country. It’s always smart to get into contact with your country’s respective licensing bodies to double-check the licensing requirements. 

Licensing in the UK

There are two main licensing bodies to look out for in the UK, namely the PRS (Performing Rights Society) and PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited).

A PRS license will cover you for public broadcast services like webcasting, podcasting, on demand streaming, and general entertainment to a UK-based audience. It covers royalties for the authors and songwriters. A PPL license will cover you for playing recorded music on your online radio station. It covers royalties for to record comapanies and the performing artists. 

If you intend to run an online radio station that broadcasts commercial music in the UK, you’ll need both a PPL license and a PRS license for it to be legal. There are a number of PRS licensing options available that will depend on your income. You will need a LOML (Limited Online Music License) if you earn less than £12,500. If your income is above £12,500 but below £200,000, you will need a LOML+. If your income exceeds £200,000, you will require a Music Streaming License. These licenses do not require monthly fees or royalty calculations. Instead, you obtain these licenses by paying an annual fee, which then covers your online broadcasts for the year.  

Licensing in the USA

If you’re looking for a license to cover your online radio broadcasts in the USA, you’ll need to apply for a statutory license. There are four main licensing bodies that offer statutory licenses in the USA. These are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc), SESAC (Society from European Stage Authors and Composers), and SoundExchange.

ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are Performance Rights Organizations (PRO’s) that collect and distribute royalties for ‘public performances’. Public performances include broadcasts to public spaces, like restaurants or businesses, as well as broadcasts over the internet, TV, or radio. So if you’re planning on broadcasting commercial music in public spaces, you’ll need one (or more) of these licenses (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC).

SoundExchange is a service provider that will have you covered if you broadcast your radio shows on the internet. Licensing from SoundExchange covers you for digital public performance royalties. That is, they’ll cover you for broadcasts over digital platforms only.  

You’ll find that most popular musicians are registered under either ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. So, if you’re planning on keeping track of your royalty payments yourself, you’ll have some work to do. You’ll need to figure out which of the tracks on your list fall under which organisation, and then get licensed by those respective organisations. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to keep track of the number of performances heard by your listeners. At Spacial, we’ll happily provide you with the data you need to generate royalty reports for your station. 

There are, however, service providers covering USA stream licensing that can do all of this for you. By paying them a fee, you sidestep all the work and the tallying up of  the royalty fees you owe. They then collect the royalties from you, and redistribute them to the respective Performance Rights Organisations. These services make stream licensing a whole lot easier at the end of the day. Some of these include streamlicensing.com, and Live365 (which you can integrate with your SAM radio station).

Licensing bodies in other countries

Each country has their own laws and organisations regarding broadcasting and copyright. Here are some of the relevant licensing bodies for countries outside of the UK and USA.

Australia

PPCA: They provide Webcast Licensing that covers non-interactive internet radio services. 

Canada

SOCANFor online radio broadcasting, have a look at their range of ‘Music on new media licenses’ for your station.

France

SACEM: They offer a range of different licenses to cover your specific internet radio needs.

Germany

GEMA

GVL: Be sure to check out the licenses for both Web Radio, which covers your online station, and Public Performance, which covers your station for public broadcasts.

Please note that if you plan on broadcasting commercial music on your online radio station, you’ll need licenses from both GEMA and GVL.

Netherlands

Buma/Stemra: You can check if they cover your type of music broadcasting license here.

South Africa

CAPASSO: You can cover your online radio station with a Digital Mechanical License.

Although stream licensing may seem like a whole lot of work and money, it’s definitely worth staying on the right side of the law. Nobody can really rock a prison jumpsuit, after all. So get on the licensing bus as soon as you need to. Now that you have a frame of reference to figure out licensing, you can start a primo online station with SAM Broadcaster today.