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Section 5.4 Music Licensing Fees

Conference Manual Section No. 5.4 Music Licensing

Conference Manual

Section No. 5.4

Music Licensing

Executive Summary

"If you play, you'll pay" is a simplified way to think about the subject of music licensing, as it relates to meetings. Simply put, if you play music at your meeting, in any format, either recorded or live, it is necessary for you to file forms at the conclusion of your meetings and pay a fee to compensate the artists. Music artists are generally represented by one of the two organizations set up to collect and distribute these fees. Both of these organizations, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), have already issued ACM the necessary music license which allows conferences to utilize music, should they wish to, but this license does not cover the necessary fee. Rather, it requires each conference or ACM subgroup, at the conclusion of their meeting to file a form and pay a fee for the music performed. There are flat rates that can be paid for live music (based on the number of attendees at any given event) and a per person, per event fee for any recorded music utilized by the conference. Generally it is necessary to pay both organizations if a variety of music is played.

It is important that conference organizers include music licensing fees in the conference budget and file the appropriate forms following their conference, if they wish to utilize music. ACM headquarter staff can provide the necessary forms and any required assistance. Penalties for non-compliance could be as high as $100,000 per piece of music.

Brief History

Music Licensing is a relatively new subject in the meeting planning arena and there is a myriad of accurate and inaccurate information floating around about it. While music has always been protected under the United States Copyright Law it is only recently that the two agencies who represent the artists, ASCAP and BMI, choose to enforce the collection of the fees from associations and meeting sponsors. In the past it was generally accepted that facilities, such as hotels and convention centers, purchased general music licenses, and this allowed convention sponsors to provide music as part of their program. In the last several years ASCAP and BMI have targeted meeting sponsors as the responsible parties to pay the copyright fees. In response to this effort Meeting Planners International and the American Society for Association Executives have negotiated model agreements to simplify and streamline the process.

The Music License

ACM has signed the model licenses with both ASCAP and BMI. These licenses allow ACM and ACM subgroups to utilize music at their conferences and requires the filing of a form and payment at the conclusion of each conference utilizing music. For the purpose of simplicity this only relates to the recorded or live music played for attendees, not music utilized in a video or byproduct of the conference. (These items require other special licenses.)

Determining Fees

ASCAP and BMI each have a different schedule of fees to be used by conference organizers. Basic information is built into the electronic form of the TMRF but it is advisable, as you are planning your budget, to check with your ACM staff contact to determine which fees to use.

Reporting Forms Must be Filed

Report forms must be filed with ASCAP and BMI at the conclusion of your event and should be sent with payment, directly to your ACM SIG Staff Liaison at ACM headquarters, 1515 Broadway, New York, NY 10036 USA. Reporting forms can be obtained from your ACM SIG Staff Liaison.

Direct Contact from ASCAP or BMI

Because it is not always easy to determine that an ACM event is related to ACM (given the many different names of SIGs, Local SIGs, Chapters) you, or someone on your committee may be contacted by ASCAP or BMI directly. If you or someone on your committee is contacted by either of these organizations please refer them to your ACM Headquarters contact, and please immediately advise this person to expect a call. Because this is a relatively new process and because the penalties for noncompliance are so high it is advisable to work with your ACM Headquarters contact to avoid any confusion.


If you wish to play music at your conference or meeting a fee must be paid and should be budgeted. These fees are designed to compensate the creators of the music and are processed through two organizations, ASCAP and BMI. It is usually necessary to pay BOTH organizations for the use of music. ACM has a license with each organization which requires the filing of a form and payment of a fee following the event. It is the responsibility of the organizing entity to send the completed form, along with a check, to your SIG Staff Liaison so it can be filed. Failure to file these forms and payment of fees will result in significant fines, which will need to be absorbed by the sponsoring entity. It is ACM's position that all ACM events should comply with these licensing and reporting procedures if music is utilized. Further information and guidance is available to you by contacting your ACM Staff contact at (212) 869-7440.